VDI and the Cloud: A New United Front

Arthur Cole

We'll start today with an IT riddle: I am a promising technology that stands to vastly improve enterprise operations even while substantially lowering costs. And yet I am having trouble getting off the ground due to security, reliability and other concerns. What am I?

If you guessed the cloud, you'd be right. But you would also be right if you guessed desktop virtualization. Like the cloud, VDI suffers from the same basic mistrust that comes from taking that first step from today's comfortable reality to tomorrow's unknown.

And yet, there are growing signs that these two misfit technologies could actually benefit one another on the road to acceptance and widespread deployment.

The fact is, according to IT veteran Martin Ingram, both of these technologies are aimed at the same basic goal: efficient application delivery to end users. And they both take advantage of the same infrastructure and resource management changes that are currently sweeping the data center. So it only makes sense to leverage the investment that enterprises are making in resource consolidation and unified networks as broadly as possible.

For many in the VDI industry, this symbiosis is not lost. Smaller vendors, in particular, are hoping to grab some of the market from top players like VMware and Cisco by tapping into the cloud. A prime example is Virtual Bridges, which has integrated its VERDE 5 system into IBM's Cloud Service Provider Platform as a means to enhance VDI provisioning and management. Once you're up on the cloud, VERDE 5 provides a very effective means to distribute cloud-based workloads across multiple VDI environments.

Of course, the holy grail here is the actual provisioning of desktops-as-a-service (DaaS). Many vendors have been toying with this idea for a while, but start-up MokeFive says it has made a significant breakthrough with its MokaFive Suite Service Provider Edition. The package provides desktop management from the cloud even while all the desktop workloads are executed locally. Not only does this drop the cost of VDI to about a dollar per day, it also simplifies initial setup through the use of commodity EC2 and S3 components.

Still not enough? How about throwing in a unified communications (UC) component for good measure? Mitel recently expanded its Freedom software architecture with both cloud service and VMware desktop virtualization capabilities. Users now have access to both voice and data applications whenever they log onto a desktop image from any PC or mobile device like the Android, BlackBerry or iPad.

Is any of this enough to put both technologies over the top? Perhaps, but it will probably come about more as the result of the general transition from defined hardware/software infrastructure to more distributed, scalable designs. All indications are that the next few years will see an explosion of alternate, service-oriented data center architectures as enterprises desperately try to shave the cost of IT infrastructure and increase its flexibility.

The cloud is already primed to play a major part in this transition. The only question is whether VDI is up for the ride.

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