October 5, 2011 | Written by: Marcus Erber
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When you ask CIOs or CTOs, who plan to introduce desktop cloud within their enterprises, about their motivation, they tell you about all sorts of value they expect to gain from that project. However, if you dig a little bit deeper about their goals, it turns out that their main driver is cost reduction.
But, is a desktop cloud really cheaper than managing traditional notebooks and PCs? Well, as always in IT, the answer is not that simple: it depends.
To find out if something new is cheaper than what I have today, I need to understand my current costs – and, my current service quality. If I operate a low-cost solution today, and there are no mandatory requirements to upgrade my current service levels, I will very likely end up with much higher costs when I move my desktops into the cloud. The reason is that even a low-cost desktop cloud provides a set of advantages over a traditional notebook and desktop environment, such as better scalability, higher agility, better availability, improved accessibility, and most probably higher data safety and security. All those advantages require support from the underlying infrastructure, such as capable servers, data-center floor space, storage devices, proper network connections, and a suitable stack of management software.
I recently talked to a large retail company about desktop cloud. Their current model is simple and cheap: Each store operates one to three desktop computers. There are no central services provided except on-site support on a call-out basis with no guaranteed reaction time (usually from five to ten days). So, in fact, the shops are responsible for their PCs themselves; their employees store data locally and do or do not patch their operating systems. However, their business is not affected if a PC is not operational for several days. The store manager, uses them only for emailing, writing letters, and eventually filling in a spreadsheet to report the store’s performance to the headquarters. This client will never meet its current costs with a desktop cloud, unless the client decides that its poor service levels need to be increased to stay competitive for the future.
To answer our initial question, if a desktop cloud is a viable solution for a specific client, we need to view the full picture and determine how important other motivations for a move to the cloud are, and if the client is willing to pay the price for them.
Because a desktop cloud is located in a central data center, I can easily scale its capacity and performance by only adding new hardware.
Deployment of new desktops is a matter of seconds, because they are virtually created in the data-center’s infrastructure. If companies tend to grow through acquisitions and frequently require a high number of new users to be equipped with the standard desktop platform, agility can be a valuable advantage over traditional PC rollout.
The desktop cloud infrastructure is based on server hardware and usually runs in a data center, leveraging fault-tolerant components and systems management. Thin clients used as end-user devices are without configuration and without locally stored data; if they fail, they can be exchanged quickly and easily.
A central desktop in a desktop cloud can be accessed from almost any device and from almost anywhere in the world. The only requirement is a capable network connection. But not only the desktop can be accessed from anywhere, also the user’s personal and corporate data.
As mentioned earlier, virtual desktops run on server hardware. Under normal mode of operation, a number of users share a certain server hardware. Depending on the ratio of concurrent users to server hardware, performance can be controlled, and adapted as required. Access to data is also usually much faster, because desktop and data are both located in the data center, connected through a high-performance data-center network.
Data safety and security
Data can easily be backed up, compared to the number of local hard drives in traditional PCs. Regarding data security, by keeping the data on storage devices in the data center, the data is protected by the data-center security mechanism. The user, regardless of which country that user might sit, can only view and edit the data, but not copy the data.
If reducing costs is the only motivation for considering a desktop cloud solution, showing a positive business case will be difficult. Moving PCs into a desktop cloud brings many benefits. How valuable these benefits are for a specific enterprise needs to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis and brought into relation to the existing environment and its provided and required services.