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Big fat cloud and very thin clients

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Hello My Readers – Welcome Again. No, this blog will not be about big known IT providers sucking the last juice out of poor clients trying to survive in the hostile world of today’s economy, although that subject might be interesting. It will rather be about various types of virtual desktops that could be used in a desktop cloud environment and their concrete match to real world situations.

As I wrote in my previous post, the idea of desktop cloud is to deliver computer desktop screens to users through a computer network by locating all application workloads on servers in the data center and transmitting only screen outputs to those users. I would like to focus on two major desktop types that can meet the needs of different user groups: published desktop and virtual desktop.

Published desktop

Published desktop can be based on the same technology as published application, known from the Citrix world. The idea is that the operating system is run on a server inside a datacenter and this operating system is shared among the users. Every user gets the same operating system desktop view and cannot personalize it. However, generated data is stored separately, dedicated to a given user. Application deployment is done through terminal services also known as shared application or published application concepts.

Virtual desktop

Virtual desktops are in a different heavy-weight league. Instead of sharing the same virtual machine among users, the dedicated virtual machine running a dedicated desktop is run for a particular user. The special variant here is a virtual desktop with a persistent image where changes made to the user desktop are remembered for the user. In this variant user experience is similar to experience with standard physical hardware where the desktop can be configured to the user’s liking. The experience can be also compared to one user using a dedicated VMware partition or to the ‘look and feel’ of a traditional fat client.

Although the virtual desktop type can be recognized as a clear winner here there is a higher price tag attached to it. Many more published desktops can be run on the same server hardware compared to virtual desktops so the cost of hardware resources allocated to the virtual desktop is higher. The published desktop is based on one desktop image that can be easily patched, secured and managed. Virtual desktops with persistent images are more demanding; each instance must be patched and managed separately.

The table below presents several user scenarios for desktop cloud computing, highlighting potential business benefits of such desktop cloud solutions and proposing concrete desktop types that could be used in given scenario.

User Scenario Potential Business Benefits of Desktop Cloud Solution Proposed Desktop Type
Subcontractors

Students, vendors and temporary staff

  • Possibility of using existing hardware – no need for investment
  • Better people productivity – fast start with ready-to-go IT environments
  • Storing data in a secure manner within company firewall
  • Dealing with high-ratio of people turnover
  • Infrastructure and services standardization and compliance
  • Prevents security risks caused by stolen notebooks
  • Published desktop
Factory employees

Factory workers often working in remote factory locations.

  • Centralized support decreases the need of costly onsite support
  • Data secured in a central location rather than on mobile devices
  • Eliminate work interruptions arising from security patching, software updates, etc.
  • Longer device life cycle
  • Dealing with non-standard working conditions for it equipment
  • Published desktop
Mergers & Acquisitions

Employees working for company in effect of merger or acquisition.

  • New employees productive much faster with ready-to-go IT environments
  • Immediate access to new company IT environment while keeping usage of the pre-existing  systems and platforms – having access to ‘two worlds’
  • No need to have two pieces of hardware for accessing it environments from two companies
  • Users can start working without interruption for the IT setup or long transformation
  • Virtual desktop with persistent image
Mobile Employees

Sales people, managers visiting remote locations, other employees often working outside the office.

  • Provision of secure access to company systems/information during business trips
  • Data secured in a central location rather than on mobile devices
  • Standardization of remote desktops distributed to users
  • Possibility to use ‘own/private devices’ like tablets,  phones
  • Longer device life cycle – workloads run on servers in datacenter
  • Virtual desktop with persistent image
Service Employees

Service employees traveling and working at customer premises

  • Enable employees to work remotely from any available device in their current remote location
  • Decreases the need for costly on-site support actions
  • Secure data in a central location rather than on mobile devices
  • Deliver controlled access with simpler data backups
  • Eliminate work interruptions arising from security patching, software updates, etc.
  • Published desktop

As we can see, in the world of cloud computing various types of cloud desktops could be used. Selecting the right one is key success factor to provide the required functionality with reasonable cost.

More details of user scenarios, especially for subcontractors, factory employees and mergers and acquisition employees can be found in my previous post.

What is your experience with virtual desktop types? Have you ever tried to match a specific desktop type to your requirements? Please share your experience and thoughts below! Thanks!

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