Providing access to Virtual Desktops in Response to COVID-19

Over the last few weeks I have been inundated with customers looking for help. They have asked for quick ways to setup virtual desktops so they can enable their office-based employees a way to work from home.

COVID-19 has forced many organisations across the world to identify ways that their employees can work from home in order to support business continuity.

Born from the necessity to protect the health and wellbeing of employees and their families. Almost the entire VMware workforce across the globe is working securely and remotely using VMware technologies.

This equates to 20,000+ employees able to stay safe at home and continue to work. So confident in our own technologies and in fairness Zoom Video conferencing, we are able to stay away from the office and our customers to keep all involved safe.

If that’s not impressive enough, we also went ahead with our Worldwide Sales Kickoff and Techsummit last week. In the middle of all the chaos, we ran the event virtually, successfully delivering important content to employees at their homes.

However, there is a big BUT coming, the kind of digital transformation required to achieve all this does not get implemented overnight. Deploying virtual desktops does not equate to digital transformation.

So here lies the problem, if digital transformation cannot happen overnight, how does an organisation enable their employees to work from home quickly. Deploying virtual desktops can provide business continuity during the COVID-19 outbreak.

3 Ways to Deploy Virtual Desktops

Virtual desktops technology is a great enabler for those working from home to access their applications and corporate data. It may not always be the most elegant solution, but it is often the quickest and simplest way to get employees working from home.

Below I will outline 3 ways to deploy virtual desktops in order of ease and speed to deploy;

1) VMware Horizon to Broker Physical Machines

This solution is far from elegant or technological marvel. It’s not at all transformative either, but that’s not to say it should be discounted. The simplest solutions are often the best solutions. The requirement is to enable employees to work from home as quickly as possible. These employees may not have a corporate laptop and generally work from a fixed desktop sat in the office which they no longer have access to. The solution works as follows; the horizon agent is installed on each physical desktop in the office. A Universal Access Gateway (UAG) is deployed along with Horizon Connection Server. Employees can be assigned to the same workstation they would usually use in the office, accessing it from home either via the Horizon Client or via HTML5 securely.

Using VMware Horizon to Broker Remote Desktops

The advantage is that very little additional infrastructure is needed to get this solution in place. It provides a familiar desktop experience to the end user, allowing them to access their physical desktop in the office remotely. You can find out more information here; https://techzone.vmware.com/resource/using-horizon-7-access-physical-windows-machines#_Toc35336889

2) Horizon Cloud

Using a Cloud based solution to host virtual desktops is the next best option. It negates the need to procure physical infrastructure, which is challenging in areas experiencing the COVID-19 lockdown. That infrastructure then has to be racked, stacked and connected in the Data Centre, again this is time consuming.

Using a Cloud hosted solution avoids those pitfalls, Cloud providers have this infrastructure already in place and ready to be consumed as a service. Many organisations may already have commercial arrangements in place to easily consume those services. The service can easily be flexed up or down to meet demands and control the overall cost of the solution.

With Horizon Cloud there are options when it comes to running virtual desktops in the cloud. Using VMware’s existing partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft and IBM;

Horizon on VMC on AWS

VMware’s partnership with Amazon provides a VMware managed SDDC within AWS Regions hosted on AWS hardware. The SDDC is provided on demand and is a perfect place to host Horizon desktops.

Horizon Cloud on Azure

VMware’s partnership with Microsoft means that we provide a fully automated deployment of Horizon within Azure. The Horizon Cloud Control Plane combined with Azure provides a DaaS solution, allowing customers to leverage their existing Azure platform.

Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud

VMware’s partnership provides an alternative to the above-mentioned options. VMware’s Horizon Cloud provides a DaaS solution hosted within IBM’s Cloud.

3) Horizon On-Premises

Sometimes data locality or security mean that a cloud-based solution is simply not an option. Some organisations may also find themselves with excess capacity in their data centre, possibly from hardware that was intended for another project which is now on hold.

In either scenario; deployment of Horizon into the data centre is an option for supplying virtual desktops to remote users.

A Typical VMware Horizon On-Premises deployment

If taking this approach and looking to procure new hardware, then purchasing Hyper Converged Infrastructure makes the most sense when it comes to deploying an environment quickly. vSAN Ready Nodes come in flavours sized specifically for VDI solutions taking some of the guess work out of designing the infrastructure. One step further would be to deploy VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF). VCF takes the guess work out of deploying a full SDDC solution, providing an automated solution for deploying and maintaining SDDC components with Day 2 patching.

Summary

In summary, there is more than one way to deploy virtual desktops. When it comes to deployment speed then using VMware Horizon to broker access to remote desktops is the clear winner. It’s a temporary fix for the immediate threat of COVID-19 allowing for business continuity of key employees.

More robust and longer-term solutions come in the form of providing a virtual desktop solution either by utilising public clouds or on-premises solutions.

It may be that the right approach is to take a blended approach of the above options, brokering access to remote desktops in the interim until a virtual desktop solution can be deployed. Ultimately VMware provides a range of options to deploy a virtual desktop solution, all of which can be deployed under a single universal license SKU to ensure that you are not locked into any one solution.