Now is the Time to Optimize Your Desktop Virtualization Environments for the Next Phase of Work From Home

May 21, 2020
Gabe Knuth

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Gabe Knuth is a member of the EUC Product Marketing team VMware. He has spent 22 years in EUC, including eleven years as an independent industry analyst at BrianMadden.com. Prior to joining VMware, he worked in Product Marketing at Microsoft, focusing on FSLogix and Windows Virtual Desktop.

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As we continue to acclimate to the reality of the workplace climate of today, I’ve found myself thinking about how this niche of IT where I’ve spent my career–desktop virtualization–has become so important to the work from home, remote learning and other business continuity-related efforts that are affecting nearly everyone. Of course, I wish things could go back to normal (or that this situation never happened in the first place), but I am encouraged by the fact that when the world needed desktop virtualization, desktop virtualization was up to the challenge.

Organizations around the world have been using various remote desktop and application strategies to enable users to remain productive, and as we begin to settle in to the “new normal,” it’s becoming clear that there will be multiple phases to our use for desktop virtualization. Phase 1 was about enabling remote work at any cost, whereas Phase 2 will focus on turning remote work into a long-term strategy. Let’s take a quick look at each of these:

Phase 1: Using VDI to enable remote work as quickly as possible

Most of us (VMware included) are still in Phase 1, though we’re all growing accustomed to working from home and functioning as teams over distances. Desktop virtualization has been integral in this challenge, be it the most sophisticated, multi-cloud, hybrid VMware Horizon deployment or the relatively low-tech option of connecting from an old laptop to the physical desktop in the office via RDP over the VPN. In either situation, companies have realized the value that desktop and application virtualization provides in situations such as the one we’re in.

Organizations that planned for a world where 80% of their employees worked from home took the change in stride, but those are few and far between. Most companies found themselves having to scale up and out as quickly as possible, and I’m proud to say that VMware Horizon was able to be a big part of that.

In one example, VMware enabled an insurance company to spin up 38,000 desktops in Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure in just seven days. This project helped tens of thousands of agents continue working, and kept the insurance company running effectively during an especially trying time.

There are many more examples, too. There’s the East Coast healthcare provider that expanded their on-premises Horizon environment to Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure to allow more than 10,000 administrative staff to work from home in a hybrid environment. The same solution helped an environmental services company send 3,000 call center workers home so they could work safely. And in the Southeast, a large university was able to help their students continue their engineering coursework through the use of Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure and support for the Azure NV-series instances.

Those are just a few of the customers that have very quickly and successfully deployed desktop virtualization projects, and each of these highlighted situations has one thing in common: they’re all planning on continuing to operate in this way as we enter Phase 2.

Phase 2: Optimizing our newly expanded app and desktop virtualization environments

In the next phase of this situation, the focus will need to be on sustainability and continued productivity. It’s one thing to react and put workloads wherever you can find capacity for a short period of time, but as the uncertainty of the next year or so becomes more obvious, organizations are now tasked with being able to provide this level of service for a longer period of time. Once again, desktop virtualization is up to the task.

As the dust settles, organizations need to look at what workloads are where, and why. It’s understandable if, during Phase 1, some corners were cut or some things deprioritized in favor of standing up an environment quickly. Phase 2 will aim to fix that.

For example, organizations that placed workloads in Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure might have used persistent VDI desktops initially. In Phase 2, those customers can now start to convert those users to non-persistent VDI or even Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session through their Windows Virtual Desktop entitlement, potentially saving $35 or more per user, per month!

In some companies, Phase 1 involved spinning up more workloads on-premises by stretching existing hardware to provide more sessions at a reduced user experience. In Phase 2, those companies have to decide between continuing operations in the current manner, acquiring more hardware for their on-premises solution or leveraging cloud-based resources that can potentially expand and contract as demand fluctuates.

Phase 2 is where commitments are made to specific technologies, and many companies will find themselves answering these questions (and more):

• Do we buy new server hardware for on-premises and commit to another 3 years of maintaining our own systems?

• Is our current approach to desktop virtualization flexible enough to meet the new demands of today?

• Is our company ready to move desktops and applications to the cloud? If not, what roadblocks remain? Can we move some, but not others?

• Do we start leveraging unified endpoint management via VMware Workspace ONE so we can have better management and end-to-end security now that we have to deal with a flood of new BYO devices?

• Is our current desktop virtualization and/or endpoint management provider really providing the value that we need, or was it just enough to get by in Phase 1?

Wrap-up: Catch your breath and evaluate next steps

After you’ve caught your breath (and please do take a moment to do that), be sure to survey the landscape and consider what your next move is. There are many options, so whatever you do, be intentional with your decision. Stay informed on the various technologies by checking out our hands-on labs, or get your hands dirty with VMware TestDrive. If you need help deciding on the best path, don’t be afraid to reach out. VMware can help you at every step along the way, no matter what you want to do.