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A Mobile, Cost-Effective Endpoint Strategy for VDI

One of the key reasons organizations of all sizes are embracing desktop virtualization is to allow greater mobility and flexibility for both users and their organizations. In fact Forester Research has found that over half of employees currently work from multiple locations. By freeing people from relying on a specific PC to do their work, you can enable them to work on more types of devices, in more places, for optimal productivity.

Similarly, by eliminating the need to provision a full-featured PC for every worker, you can support your workforce with a mix of lower-cost devices -- and even eliminate corporate devices entirely for some workers -- to escape the high ongoing costs of traditional endpoint hardware cycles. The same Forrester study projects that by 2016, over 200 million employees will bring their own devices. In this blog, I discuss key factors organizations need to consider when planning a cost-effective endpoint strategy.

As you plan your VDI implementation, one of the most important questions you'll need to address is how to design your endpoint strategy to maximize both of these factors: 1) mobility and flexibility for users, and 2) cost savings for IT. There are several options for user endpoints, each with its own balance of cost and functionality and control. The device-independent, platform-independent nature of VDI lets you implement a variety of endpoint types to meet the needs of different worker types in your organization without increasing IT complexity.

As for cost savings, by selecting components that eliminate expensive infrastructure, you can deploy virtual desktops for an average end-to-end cost of only $600-$650 per desktop, from server to software to endpoint.

Bring-Your-Own Device: Empowering Users Through Self-Provisioning
In this age of consumerization, many people already own the best device for their work. In the past, allowing workers to bring their own devices into the office would have been unrealistic, requiring IT to provision and manage applications across a wide and diverse mix of platforms. By decoupling software from hardware, virtualization makes the implementation of a bring-your-own device (BYOD) policy much simpler.

This fast-growing strategy doesn't necessarily eliminate endpoint costs entirely; many organizations pay a stipend to BOYD users to help offset their costs for hardware and third-party maintenance. But with benefits such as higher job satisfaction, increased productivity and greater mobility -- all without increasing IT cost or complexity -- BYOD can play a valuable role in your endpoint strategy.

The decision whether or not to implement BYOD depends on many factors, including IT's preference for control and tolerance for open policies. Designing the right BYOD policy for your organization takes careful consideration as well. If you do choose to provide employees with endpoints, there are a few options to consider.

Simple Thin Clients: High Productivity At A Low Cost
With VDI, the baseline requirements for an endpoint can be quite low, especially for task workers who primarily use basic office applications and do not require rich graphics or media capabilities. All you really need is a display, a keyboard, a mouse and a network connection. All storage and processing are shifted to the datacenter, along with virtual desktops, applications and data.

Thin clients that meet this minimal specification can be quite inexpensive, in the neighborhood of $150-$200. With few moving parts, they're also easy to maintain. At the same time, low-end thin clients can provide all the performance many workers require; the key is to verify that the devices you are considering will connect seamlessly and work well with your VDI solution.

Higher-End Thin Clients: Robust Functionality Made Affordable
People who work with rich media, CAD software, scientific imaging packages and other more demanding applications may have requirements that call for more media-capable thin-clients. For this subset of users, a higher-end thin client -- available for around $350 -- can provide essential capabilities such as:

  • Peripheral support, including printers, scanners, multiple monitors, digital cameras and other devices.
  • Adaptive orchestration that complements server-based processing with local acceleration to ensure a high definition user experience for rich media and bandwidth-intensive applications.

Repurposed Pcs: Redefining End-Of-Life
An outdated PC may seem inadequate by the standards of its current equivalent, but it still has everything it needs to serve as a thin client: screen, keyboard, mouse and network connection. Most VDI vendors offer simple tools to lock down a PC and turn it into a thin client. Extending the life of each PC in your organization in this way amounts to found money -- instead of recycling the machine, you can keep it in active use for several more years at no additional cost. When the repurposed PC finally expires entirely, you can replace it with one of the thin client types described above.

No matter how you design your endpoint strategy, keep in mind that your IT team shouldn't have to test and support each type of device individually. This will introduce just the kind of management complexity VDI is supposed to eliminate. Instead, look at platform-independent solutions that allow people to access their virtual desktops on any device.

Many companies are now working together to offer end-to-end solutions stacks that combine desktop virtualization software with endpoint hardware.

Posted by Krishna Subramanian on 06/29/2012 at 12:47 PM


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