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FCW : April 30, 2014
Many technologies have made the transition to the cloud in recent years. Now the virtual desktop is getting its turn. Once considered a bit exotic, virtual desktop infrastruc- ture has become a familiar approach in a growing number of government IT departments. In a VDI environment, users equipped with thin clients or zero clients access virtualized desktops hosted on a central server. The heavy lifting of desktop computing shifts from the client device to the data center, where operating systems and applications reside. VDI proponents cite bene ts such as easier systems administration, enhanced security and lower client-side support costs. VDI, however, places more demands on data centers and administrators --- and that s where the cloud comes in. Desktop as a service (DaaS) transfers the job of host- ing and managing virtual desktops to the cloud. Federal agencies are just beginning to explore this twist on VDI and its potential, and vendors such as Amazon Web Serv- ices and VMware are getting into the act. Why it matters Desktop virtualization is becoming more prevalent among federal agencies. Small pilot and proof-of-concept demon- strations were the norm a half-dozen years ago, but in the past two years, much larger deployments have emerged, with the Energy Department, Navy and Defense Intelli- gence Agency among the larger installations. DOE conducted a 500-user VDI pilot program, which "demonstrated that Energy can provide a good customer experience and achieve cost reductions by consolidat- ing and virtualizing the desktop infrastructure," a DOE spokeswoman said. She said preparations are underway to deploy VDI to 2,000 users, which include federal employees and direct service contractors. The highly available and redundant virtual desktop environment, which will use infrastructure as a service, was scheduled to launch April 15. In addition, DOE s use of zero clients "will also reduce the required power consumption per desktop to reduce [the] overall carbon footprint," she said. VDI can ease desktop support and shrink energy con- sumption, but the advantages come at a cost. Organiza- tions might need to invest in data center infrastructure --- servers, storage, software and networking --- to make the technology work. They will also need to train or hire employees to maintain the virtual environment. The data center costs alone might be enough to keep some agencies from pursuing VDI. But DaaS eliminates the back-end infrastructure expense and associated man- agement chores of VDI. With on-premise VDI, "the customer would have to pro- cure and manage the physical hardware and the software that would manage the virtual desktop environment," said Paul Duffy, principal product manager at Amazon Web Services. Customers would also need to provision additional hardware and software as the virtual desktop popula- tion grows. But customers that acquire virtual desktops through Amazon Web Services WorkSpaces offering can avoid those procurement issues, Duffy said. The ability to avoid the initial infrastructure investment is an important advantage of DaaS, said Dave Grant, senior director of product marketing for DaaS at VMware. "It s a relatively large investment upfront," he added. DaaS turns VDI into an operating expense instead of a capital expense, Grant said. Customers pay a predict- able per-user, per-month fee that they can budget for as an operational expense item, he added. Faisal Iqbal, director of systems engineering for public- VDI moves to the cloud BY JOHN MOORE To counter the strain desktop virtualization can put on data centers and administrators, some agencies and vendors are turning to desktop as a service 28 April 30, 2014 FCW.COM ExecTe c h
April 15, 2014
May 15, 2014