As IT leaders continue to work through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, CONVERGED is looking to bring insight and guidance to members. Today we’re sharing part one of a conversation we had with Sunny Arogunmati, VDI Principal Architect with Dell Technologies. In this part, Sunny describes the ways Dell Technologies is actively helping customers adapt to the needs of our current moment and his guidelines for maintaining business continuity while enabling a remote workforce.

CONVERGED: One of the biggest conversations right now surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is business continuity. How is Dell Technologies addressing this challenge with VDI solutions?

SUNNY AROGUNMATI: When it comes to business continuity, a global pandemic is not the problem for which customers are most prepared. They’ve always prepared for data center and infrastructure destruction or natural disasters that could impact their physical IT footprint. Many corporations have spent their money on backups and have shunned remote workers, so they’ve pretty much shunned VDI as a priority for business continuity. But Dell is one of the few companies that has long ago introduced remote working internally and invested in remote working technologies such as VDI.

Dell has a turnkey-ready solution for VDI on all platforms, including VxRail, VxBlock, and XC Series. We’ve turned this into a single SKU called VDI Complete; essentially, a customer can request VDI Complete and it includes all the hardware and software packaged together. There are also “Ready Solutions” that are purpose-built and engineered for a particular workload. We have “Ready Solutions for VDI,” SAP, and Analytics.

In addition to that, we have produced several reference architectures for VDI applications (including Citrix) on all of our platforms. Customers can follow these reference documents for their own deployment and testing. We have also developed a great alliance with NVIDIA for our graphic solutions around healthcare, manufacturing, oil and gas, etc.

From a software or sustained productivity perspective, we’ve used VMware to enable workers to work from anywhere using any device as long as there’s a reliable internet connection. For example, in the medical field, we have applications that enable a doctor to access MRI scans or lab results from their tablet at home. All of this is made possible through VDI technology.

Next, we have the Dell Technologies Cloud, which makes it easier to extend the on-prem VDI to the cloud. For instance, most customers who have cloud services are using Azure or AWS, but they can’t really connect it to their on-prem. With Dell Technologies Cloud and VMware Cloud Foundation, customers can have their on-prem and extend it to the cloud. If you need to add capacity to the cloud, for example, with 600 desktops from Azure or AWS, that connection is already there.

CONVERGED: Is Dell Technologies doing anything specific to support customers right now?

AROGUNMATI: From a Dell perspective, we’re reformulating our VDI-pointed solutions to include COVID-19 needs. We know customers are looking for fast deployment, so we’re actively reaching out to them to understand how we can help. We’re also using the work-from-home model we’ve been using for over a decade as a way to provide some assurances that remote working as a norm is possible. Working from home is nothing new to us, so we want to share what we’ve done, how it’s changing, and provide a path for introducing those solutions. From a sales perspective, we’re telling our customers that working from home is a trend that may be here to stay.

In the corporate world, businesses are very good at spending money on yesterday’s problems, but we’re definitely learning new lessons in the age of COVID-19. For example, managers are learning that working from home is not as bad as they thought. Their employees are working more hours from anywhere, any day of the week, which leads to more productivity in some cases. Some employees are really liking that added flexibility.

Fast forward to after this pandemic, and I think more people will continue working from home. As a side effect, I think companies will think about reducing their real estate footprint because their in-office employees become fewer although their workforce continues to grow. If there’s no reduction in productivity with remote workers, why do you need to lease 10 floors of office space? This leads to a reduction in traffic congestion and environmental pollution, among other factors as well. I predict some employees will try to make working from home a permanent arrangement if they can, and we want to support customers who want to keep that option available.

CONVERGED: What scenarios optimize a faster or easier VDI deployment for an organization that needs to deploy ASAP?

AROGUNMATI: Well first, review and resize your current environment to the minimum configuration. This will free up space and allow you to provision space for VDI workloads today. If you look at VDI before it was a priority, IT leaders never really talked about it. Now it’s moving up the stack to become an essential service and I think this will continue growing even after this pandemic is over. Customers will have to reprioritize their workloads.

For example, if there are workloads you can shift to run at night or after business hours, you can use that space on the same hardware to run VDI workloads during production hours when everyone is online. Another path we can follow for customers who needed VDI yesterday is to add capacity via the cloud as a temporary solution.

CONVERGED: Is there a guideline for re-evaluating workloads to prioritize VDI?

AROGUNMATI: It depends—probably two of my favorite words ever. It will vary since production workloads will vary from one customer to another or from one industry to another. I would suggest prioritizing the business-critical workloads first. What needs to run during the day, during production time? What can run at night during non-production time when I can share the same hardware for different workloads?

The next step is to review the current hardware itself. Compute, storage, memory, network—can this take additional capacity for what I’m trying to do? Do I have enough storage for the VDI desktop itself? These are the kinds of questions we need to look at from a guidelines perspective.

This is the first part of a two-part series. For Part II, please click here.

This is the second part of a two-part series. For Part I, please click here.

As IT leaders continue to work through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, CONVERGED is looking to bring insight and guidance to members. Today we’re sharing part two of a conversation we had with Sunny Arogunmati, VDI Principal Architect with Dell Technologies. In this part, Sunny shares his advice for newcomers to the VDI environment as well as insight for the future of VDI trends.

CONVERGED: What should IT decision makers who do not have a VDI environment understand about adapting to the new work-from-home norm in the midst of this pandemic?

SUNNY AROGUNMATI: First and foremost, IT decision makers need to realize the challenges of remote working post-pandemic and shouldn’t rush into decisions that will last for years to come. If you rush into deploying 10,000 VDI today just because you could, are you still going to need to use that in two or three years? They also need to think about challenges with product availability and lead times. We’re talking about supply chains—everything is coming from China, but if China is shut down for business, we can’t get new laptops or new servers.

Another thing to think about is network bandwidth. VDI requires network bandwidth and capacity; you cannot run VDI on 10 Gbps if you’re talking about thousands of users. You need something more along the lines of 25 Gbps or 40 Gbps. Security threats are another consideration; if the decision is rushed and security isn’t a priority, that could pose a problem. Obviously a lot of people are using Zoom right now for video conferencing, but anyone can join a private meeting if you don’t know how to configure the security settings.

A big consideration is applications. Not all applications are equal. Some can be virtualized in a VDI environment and some cannot. There are homegrown applications that have been working for the past 20 years and the developers want to keep it that way. Does virtualization interfere? At the same time, you have required SaaS applications that are also consuming bandwidth.

There are also a lot of workloads that may or may not require GPUs, especially in the medical field, or oil and gas. GPUs are becoming cheaper, but they’re still not cheap. When you compare them to the workstations, those aren’t cheap either. In a VDI environment, I can cut that down to a fourth of the cost.

Support services are something else to consider. If you’re going to VDI and your employees are working from home, how are your IT staff going to support your IT environment from home?

CONVERGED: Do any VDI use cases come to mind that could provide reassurance to customers in this time?

AROGUNMATI: All VDI use cases do provide reassurances to the customer one way or another. We have use cases for high graphical-intensive apps in the medical industry or manufacturing or oil and gas, where a customer needs to replace highly graphical workstations to allow the designers to work from home. Then at the low end, we have what’s called a shared desktop solution, which will scale to hundreds of users’ sessions on a single server. For example, a school system blocks unnecessary functions to only allow access to what’s most important, which means a lot of students are only using the school’s network to do what they need to get done for an assignment. It’s easier and cheaper for a school system to go the shared solution route.

If you look at the industry as a whole—the buzzwords in the IT industry at the beginning used to be about the cloud. If you have a 5-minute presentation and you don’t mention the cloud, people think you don’t know what you’re talking about. Then in the last few years, everything was about analytics. Let’s fast-forward: what’s going to happen in the next year or two? We could be hearing more about working from home. You may see a lot of work-from-home technologies popping up. All of a sudden, VDI is going to be at the forefront.

CONVERGED: So you see this as a much longer, sustained trend like all of the other buzzwords you’ve been hearing rather than just something that’s going to get us through this pandemic?

AROGUNMATI: Yes, but just like I said before, we’re good at solving yesterday’s problem. Once this is over, working from home becomes yesterday’s problem that everyone wants to spend time and resources on. They’re thinking about what they can do in case this happens again so they’re not caught with their pants down, and they’re investing in IT solutions accordingly.

A lot of these corporations are run by the old guards who want to see their employees working physically in the office. They think, “if I let them go home, who’s going to monitor what they’re doing?” In the new era, though, it’s all based on deliverables. As long as I’m making my deliverables, does it matter if I do it at 2am or 2pm? Does it matter if I’m working in the office or at a coffee shop? You’re going to see the trend of work-from-home discussed more and more, especially when you consider the benefits of higher employee productivity and smaller real estate costs.

CONVERGED: We’ve got VDI solving yesterday’s problems. Is there a way that VDI can also solve tomorrow’s unforeseen problems?

AROGUNMATI: VDI has always been solving problems, whether it’s yesterday’s, today’s, or tomorrow’s. I call VDI “the phoenix” because every time I’ve been told that VDI is dead, it keeps coming back. We’re talking about high server workloads and VDI rarely comes up as a high workload, but with COVID-19, you can’t access the other workloads from home without VDI. If you have 10,000 desktops sitting in a 10-story building that is locked down, how do you maintain productivity? VDI is the answer.

After this is over, one VDI challenge I think will stick around is telemedicine. I heard about telemedicine about 5 years ago—it never really gained momentum until now. Now, you’re going to see more family doctors and general practitioners shifting to telemedicine so they can address their patients’ symptoms without needing to see them in the office for something simple.

It’s a similar challenge with the entertainment and media industry; you think about local news stations that don’t have as big of a production budget as the bigger cable networks, but they’re still managing to deliver the important news we all need even though all of the reporters are in their own homes. It took a couple weeks for them to figure out how to maintain production quality – at first it seemed like a lot of them were only using the cameras on their laptops – but I think this is a scenario that will impact a lot of our media consumption moving forward. When news can be delivered from anywhere, the reporting opportunities become limitless.

During the 2019 Dell Technologies Summit in Austin, TX, Dell EMC announced the launch of PowerOne, an Autonomous Infrastructure solution that allows IT administrators to simplify their IT operations and focus on the bigger picture instead of concentrating time, energy, and resources on the compute, storage, and networking verticals.

CONVERGED President Jonathan Toulon (JT) (@boywonderjt) had a few questions for Trey Layton (@treylayton), SVP of PowerOne Engineering at Dell EMC, post-PowerOne Launch.

JT:  Congratulations on the launch, Trey. Ten years ago you helped create the Converged Infrastructure category with Vblock and VCE, and now Dell EMC just launched PowerOne and Autonomous Infrastructure.  Our members will get to hear an exclusive deep dive from you at our upcoming annual Gartner IOC Meeting – I know many of us are eager to hear what you have to say.  Without stealing too much thunder, what should members know beforehand?

TREY: Thank you JT, the very short answer is PowerOne is a new converged system that uses software intelligence to minimize and in many cases eliminate the need for IT operators to orchestrate manual configurations and require deep technology awareness around those configuration dependencies.   Our purpose is to increase human efficiency in IT operations.

I’d point readers to these two resources for more details:

Direct2Dell blog by Trey

Press Release

And of course a shameless plug, I would encourage anyone in Vegas on December 9th to come join the conversation at the CONVERGED User Group Meeting!

JT:  Absolutely!  Many of our members own more than one product from the Dell EMC CI and HCI portfolio. Personally, I’ve got VxBlock, VxRack SDDC, VxRail, and may soon add VxFlex. I’ve heard you talk about the “And” conversation. Care to share a little perspective?

TREY:  I would love to, JT. Let me start by emphasizing what you just said – this is an “and” conversation, PowerOne will be offered in addition to VxBlock. VxBlock is a product I continue to be passionate about because it allows customers to consume our Storage and Data Protection technologies with Cisco, optimized for the VMware Cloud ecosystem.  Our HCI portfolio continues to help customers on their transformation journey in consuming software defined infrastructure that can serve edge and scale to core use cases.

As a teaser to the deep dive, the intelligence we built in PowerOne is in PowerOne Controller. We built it from the ground up with the “And” conversation in mind.  The goal is to increase IT operator efficiency with automation – not in isolation of a single product, but rather targeting our entire portfolio – to improve our customers’ experiences with managing and consuming the technologies they deploy.  We’re really excited about it, though I’ll stop here until after the User Group Meeting.

JT:  Thanks, Trey, we appreciate your time.  I know you are busy, and I’m glad to see you back out, making the rounds!  I look forward to syncing up with you after our Gartner meeting to hear more.

The CONVERGED event during Gartner IOC 2019 will be an exclusive opportunity for CONVERGED members to hear Trey’s insight on this exciting new release from Dell EMC. Plus, as always, this is an excellent chance to network with industry experts and peers! For another primer on all of the opportunities PowerOne can unlock, check out this video featuring Trey on The CUBE:

If you or someone you know will be attending the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations, and Cloud Strategies Conference in Las Vegas (December 9-12), be sure to register for the CONVERGED User Group Meeting. Space is limited, so be sure to reserve your spot soon by clicking HERE to register.

Continue this conversation by following CONVERGED on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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