Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has elevated into becoming one of the key platforms in the IT industry and a useful solution for organizations who want to use cloud solutions to enhance such initiatives, such as bring your own device. But what makes VDI unique? ETM asks the question to Virtual Bridges’ CEO Jim Curtin.
ETM: Could you tell us about Virtual Bridges and the role that you represent in the virtual desktop infrastructure sector?
Jim: Virtual Bridges is an exciting company that has been around for three phases of Virtual desktop Infrastructure [VDI]. We pioneered the architecture of VDI back in 2000/01, well ahead of the market, but we then reinvented ourselves with a full virtualization approach in the advent of VMware and Citrix coming into the market. We brought all of our innovations and advanced capabilities with us in that phase and then in late 2009 to 2010 we were funded by Austin Ventures which gave us the platform and transition where we were able to put a lot of resources behind our innovation and exploit our competitive advantages to really drive the agenda for VDI. People think of VMware and Citrix as a kind of defacto option with VDI, but the truth is, a lot of the innovations that they come up with originally came from Virtual Bridges. So we represent that small nimble innovative company that’s purpose built for VDI and really driving that capabilities agenda.
ETM: Why do you think VDI has gathered a great amount of traction in the marketplace today? Is it because of the perception of an overall product offering that VDI poses or do you see another factor?
Jim: There are a number of things behind it. The desktop industry is really transforming into the end user computing industry. What that means is that the desktop has been
the organizing metaphor for computing in corporations and the IT world for 30 years and that architecture has reached its limitations and manageability in security and cost. With the pent up demand that was created by Vista – which was actually a very slowly adopted platform whereby soon after Windows 7 was seen as a much better alternative, companies are now looking at resetting all of their infrastructure in a more efficient way and so Windows 7 is a big catalyst. The reason that people are being forced onto Windows 7 is that Windows XP, which is what the majority of corporations are running on right now, will end of life support in 2014. What companies are now looking at is how can they move to Windows 7 and integrate VDI as a major way of reducing the hardware, application and operating system management around that.
The advent of the consumerization of IT is also another interesting aspect. What that really means are a plethora of consumer or technology innovations coming into the corporation and the biggest one in the past had been the rise of the smartphone — different to the desktop but with the advent of the tablet and particularly the iPad, now corporations are having this hybrid device with desktop-like capabilities, and so mobility is all of a sudden a major driver for corporations and a new dimension to end user computing that’s different from the desktop.
The desktop is changing dramatically and people need a way to standardize and present a calming experience to users whether it is laptops, desktops, mobile devices, or smartphones and really VDI offers the best solution to deliver that.
ETM: There’s a lot of talk about cost and ROI associated with VDI, but Jim can you explain to us some of the other business drivers for VDI above and beyond cost?
Jim: When we look at standardizing on value with our CIOs, we often start by looking at the current state. CIOs want to improve cost, that’s a given; but in addition to cost, there are some other areas that the PC needs to improve on that VDI delivers uniquely. In particular, security improvements; so if you think of security in the context of data — data that’s out on laptops, desktops, data on mobile devices — and in this world where data is so sensitive, it’s important to take that data off those local devices and put it, as we say, behind a keypad in the data center. In this case, VDI allows you to consolidate all of your desktop computing, including the data, into a data center in many cases and have that protected by professionals and not have the data exposed — not on local devices at home or the back seat of your car or at a coffee shop. So, security is a big game changer with VDI.
Another very big piece is risk mitigation, disaster recovery and business continuity. Because you can have your desktop infrastructure now hosted and backed up in the data center, you’re now much more resistant to outages and catastrophic events, and you are able to provide a much higher level of continuity which is not capable in today’s desktop management architecture.
The third factor is cutting costs, in areas of security, disaster recovery, operational efficiency where you are able to change policies that affect thousands of people with one simple management operation. You are able to install new applications and increase the different capabilities that you have, so operational efficiency is a big driver for CIOs. Some CIOs see that as the number one driver for VDI but each CIO has their own preference.
And finally, we have organizational agility. It’s very difficult in today’s PC market to be smoothly acquired into another company or change one organization’s purpose
without having a complete overhaul at the IT level on refitting desktops, provisioning desktops, or creating common systems, so organizational agility is certainly a very
powerful capability of VDI.
ETM: Can you tell us about your approach to virtual desktop infrastructure with the solutions that you have?
Jim: With the advantage of having started with desktops in mind, we are purpose built for desktop infrastructure management, and because of that we have a very elegant architecture that scales very easily. But it starts with the fact that we can run everything on a single server, so we are very integrated with all of our pieces — the hypervisor, the connection profile management, the protocol, the management console, the clustering — all of these capabilities will run intact on a single server. We are able to scale that horizontally, which means for every 200 users you want to add, you just simply put another server in the rack, another unit in the rack or add another server to your cluster and you expand capacity without having to worry about how many provisioning servers, licensing servers or processing servers you have, for instance. We are able to then decentralize some of that processing, and this is a very powerful thing because right now our competitors made their companies based on a data center centric technology — they depend on data center infrastructure, so we are able to extend our thinking into offline users who happen to be away from the network.
We’re able to put a processing element into a branch or regional data center but yet still have it centrally controlled, known as our Cloud Branch technology. This is changing the face of VDI because if you are a retail organization, whether it’s a bank or a store or a services company, you are able to take the central management of VDI but put the processing elements out into the branch location. This way you don’t have to have any staff on site to manage those remote locations, so you dramatically lower head count, you improve consistency, you deliver these policies, profiles and data. Users who happen to be far away and maybe over unreliable networks, they’re now able to have land based performance; this is a killer for VDI for our competition.
The second benefit is you establish business continuity as well because if that network happens to go down — if you have an outage, our proxy server or our Cloud Branch actually keeps running and the local users remain totally unaffected. They’re able to keep running their desktops regardless of the network availability. This again is very powerful. It’s not only about accessibility of VDI for highly decentralized organizations, but it also allows for service providers whether they’re desktop management, outsourcers, main service providers or hosters, to bring a whole new level of service to their customers.
ETM: How would you see the sector evolving into the future, Jim? Do you see our desktops becoming more virtualized than ever before?
Jim: Absolutely. I think in somewhere three to five years down the line, you’ll think of virtual desktops like you think of PC’s right now. They will become a much more pervasive part of the cultural lexicon. For example, Apple at the moment is promoting the cloud. The cloud used to be a technical thing in the market, but people in the future are certainly going to say ‘my virtual desktop’ – it will just become something that’s very familiar and ubiquitous to them.
It’s really because you have this plethora of accessible devices — again whether it’s thin clients, laptops or mobile devices, you need to have a common experience across
those and that’s really what virtual desktops are — it’s a way of pulling the space, the operating system, the application, the profile management, the data off of your fixed device and putting it into the cloud.
So the future is very bright because we are having this diversity, these accessible devices exploding into our lives and we need some way of having a consistent experience, and VDI is there to deliver that.
Enterprise Management 360
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