Why VDI Workloads Will Drive Public Cloud Consumption

by Amitabh Sinha on Aug 24, 2017 6:00:00 AM

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

95% of enterprise desktops are Windows-based. Most business users use a Windows desktop to access their applications and data. For an increasing number of use cases - security, mobility, and agility - these Windows desktops are being virtualized and run centrally. End users access them using any device they choose - thin clients, Macs, iPads, and smartphones. Industry analysts forecast that in many industries up to 25% of the desktops in the organization will be virtualized. That is 150 million desktops, but to date only about 35 million desktops have been virtualized, leaving a huge opportunity for public cloud providers to go after the VDI workload, drive cloud consumption and make it easier than ever for customers to benefit from virtualized desktops and apps.

With the public cloud competition heating up, cloud providers should understand the strategic importance of VDI workloads for their success. There are three primary reasons why VDI workloads are so important for public cloud providers:

  • VDI is currently the #1 workload for the datacenter
  • VDI workloads are the perfect beachhead strategy
  • Win the desktop, win the cloud!
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VDI is the #1 Workload in the Datacenter

What makes VDI so important? VDI accounts for between 20-40% of revenue for most server, storage, and hypeconverged infrastructure (HCI) vendors. Why? Because even a small VDI deployment is 1,000 desktops, and that requires 20-25 physical servers and multiple terabytes of SSD storage. 

For the last seven years, VDI has been driving the adoption of new technology in the datacenter. First it was flash storage, because the performance requirements of VDI could not be met by spinning disks. Next it was HCI, where servers and storage came in converged units with scale-out architecture. The demand for VDI and published apps is growing, so by definition it becomes an even more important workload for vendors providing datacenter infrastructure solutions.

Question: If VDI is the #1 workload for the datacenter, can it also become the #1 workload for the cloud?

Our view: Yes. It stands to reason that VDI deployed in the cloud will consume just as many resources as when it is deployed on-premises. As demand for VDI continues to grow and customers execute on their desire to streamline datacenter infrastructure, public cloud providers can expect a surge in cloud VDI deployments.

The Perfect Beachhead Strategy

VDI is the most difficult workload because it requires lots of compute and high performance storage. Have you ever implemented VDI on 3-tier datacenter architectures? It is daunting! IT teams have to assemble servers, storage, and networking, and then they have to worry about failover, performance and scalability.

Because deploying VDI on traditional datacenter infrastructure requires a sophisticated skill set, often when a vendor proves their worth with VDI projects, IT teams will trust them with other workloads.

This beachhead strategy was honed to perfection by Nutanix, the #1 HCI vendor. In their early days, a substantial majority of Nutanix deployments originated with VDI. Once they were successful with VDI workloads, Nutanix was quickly able to expand its footprint and become even more strategic to customers as they started deploying other workloads on HCI. Similarly, public cloud providers should apply this same strategy: establish a beachhead by focusing on customer success with VDI workloads, and other workloads will follow.

Question: Can VDI be the beachhead workload for the public cloud?

Our view: Yes. Deploying VDI in the cloud eliminates all the complexities of setting up infrastructure in the datacenter, delivering tremendous value to organizations of all sizes. Customers can be up and running in days vs. the months it can take to deploy on traditional 3-tier datacenter infrastructure. Most organizations today are looking for a modern, hybrid approach, which is very good news for both HCI vendors and public cloud providers.

Win the Desktop, Win the Cloud!

Desktops have tremendous gravitational pull. Why? Because the performance of applications inside the desktop is determined by how far the applications are located from the desktop. IT teams must be cognizant of locating users as close as possible to their apps and data. We already know that the momentum behind moving desktops to the cloud is accelerating, overall demand for virtual desktops is growing, and performance depends on desktops, apps and data being located close to users. So when the desktop moves to the cloud, guess where all the applications and data will head? To the same cloud! 

Win the desktop, win the cloud!

VDI 1.0 is Complex and Expensive

The VDI market is currently dominated by Citrix and VMware. They both own roughly 50% of the market. Both solutions started off as on-premises solutions, requiring 9-12 months of deployment and expensive consultants to assist in the deployment. Because of the complexity and high costs associated with first generation VDI, many projects failed, or at the very least they failed to grow. 

The Future of VDI is in the Cloud

Industry analysts predict that by 2019, half of new VDI deployments will be in the cloud. VDI workloads will drive massive consumption of cloud resources, which should make public cloud vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Alibaba, and Oracle happy. But what should make them happier is that VDI will exert massive gravitational pull on all other data and applications in the datacenter and will drag them into the same cloud. That should drive as much as 7x more consumption of cloud resources. 

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This post was written by Amitabh Sinha

Amitabh has more than twenty years of experience across enterprise software, end user computing, mobile, and database software. Amitabh co-founded Workspot with Puneet Chawla and Ty Wang in August 2012. Prior to Workspot, Amitabh was the General Manager for Enterprise Desktops and Apps at Citrix Systems. In his five years at Citrix, Amitabh was VP Product Management for XenDesktop and VP Engineering for the Advanced Solutions Group. Amitabh has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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