Dan's Take

A Renaissance for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

Workspot and Atlantis Computing say it's happening now.

Workspot, a supplier of Workspace as a Service products, recently announced a partnership with Atlantis Computing, a provider of storage virtualization products sold as Software-Defined Storage (SDS). Together, the two companies will work to deliver a "VDI 2.0" solution.

Workspot says its technology, running on the Atlantis HyperScale all-flash hyperconverged appliances, will offer "the lowest cost per desktop in the industry and desktop performance that is faster than PC or Mac."

Here's how the two companies describe their partnership:

The combined power of Workspot software with Atlantis HyperScale hyper-converged appliances offers a more affordable alternative to traditional infrastructure-based solutions, with operating expenditure savings of up to 80 percent. The hardware-software collaboration has made it possible for users to deploy a desktop in as little as 60 minutes. Additionally, its cloud-control plane architecture comes at a fraction of the price of running traditional licensing-based solutions.

Workspot says it will provide a "single pane of glass" tool set that offers management, control, security and monitoring. Atlantis Computing will provide the all-flash hyperconverged system that integrates servers, storage and virtualization into a single appliance. Atlantis points out that its HyperScale appliances work with server platforms from suppliers such as HP, Lenovo, Cisco and SuperMicro.

Workspot's  Rana Kanaan, Chief Product Officer, answered a few questions for me.

Dan Kusnetzky: Why would an enterprise purchase fixed purpose client devices when multi-function device are available at the same or lower cost?
Rana Kanaan: The availability of a solution like Workspot that offers desktop and application services to any device means that an enterprise can choose to purchase (or allow the employee to purchase) any type of client device as appropriate for their business. This gives them the liberty to choose from fixed purpose or multi-function devices, whether based on cost, security or other company policy.

Why would an enterprise purchase fixed-purpose client devices when multi-function devices are available at the same or lower cost?
The availability of a solution like Workspot that offers desktop and application services to any device means that an enterprise can choose to purchase (or allow the employee to purchase) any type of client device as appropriate for their business. This gives them the liberty to choose from fixed-purpose or multi-function devices, whether based on cost, security or other company policy.

Why would an enterprise purchase fixed purpose appliance servers when multi-function devices are available from their favorite supplier at the same or lower price?
Deferring to Atlantis Computing to answer more fully, I would say that Atlantis offers both options. It is a function of price as well as operational cost to buy a server and spend the time customizing it versus buying an appliance that is hardware and software ready for purpose -- this can affect operational efficiency.

Why do you think that VDI hasn't taken over the enterprise desktop?
This is a great question. In 2012/3 when I left Citrix I largely believed VDI wasn't going to take over the enterprise desktop. The main reason was cost and complexity. That cost and complexity stems entirely from the reliance on a datacenter that was purpose-built for very different uses -- server workloads. VDI broke the datacenter, or the datacenter stalled VDI. This is why VDI hasn't taken over the desktop in its current incarnation. At Workspot, partnering with innovative companies like Atlantis Computing who are changing the datacenter, we have created "VDI 2.0" -- one that eliminates complexity and cuts the costs by half. VDI is having a renaissance right now.

Dan's Take: The Key to Unlocking VDI in the Enterprise?
VDI offers a number of advantages for enterprises supporting desktop workloads, including better security, centralized administration and the ability to support a large array of different types of access devices.

With the correct client software, VDI workloads can be accessed from PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones and, in an Internet of Things (IoT) future, refrigerators and toasters. I can see it now: reading the news on the coffee pot while waiting for life-enabling coffee to brew.

While this approach offers a number of advantages, it also is seen as increasing complexity. This approach also requires that the enterprise acquire and use virtual access software, virtual machine software and special-purpose management and security software. This means  adding additional staff capabilities and experience. Early on, VDI also suffered performance problems for graphically intense applications.

Adoption Limitations
This additional level of complexity, combined with concerns about available expertise and performance, has limited VDI's adoption. The upfront cost has put off other enterprises. The suggestion that  the enterprise should adopt thin-client hardware that offers limited capabilities when compared to low-cost PC and laptop alternatives has been another inhibitor.

The performance issues were largely addressed long ago, but enterprises still deploy this approach for only certain workloads, if at all. Citrix, Microsoft, Dell and many others have each offered technological improvements to address the performance issues. Many of these suppliers also offer both consulting and training services to address staff expertise issues. Storage virtualization suppliers such as Citrix/Sanbolic, DataCore, NetApp and others have also addressed the storage size and performance issues.

Will the partnership of Workspot and Atlantis Computing finally win over the market to VDI as a general-purpose solution? The answer isn't yet clear. What is clear is that VDI continues to be an area of intense software and hardware development and innovation.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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