by James Keating III, Business Technology Architect, Evolving Solutions
As part of my job I routinely look into and evaluate technologies. This takes two paths, new or emerging technologies, and also changes to economics and trending that make existing technology more suitable for business use today. One of these latter case technologies is virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI.
I can vividly remember the first time I came into contact with the concept of VDI. At the time I was a manager of a large storage team in a large enterprise setting. We had been approached by the Windows group and Desktop group about VDI as they wanted a way to control the sales and offshore teams who at the time were issued company owned laptops.
The idea was simple, provide a desktop that lives on some central compute and storage and allow them to access it via whatever device they had (preferable for this case a non-company provided system). They saw this as a way to simplify administration and a way to control the data, and to prevent the lost or stolen laptop issues that was prevalent. So we looked at what it would take in terms of infrastructure to support this. Many storage folks know where this story is going, the performance required of the storage to support such an endeavor quickly made the idea seem less than appealing from a storage manager standpoint. Basically, I would have to provide some fast and expensive disk to support a laptop workload. This didn’t sit well, and further since we didn’t want to mix the workload with other production stuff, this created an island storage array, dedicated to VDI and only VDI sitting in the middle of my other production systems. Add in backups and disaster recovery if required and the whole thing collapsed in a poof of infrastructure cost uncertainty.
Fast forward 6 years and a lot has changed. The cloud is now something that one could utilize (not just on paper, but for real) to support the same use case described above. The storage is no longer an issue due to both software and hardware advances over the 6 years (FLASH, software VDI acceleration). The island array is also no longer a factor if one consumes the VDI in a cloud as a service model, since the storage is part of the service bundle that comes with the VDI service. Basically, the same use case I ran into 6 years ago that became a 9 month journey into all the issues and why VDI while nice was just not for the company, could now be solved in a simple manner using VDI as a service bundles.
So as I said/typed in my first sentence of this blog, I look at technologies as part of my day to day job, and have been looking and testing various VDI as a service options and offerings. An inexpensive option is Amazon Web Services Workspaces. This option provides Windows 7 desktops and access to them from most Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. I have tested it, my team has tested it. However, coming from an operations background I want field data, to know really how these things will perform under actual “in the wild” use cases. Basically since the price point is so attractive, I want to find all the limits, the rails, the gotchas so I can work with customers to understand the real world outside of the marketing brochure. So to get this field data I am prepared to offer up to the first 10 folks who contact me and meet some requirements, one month of the base Amazon Workspaces virtual desktop to use. As with all things some restrictions apply, but the goal is to find out from a group of real users how a desktop in the cloud works.
If you are interested in participating, don’t hesitate to contact Evolving Solutions to see if you qualify for this and let’s get started testing VDI.