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Cloud Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): technology landscape

Cloud VDI is referred to as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) by many vendors and represent a range of different architectures and capabilities. At its core, Cloud VDI is a service that provides the ability to access Windows and Linux desktops hosted in a cloud from nearly any endpoint device and location. Cloud VDI benefits center on optimized costs, improved operational efficiencies and higher availability of their VDI environment.

The article identifies the leading cloud-based VDI solutions and provides End-User Computing (EUC) leaders use cases and key considerations for moving VDI to the cloud as part of the organization's broader cloud strategy and cloud migration. 

In a Cloud VDI solution, some if not all components of a VDI architecture are hosted in the cloud. Depending on your organization's requirements, Cloud VDI might include a native cloud solution, hybrid cloud, multicloud or cloud managed on-premise (also referred to as cloud control plane). Cloud VDI may also be deployed alongside a migration to Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) that merges the administration and control of all physical, virtual and mobile endpoints. 

There are many vendors offering cloud VDI solutions including but not limited to:

  • Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and Windows 365 (W365)
  • Citrix Workspace and Citrix DaaS 
  • VMware Workspace ONE and VMware Horizon Cloud
  • AWS Workspaces also known as Amazon Workspace
  • Google Cloud hosts VDI and DaaS paired with Citrix, VMware and others

Every Cloud VDI solution differs in their architecture, platform-specific capabilities and limitations, and best practices, all of which can be explored in greater depth with WWT experts via a one-on-one Cloud VDI briefing.

Is the cloud the right place for your virtual desktops?  Watch this EUC experts panel discussion.

Cloud VDI benefits and use cases

Using the cloud for VDI offers the ability to easily scale up and down the environment, reduce the administrative overhead and offers a global platform to provide virtual desktops closer to the end users. In the cloud you have the increased ability to right-size individual virtual machines based on the user workloads allowing for greater control of the end user performance and ultimately, empower employees with a seamless experience to do their best work from anywhere.

Whether adopting a Cloud VDI solution as part of a cloud first strategy, reducing data center footprint or for cost reductions, there are many cost and operational benefits when deployed for the right use cases. Some of these primary use cases that see benefits with Cloud VDI include:

  • Disaster recovery (DR) for VDI can provide one of the fastest return on investment (ROI) as duplicate on-premises hardware is no longer required.
  • Ability to locate the virtual desktops in the same geographic locations as the employees without having a physical data center presence there.
  • Organizations who have moved many of their business applications to the cloud can achieve performance benefits with locating their desktops close to their applications and other operational efficiencies.
  • Utilized for when additional capacity is needed for a short period of time including events such as seasonal retail, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and contractors.
  • Used temporarily when experiencing on-premises hardware delays or for as a buffer for capital expenditures.

Challenges in deploying cloud VDI

While VDI has expanded to support more use cases than ever, there are a few instances where it does not work the best in the cloud. Different deployment architectures and situations may impact performance and cost and reduce the success of the solution.

The two major challenges when moving to cloud VDI is ensuring the performance of the user's applications and network are not negatively impacted, and properly architecting to optimize consumption costs. If a solution does not meet the end user performance expectations and cannot be cost-effective the solution will not scale to size expected.

Here are a few challenges that can come up with deploying a Cloud VDI solution and their impacts:

  • Using a cloud network architecture where the VDI protocol traffic "hair-pins" through a single bottleneck will reduce the performance by increasing latency between the user and the virtual desktop.
  • Cloud virtual desktops that are hosted separate from the applications and data the users are accessing can cause end-user performance to be affected.
  • Challenges with creating accurate cost models due to complexity of cost impacts in a cloud deployment including network egress charges, storage and availability.
  • Virtual desktops that utilize graphics accelerator cards (GPU) in the cloud typically come at a higher cost than ones deployed on premise.

Build your roadmap for moving VDI to the cloud

There are many Cloud VDI solutions to choose from in the market with various architectures for on-premises, cloud or hybrid deployments. Choosing the right cloud VDI solution will have many inputs including the applications and data the users are accessing, where the users are connecting from, the amount of scale up/down for their user base, the use case and more.  

Often the first step in a Cloud VDI solution design is to define the target use cases, business drivers and candidacy requirements with a persona analysis. A persona analysis is a critical step to align IT and line-of-business leaders around priorities in end-user experience, technology requirements and business objectives to ensure successful transformation. The dynamic persona assessment is WWT's service engagement to map the end-user and mission requirements to the technical specifications. This process creates a technical solution that is based on meeting the mission needs and as a result each technical design decision can be justified by the mission demands.

WWT's approach is to design for the organization's needs first and then map the solution and technical requirements into the correct solution specifically for your organization to achieve your purpose and meet your operational needs. Reach out to us to schedule a Cloud VDI Briefing to discuss your specific business and technical needs with WWT experts and learn more about our approach to Cloud VDI.

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