While virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) might be heralded as a desktop modernisation utopia, is it really the best fit for a customer’s evolving desktop IT needs and therefore what VARs should be selling?
VDI is often touted as a catch-all solution to desktop modernisation in virtualised, datacentre-driven and cloud-based IT environments. Many vendors even push VDI as some kind of Holy Grail, and for their channel partners the revenue opportunities may well provide an attractive short-term incentive.
But one critical aspect of the project is often forgotten: that the most important person in a desktop IT provisioning project is the user, along with his or her specific needs.
The concept of personal computing goes beyond simply how a desktop is provisioned and must encompass the real preferences, needs and practices of people in the organisation.
IT users are not uniform in their needs, so while many organisations might want to “manage down” a veritable sprawl of individualised PCs, they must remember that differing needs demand diversity of choice and desktop options.
Before assumptions are made about a wide-scale VDI adoption, ask whether more cost-effective terminal server and thin-client installations might meet the needs of many users at the customer’s organisation rather better. Do some people need to retain their own PCs, perhaps for specific purposes?
The resellers with genuine foresight will be those that demystify the IT choices provided by us (the vendors) for their customers and add value by consulting and advising on the best fit, not simply the best product margin opportunity.
The demands of the user should always dictate the desktop IT approach selected. Taking a heterogeneous approach to desktop IT replacement and provision rather than a homogenous, one-size-fits-all approach is, for most end-user customers, far more cost effective and aligned to their needs.
It can also avoid the client’s budget being wasted, which in turn can lead to further opportunities down the track for the canny reseller. It leaves money in the pot for more consulting services on the right desktop approach, for example.
VDI has an important place in the desktop IT mix, but using it simply for the blanket replacement of desktop PCs is lazy and often a waste of resources that are more scarce already than the organisation would like. A vanilla VDI approach across a company’s entire IT assets does not fit well with the realities of desktop IT use, which is highly varied in terms of need in most organisations served by resellers.
Some users still need PCs with locally installed, specialist software that is critical for their jobs. Others performing simple, repeated tasks, using a limited number of systems, such as in contact centres, may need only one or two applications streamed to a roving desktop.
For most organisations, a diverse mix of virtual PCs, thin clients, terminal services and published applications, plus support for a growing number of desktop access devices - many of which may be user-owned - is required.
I believe VARs need to consider their customers’ desktop IT needs across more dimensions and within the context of their wider IT needs. I also think that many VARs sell their long-term revenue opportunities and customer loyalty down the river by tying their budgets to expensive pilot projects.
Such projects, superficially so appealing, can quickly become unviable when the customer needs to scale up or down.
For many, the promise of VDI is marred by a poor fit with user requirements. Need I add that this can lead to project failure, user rejection and reduced client satisfaction, which can reflect as much on the reseller as the vendor in question?
VDI can represent a great desktop modernisation opportunity in the right environment, but there is more to successfully streamlining the IT interface.
During my 20 years in the desktop IT market, I have rarely come across a single solution to a problem that works for everyone. Being able to offer a blended approach to desktop solutions ensures the right technology is available for the right needs.
Offering a range of desktop provisioning options and the ability to easily manage and provision all of them from one place also gives VARs the opportunity to help clients find a perfect fit for their needs, while at the same time unlocking potential for future sales opportunities.
Paul Robinson is managing director of 2X Software
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