As a director of collaboration solutions, I was thrilled when asked to speak at the Know Your Alternatives Telecom Conference taking place this week in Toronto. I was even more excited when asked which topics I wanted to address, because my answer was immediate: BYOD (you can read my blog on that here) and Cisco’s Virtual Experience Infrastructure (VXI).
What is VXI? To answer that, we need to start with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).
VDI is not a technology that Cisco invented. Nor is it one that we directly offer a product in. It is one however, that offers great opportunities for businesses.
The cost savings associated with VDI can be great. Initially, companies typically become interested because of the lower cap-ex cost associated with the thin or “zero” clients that replace the PC on the user desktop. But VDI centralizes all applications and content back in the data centre, eliminating the distributed model that exists with desktop PCs and resulting in drastic operational cost savings as well. In the absence of VDI, many technologies exist to manage distributed applications and content. Desktop computers required local security software, backup software, synchronization software, software distribution systems, and often require local maintenance. While none of these requirements disappear when you move applications and content back to the data centre, they become much more efficient to deploy. Not only that, but the overall amount of storage required can be drastically reduced.
Despite this, virtualization of the desktop has yet to realize large-scale adoption for a number of reasons.
First, it has proven difficult to virtualize the desktop in a way that does not compromise performance. With the desktop running as a virtual machine in the data centre, and the user interface sitting in a distant physical location, network performance becomes critical to the most basic user interaction with their computer. Tasks as simple as opening a folder and viewing its contents can become unbearably slow if your network is not designed correctly to handle VDI.
Second, rich media has proven very difficult in a virtual desktop environment. Many technologies now exist from VDI vendors and others to optimize one-way rich media content, but they do not help with peer-to-peer rich media such as real-time voice and video as part of a Unified Communications solution.
Cisco Virtual Experience Infrastructure offers an architecture that wraps around existing VDI solutions to solve these issues by unifying virtual desktops, voice, and video. In addition, Cisco is moving beyond the desktop and virtualizing the complete experience of the modern mobile employee.
We are embracing the idea that employees will use many different devices running many different operating systems. We recognize that the consumerization of IT is very difficult for IT departments to handle – they are unable to completely manage and support the explosion of new devices, let alone handle the entirely new classes of devices that are appearing.
VDI in its many forms – hosted virtual desktop, virtual desktop streaming, application streaming, and hosted virtual applications – offer a solution to the dilemma presented by the consumerization of IT. No longer will the IT department need to meticulously manage the device chosen by each business unit, or even each individual user, in their organization.
VDI could be a very important stepping stone in a revolutionary transformation of IT as we know it – with the end user experience virtualized, converting the bulk of enterprise applications into a cloud-based model would be easier to accomplish and more readily accepted. And with VXI, we are trying to make that transformation a little bit easier for our customers.
Are you considering the move to VDI?
If you would like to attend the Know Your Alternatives Event in Toronto, register here.