Business environments today have irrevocably been altered. To reduce the impact of the pandemic on business continuity, improve operational resilience, and enhance employee productivity, organizations across the globe deployed work-from-home initiatives. Over the last one year, as businesses slowly resumed with some level of normalcy, organizations sought ways to empower employees with tools to return to work. The hybrid or flexible working models have become a preferred option for organizations across industries. Research by PwC indicates that among nearly 1,500 executives and office workers, 55% expected to be back in office about 3 days in the week, and work from home the rest of the week. With the trend expected to continue over the next few years, desktop virtualization technologies have assumed importance for the flexibility, convenience, and security they offer to the business.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technologies can enable and simplify the process of adapting to the hybrid or flexi models of working to ensure data security, business continuity and enhance employee productivity.
Transforming desktop infrastructure
VDI is not a new technology, adopted by organizations across the globe to outsource application development and infrastructure management. Over 2 decades, the technology has offered significant value to companies. To overcome the constraints imposed by regulations and data security norms, organizations adopted VDI technologies to gain cost advantages offered by the offshore locations.
Today, enterprises are moving to virtualized desktops due to the immense value of rapidly and securely provisioning apps, workspaces, and data to mobile, distributed, and global workforce. Access to enterprise technology services means more collaboration, higher productivity, and less unproductive time due to end point hardware issues.
VDI and its impact on business continuity and growth
VDI enables a virtual desktop environment, where business applications and other data are available to end-user devices from centralized data center locations, either on-premise or on the cloud. In traditional server setups, an operating system is installed on top of the hardware of a physical server. With virtualization, an additional layer is created between the hardware and operating system, enabling the operating system to run inside each virtual machine. Broadly, VDI hosts desktops that enables users to securely access enterprise data on their personal desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Changes on a parent desktop image can be quickly mirrored to virtual desktops in a desktop pool to create flexible workspaces at scale.
Today, the VDI technologies offer several advantages to organizations beyond enabling the hybrid or flexible work models. With partial lockdowns, mandatory quarantines, and constantly evolving situations, organizations are offering employees the flexibility to meet the challenges and opportunities created by the new way of working.
First, users can access the organization’s data only through virtualized desktop and the VDI is managed through central servers. Hence, centralized image deployment, policy management and patch management, and application portability can be managed seamlessly.
Second, it offers users the flexibility to access their desktops from anywhere. Organizations can provide the desktop or the laptop to the employee. Some organizations even offer the ‘bring-your-own-device’ policy to their employees, further enhancing the employee experience. The onboarding time for a new employee is reduced when the employee uses their own device. A company procured device would typically take about 24 – 48 hours or even more to be shipped to the employee.
Third, human resources (HR) and recruitment teams have the choice of a global base to hire from. With the employee working from anywhere in the world, they are able to attract and retain the best talent for the job. Companies are also able to save on expensive real estate costs. In addition, with zero or reduced commuting time, stress levels is reduced, resulting in improved productivity. Particularly in the service industry, which is concentrated in large metro areas, real estate can be optimized. Also, organizations can leverage desktop virtualization and other next gen technologies to modernize the offices and set up collaborative centers in the space available.
Challenges in adopting VDI
While VDI technology has greatly facilitated the flexible working models, there are some inherent challenges in adopting this technology. VDI is not a single technology, but a complex amalgamation of several complex technologies including networking, computing, storage, and so on. Organizations need to evaluate and choose right technology components that meet their business needs, assess the applicability of the VDI for different business units to maximize its value.
Second challenge is ensuring consistent user experience. Any issues in the network or the data center can impact the VDI performance. Any modifications or challenges in the firewalls, active directory, or DNS will impact the VDI, thereby slowing down the device at the end user. In addition, bandwidth requirements will vary as per the applications used, type of work performed, and so on. Audio-video collaboration, screen sharing, and other collaborative platforms require higher bandwidth. Many organizations address this challenge by providing the appropriate broadband or other connectivity to their employees.
Third challenge is user expectations and organizational change management. There are some fundamental differences between physical laptops/desktops and virtual desktops. Users expected complete control of their environment; however, with virtual desktops running in the data center users will be given selective control on desktops to change desktop settings, configurations based on user persona. It is critical to communicate the difference between physical and virtual desktop environments to end users and manage the expectations.
Is VDI adoption commonplace?
Despite its vast benefits, the adoption of VDI has been slow. However, the pandemic has accelerated adoption. The key challenge to rapid adoption is that VDI is not a one-size-fits-all technology. Organizations need to assess their application landscape, feasibility, TCO, and several other factors before adopting these set of technologies. In 2020, a survey among 500+ companies by Spice Works indicated that the VDI adoption rate was 32%. The survey also indicated that nearly two-thirds of the companies were expected to leverage desktop virtualization by 2021. Research by Global Market Insights, Inc., has estimated that the VDI market will reach $30 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 17%.
Wipro’s approach to VDI
Wipro’s approach to VDI is a holistic solution, addressing the challenges of customers today. Right from the technology stack, implementation, architecture, delivery of the services is done in the ‘as a service’ model. Wipro virtuadesk™ approach provides an enterprise-grade virtual workplace, enabling access to remote desktops, laptops, and operating systems anywhere, anytime. As previously mentioned, there are several factors at play. Hence, based on the best of breed components, Wipro offers a variety of reference architectures. Moreover, the requirements across industries need to be addressed. Industries such as finance, healthcare etc. are heavily regulated. To integrate the platforms in the VDI network, compliances need to be considered. Retail operations will have multiple geographic locations where VDI needs to be implemented.
Wipro virtuadesk™ is a transformative application and desktop delivery platform, powered by artificial intelligence, analytics, automation led managed services. With a simplified operating model, this complete desktop virtualization solution is designed to deliver the best performance and user experience, with agility. Wipro’s packaged solutions combine leading cloud and hyper converged infrastructure technologies, to deliver workplace transformation and seamless user experiences.
Wipro virtuadesk™ offers an as-a-service model that leverages simplified and integrated architecture for a cloud-hosted desktop, to deliver an unconstrained experience. It includes critical features such as service monitoring, service management, service automation, service visualization, enterprise marketplace, application performance monitoring to enable a modernized and consumption-based framework. The solution also helps optimize costs and scale quickly. It enables businesses to update enterprise software tools and allows employees to run multiple operating systems on the same machine. They can also use their own devices to enhance productivity while ensuring data and application security.
Key differentiators of Wipro’s VDI solution
Consulting & assessment framework: At Wipro, we recognize that not all roles and employee profiles are fit for VDI. We leverage a scientific approach to analyze the applications and users, identify the applications fit for delivery, and create a mapping of the applications used by users. Wipro’s VDI implementation starts with a comprehensive user profile and application assessment. Leveraging our patented tool to conduct the assessment, we gather data from our clients that includes - types of users, applications used, location of the applications, how are they governed by the regulations, and so on. Based on the assessments, we create different personas and recommend the VDI application to deliver the right level of compute memory and storage systems depending on the needs of the job profile. To ensure continuous benefits from the VDI environment, we monitor the usage over a period of time to optimize the desktop configuration. This helps us to ensure that 100% engagements are successful.
Standard reference architectures & deployment automations: Wipro created reference architecture and deployment automations for all leading technology stacks that can bring in standardization and improve time to market. With customer locations across the globe, the deployment automation platform ensures that all environments are managed in a consistent manner to reduce deployment cycles. Standardized processes enable us to deploy on-premise VDI environment in 50% lesser time.
User migrations & change management: When migrating to the VDI environment, effective change management is critical. Wipro deploys a comprehensive platform to plan and execute user migrations. The users that will be migrated, phases of migration, communication modules, number of changes in one instance, and other critical details are communicated to the users in an efficient manner. The platform also offers hyper care once the migration is completed. Users are provided with self-service links and a remote help desk is enabled.
Application life cycle management: Wipro implemented a comprehensive application delivery and life cycle management platform integrated to VDI platform to streamline application management. One of the challenges in desktop environments is application lifecycle management, application updates, patch management, license management on end points. To reduce these risks, the applications are moved to centralized delivery wherever possible, using application layering technologies. The application updates are streamlined and managed by the back-end team in a centralized manner. The framework also identifies which applications can be delivered through the centralized model.
User experience management: Another key differentiator is the desktop monitoring and analytics. Wipro has implemented a comprehensive monitoring framework to monitor user experience, behavior and their productivity by leveraging AI and Machine Learning (ML) technologies. Any challenges faced in the end-user device are investigated and fixed proactively. Performance issues and the root cause of the application performance are highlighted through the platform.
There are several solutions available today. However, many of them fail to focus on more subtle elements like personalization, configurability, and user experience, which are critical in ensuring productivity. These elements also address the inherent network-related challenges, multi-location availability, and security while employees work remotely. Solutions that cannot scale existing enterprise investments in virtualization or offer the commercial flexibility of a pay-as-you-go model will not be beneficial to organizations in the long term. What separates Wipro virtuadesk™ is its hybrid/multi-cloud capabilities that ensure any device, anywhere, anytime availability, including the full benefits of VDI and desktop as a service.
VDI is here to stay
As the adoption of VDI continues to grow, a holistic approach to improve user experience and ease of user onboarding will ensure success. There is no cookie-cutter approach. Organizations must re-visit their business strategies with out-of-the-box thinking. New technologies are transforming industries across the world. Take the example of the automotive industry. A domain for hard-core engineering, the automotive industry today recruits talent with design, IT, AI, and automation skills. Similarly in retail & consumer care industry, with the rising popularity of digital channels and e-commerce, the retail market scenario has changed. Online payments, evolving supply chains, AR/VR for better user experience, etc. are trends that necessitate an employee base with a completely different set of skills for the industry.
Interestingly, there are close to 11 million job openings in the US alone, with lesser number of job applicants today. Organizations can take advantage of flexible workspace platforms like VDI to tap talent with next gen technologies skills and knowledge to hire and retain talent from anywhere in the world.
Security of applications and end-user accessibility can also be addressed using desktop, application virtualization technologies. Organizations have a plethora of technologies to ensure that the data and the applications are secure. In addition, with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, employee satisfaction can be enhanced. A critical aspect in the success of the VDI environment is the cloud. At Wipro, we recommend a hybrid, multicloud strategy to optimize disaster recovery. Applications can rest on the cloud, whether public or private or a combination of the models. Complemented with the right end point policy, the appropriate tools and technologies to identify the right set of applications and users, preparing the applications optimized for the VDI environment, proactively addressing migration challenges and efficient user experience management will ensure successful adoption with minimal impact to the business. Instead of DIY, VDI platforms enterprises can take advantage of productized DaaS offerings like Wipro virtuadesk™ to improve the time to market and optimize total cost of ownership (TCO) as well as avail ever green service offering to deliver great user experience to employees.
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