Desktop computing has become a major challenge for IT departments. While it is essential for delivering applications and services to end users, managing and securing physical PCs is complex, costly and takes time. PCs can consume seven to ten per cent of the IT budget, yet in my view they provide no competitive advantage.
Wholesale PC refreshes are becoming progressively more difficult to justify, and the cost of supporting a more dispersed user base needs reduction. At the same time, I believe users are becoming more IT-aware and frustrated with computers that lack the flexibility and capabilities they have come to expect.
Windows 8 has arrived when many organisations need to ditch XP. There are also more workers operating from a "virtual" office, sustained by the growing popularity of mobile access devices, BYOD, and smaller IT budgets.
Virtualisation may help here. Virtualised desktop infrastructure (VDI) promises centralised management, improved data security and simplified deployment. However, it requires users to manage desktop infrastructure, servers, storage and hypervisors, as well as virtual desktop images and applications.
Providing virtual desktops via the cloud, in my view, offers the same benefits as VDI without the capital investment and management issues of having an in-house datacentre. The virtual desktops and related infrastructure are run as a service in the cloud by a third party, while the customer manages its virtual desktop images and applications.
If the desktop image can be delivered through a web browser and accessed from many different operating systems, including Apple iOS or Google Android, there may be no need to provide a physical asset to users – potentially saving money.
Existing PC lifecycles can be extended by using them just as a terminal, no longer running a client OS. Thin clients can be an alternative as they use less power, last longer, and are easier to manage as a near-stateless device. I believe that both options will also benefit the environment – by reducing energy consumption and lengthening the hardware lifecycle.
On-premise VDI costs less per user than the average desktop PC. There are reductions in the cost of IT labour and of the endpoint – although they are offset to some extent by datacentre expenses, including servers, storage and labour costs.
Virtual desktops necessitate the adoption of SAN systems, which also add expense.
Cloud-hosted virtual desktops can provide savings over the average desktop PC or compared with VDI. The most significant is the reduction in IT labour costs, as the desktops become a centralised and controlled resource. Even a small reduction in cost per desktop can make a significant difference.
Clearly cost is not the only consideration, though, so customers must choose the best offering for them.
Organisations that already run their own datacentre and virtualised storage may prefer VDI, while desktop as a service can eliminate barriers to the adoption of VDI and provide the benefits without so much hassle.
In the channel, we need to understand the pros and cons of each option and be able to explain them, to ensure customers get the best offering for them.
Richard Blanford is managing director of Fordway
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