In today’s world of flexible work, technology has to be one thing above all else: versatile. A decade ago, virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) wouldn’t have been able to meet this moment – VDI used to be too narrow and restricted in terms of what use cases it could service.
Fortunately, VDI has evolved dramatically since those days. Now, with the right resources, there’s very little you can’t accomplish through virtual desktops.
And yet, I still speak with customers who are a bit wary of committing to VDI. Flexibility is the driving force behind today’s EUC solutions, and some companies are hesitant to introduce VDI to workplaces where employees are constantly shifting between devices, working from different environments, and so on.
When these businesses see how far VDI has come, those concerns vanish. Today, virtual desktops have the ability to massively improve experience without sacrificing flexibility. You’ll see that when you read these three unique VDI use cases – stories that prove why virtual desktops will play an essential role in supporting future workplaces.
Decades ago, the introduction of graphical acceleration was a total game-changer in the gaming industry. When the first accelerator was released, you could offload graphical acceleration to a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and have a massively improved user experience with Doom, Quake, or whatever late-‘90s game was your personal favorite.
Fast forward to today, and you don’t need to buy a powerful GPU – those same graphical resources and services can be delivered from the cloud, enabling users to stream videogames.
You might be asking: “What does VDI-powered gaming have to do with the workplace?” Well, let’s look at two of the biggest problems that VDI solves for gamers – because you’ll see that they’re not so different from the issues employees face with workplace technology.
Let’s start with latency, which refers to a delay between a user request and the service’s response. In gaming language: you press a button and it takes a moment for your character to perform the designated action. The slightest latency on a local network environment can absolutely ruin a gaming experience – causing you to lose a battle, fail a mission, etc.
VDI solutions have evolved so much that they’re capable of completely eradicating these latency issues. By moving the game to the cloud and using a latency-tolerant connection protocol, you solve the problem.
The same applies for workplace technology: a powerful VDI solution can prevent users from experiencing delays with their devices and business applications, therefore driving productivity and improving the overall employee experience.
Then there’s the issue of software downloads. If I want to play a certain game, and the game images or download installer are 30 GBs, that takes a lot of time to install and be able to play – not to mention the disk space and power it takes from my device. On a VDI platform, I can stream the game in an instant. And I don’t need a powerful GPU to support those downloaded images and installers.
This use case directly translates to the workplace. Rather than download software that eats up disk space and slows down devices, virtual hosting allows employees to instantly access those tools. This saves time, resources, and ultimately money, while promoting a smoother experience.
In fact, this correlation between gaming and the workplace is so strong that I’ve actually used it to illustrate the power of VDI to customers. We once took the creative approach of building a VDI platform for multiplayer gaming and brought the customer in to stream an F1 racing game. Before long, they completely forgot that the game was being streamed virtually and not run by a high-powered machine.
It proved to be the defining moment that convinced the new customer of VDI’s capabilities – and the deal ended up being our biggest VDI project to date.
Virtual and augmented reality technology has long been associated with gaming, first and foremost. But over recent years, VR and AR have made waves in the workplace – a trend that is only going to continue due to the rise of hybrid digital workspaces.
In the medical and manufacturing industries, for example, companies have leveraged these solutions to combine physical tools and digital information, overlay data onto surfaces, and so on. And in all kinds of remote and hybrid workplaces, VR and AR have enabled teams to turn standard video chats into more immersive, collaborative meetings.
The problem is: VR/AR solutions are expensive in more ways than one. They typically require costly technology like VR goggles, of course – but in order to run smoothly, they also require a lot of resources and power that can only be offered by expensive high-end devices.
VDI makes it possible for businesses to adopt VR/AR technology without those massive costs and resource consumption. You don’t have to equip users with expensive, insanely powerful computers. Instead, you can equip a standard device with the capabilities to manage and secure a VR application. Then, through a remote application delivery solution, you can bring the VR application to the data center and offer simple sign-on access to virtually stream it on user devices.
As more and more companies consider adopting VR/AR in the future, VDI solutions that enable these tools will undoubtedly be on the rise as well.
This last use case is a bit more unique – but it perfectly illustrates the versatility that businesses are able to achieve with VDI technology.
We once worked with a research facility at a large hospital who was interested in moving to VDI. We equipped them with powerful hosts built to run their virtual desktops. But when we did some assessments, we realized something interesting: though these resources were available 24/7, the vast majority of their employees worked standard 9 to 5 hours.
In other words: during the day, their employees were enjoying a great user experience with the virtual desktops. But when peak hours were over, only about 5% of those desktops were being used until the next day. We wondered: when employees don’t need them, what else could these resources be used for?
This is what sparked the idea of “VDI by Day / AI by Night”. We realized that those hosts we’d provided, which each had three GPUs installed, were also capable of running deep learning workloads.
So after peak hours, we moved those desktops to fewer hosts. We diverted the rest of the resources to virtual machines capable of calculating research-related information. For example: offloading the VDI platform to facilitate deep learning enabled these machines to automatically analyze large sets of research related to MRI images and microscopic images. Employees simply scheduled batches of images, went home for the night, and returned the next day to find fully-analyzed images and results.
This company invested in VDI in order to have good experiences during the day – and they ended up with something that had an even greater impact, decreasing their research times through the power of AI.
Virtual desktops have never been about servicing the masses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer a diversity of benefits. All of these benefits come back to the number-one goal of VDI: improving employee experience – helping employees work more flexibly and efficiently, across devices and environments.
VDI isn’t a one all-encompassing solution, but rather an essential component of an empowering workplace technology stack. Its versatile capabilities enable IT teams to truly embrace “the art of the possible” and expand the breadth of services and experiences they offer to employees.
Over the past several years, some skeptics have wondered whether VDI is done evolving, has already made its impact, and will start to fall by the wayside. Looking at the above use cases, one thing is for certain: VDI has a very bright future.