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VDI and Cloud Infrastructure – Together at Last

Users still have concerns about the security of their information

This year, virtual desktop and cloud storage initiatives are at the top of many IT organization's wish lists. But what is not obvious is how tightly intertwined these two initiatives have become as users embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. This new BYOD model forces IT groups to provide both secure user applications (VDI) and secure user data (cloud storage).

Although cloud storage services have experienced success in the enterprise, users still have concerns about the security of their information and other problems related to control over data in the cloud. Because of this, VDI will not go away as cloud computing expands, as many have predicted, but instead be used to complement the cloud. According to experts, VDI adoption is predicted to spike - with Gartner estimating that 60 percent of enterprises will deploy some form of VDI by the end of this year.

VDI Enables the New BYOD Wave
Today's workers expect to use their own PCs, smartphones and tablets in the workplace. The reality of the situation in 2012 is that BYOD is mainstream - and IT can no longer avoid it.

According to a recent study by Avanade, approximately 60 percent of companies are adapting their IT infrastructure to accommodate employees' personal devices instead of restricting how employees can use them. Nearly 90 percent of the business leaders in the survey said that they are aware that employees are already using personal technology for work purposes, and 65 percent of C-level executives in the survey consider the growing use of employee-owned technology as a top priority in their organization.

While the arrival of these mobile devices has clearly defined the value of moving IT functions over to a cloud environment, many companies are still resistant, citing security concerns as an obstacle. As employees continue to take their work on the road, overseas or back to the comfort of their own home, it's clear that IT managers will search for ways to allow easy and secure access to the various tools and services that workers use to be productive.

This is the forcing function for VDI. Rather than evaluating VDI as a separate IT priority that requires changing user patterns, VDI now enables an unstoppable trend. VDI has quickly become the ultimate IT tool to efficiently support heterogeneous user devices and maintain application security. The justification for VDI is no longer tied to moving compute from the edge to the core; now, compute remains squarely in both camps. The justification is in security and offloading endpoint ownership, and possibly maintenance, to users.

With VDI, the desktop is moved to a central, ubiquitously accessible location and users are given remote access to corporate resources on both managed and unmanaged devices - without it ever leaving the safe borders of the data center. Additionally, IT administrators are not only able to harbor cloud applications, but they can also stream other traditional applications to thin clients running their VDI tools. With these capabilities, IT is presented with simplified management and is also better able to meet the needs of a workforce that is now constantly on the go with fast, flexible and reliable solutions.

BYOD Similarly Drives Cloud Storage
According to a recent KPMG International global survey on cloud computing, a vast majority of organizations have already moved at least some of their business activities to the cloud and it's expected that in 2012 investment in cloud computing will skyrocket. In fact, according to another survey conducted by AMI research, SMB cloud spending alone will reach $100B by 2014. These forecasts come as no surprise, as workers rely heavily on many different cloud services to house their users' data and information.

VDI is an important component of BYOD since it protects corporate applications. However, there is no corresponding protection for user data. The success of Dropbox showed the appetite for cloud storage and quickly led to investments in ShareFile by Citrix and in Octopus by VMware. Untethered, unsecured endpoint devices are the latest motivation for centralized storage; but with two new technical requirements and one exciting new marketing attribute.

The technical attributes are, first, a need for IT-controlled security and, second, a need for single sign-on password control to simplify user access and make sure central storage is actually used. The exciting marketing attribute is that these two requirements finally make central secured storage more valuable and profitable for the right user base.

When you think about the cloud holistically it's equally important to think about the ease at which users can enter the cloud for services and not just what cloud services can be shipped out to users. Users want access to all of their information in the cloud as fast and efficiently as possible. When coupled with cloud computing, VDI has the capability to onboard more and more enterprises to the cloud with fewer barriers and obstacles. With this in mind, it's clear that VDI has the potential to integrate two infrastructures - using single, secure sign-on to bridge the gap between user access from any device through VDI and data in the cloud.

How Can SMB Customers Adapt?
BYOD is not just an enterprise phenomenon. It ripples through all user types and may actually be deployed first in the cost-sensitive and management-strapped SMB segment. But SMB organizations are unlikely to adopt the expensive infrastructure that characterized the first wave of VDI deployments. Custom storage, expensive blade servers and proprietary networks are unlikely to meet the budget requirements of the SMB market.

A new appliance model changes the game by introducing server economics, Ethernet-based systems that are manageable by desktop admins and a simple scaling model that simplifies configuration and management of what turns out to be a fairly gnarly storage problem. It's just this type of innovation that is required to make VDI cost-effective for the customer segment that needs it most.

More Stories By Lee Caswell

Lee Caswell is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Pivot3. He is an experienced technology executive with more than 20 years of marketing and management experience in the storage, networking, and digital video markets. Prior to Pivot3, Caswell held positions as EVP Marketing and Business Development at VMware and was a corporate officer at Adaptec, where he was VP and General Manager of Adaptec's $350M Storage Solutions Group. He spent the first five years of his career in management programs at GE. Caswell has a BA from Carleton College where he was a Wingspread Fellow and an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College where he was a Tuck Scholar.

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