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By Omer Asad
The year 2020 will be remembered as a hard-fought year. The pandemic changed the ordinary course of life and, while no one has a clear view of what that will mean for the future, we have certainly been presented with both challenges and opportunities.
That especially holds true for technology. When we’re well past the grip of the pandemic, what will we retain of what’s changed and what will we abandon? Early in 2020, IT organizations urgently needed to enable employees to work from home. Now, there’s no reason to go back. Agile, remote workforces and new, hyper-efficient infrastructures have positioned businesses for growth in an increasingly uncertain future.
The lens of opportunity
Winston Churchill famously said that pessimists see difficulty in every opportunity, and optimists see opportunity in every difficulty. Crises present challenges, but for those who stand up to the challenges with a go-forward strategy, the upside can be significant and redeeming. While the pandemic may expose shortcomings in companies, it may also reveal a massive opportunity for strategic growth in completely rethinking IT.
Rethinking does not mean starting from scratch. Now is not the time to experiment with unproven IT solutions that require large capital investments. Small and midsize businesses are best advised to lean on proven, cost-effective solutions such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), built on reliable platforms that work together with technology in the current infrastructure.
VDI is a flexible infrastructure that can be deployed quickly to support tens, hundreds, or thousands of knowledge workers. VDI is an ideal fit for productivity applications or “power” use cases such as manufacturing design and financial trading, and it’s also a safe option for call centers where employees previously sat shoulder-to-shoulder. Virtual desktops are hosted and managed on a central server and accessed by users through remote devices. Workers get the same desktop experience from anywhere, and can work securely from a laptop, mobile phone, tablet, or any other connected device.
During unprecedented events like the pandemic, rigid infrastructure can bring business to a halt. Virtual infrastructure allows IT organizations to deploy large numbers of workers in minutes and scale the system out or back without disruption. When stay-at-home orders are eventually lifted, remote workforce options could give companies a competitive advantage, providing access to talented workers who require flexibility in their situation.
HCI magnifies the benefits of VDI
Increasingly, IT organizations have chosen hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) where CPU, DRAM, and storage is integrated in easy-to-scale building blocks. HCI can be a tremendous, liberating move for organizations that adopt VDI solutions. Gone is the need to size storage arrays for a specific number of desktops – only to find out midstream that assumptions were incorrect. If demand escalates, additional HCI nodes can simply be added to the already deployed systems. In fact, all the great things about HCI are magnified in a VDI environment. It’s as if they were made for each other, working together to deliver simplicity, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and operational efficiency.
Simplicity: VDI solutions are designed to be managed from a central interface. HCI solutions like HPE SimpliVity consolidate compute, storage, and networking into one simple building block that is easy to manage from a single interface. No specialist training or onsite IT staff is required. Less complexity in the appliance also means fewer components to install and upgrade.
Scalability: Start with a size that makes sense and grow simply and seamlessly to thousands of desktops. The infrastructure manager at Migros Ticaret, a European grocery store chain, has relied on an HCI-based VDI solution for backup and disaster recovery, but he has also suddenly come to appreciate its flexibility and scalability.“Given the current global realities that require the ongoing expansion of remote-working capabilities… desktop virtualization has been decidedly valuable. We were initially running 300 virtual desktops and needed to spin up 700 more to give our employees the flexibility to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using HPE SimpliVity, we were able to do so in just 12 minutes.”
Cost-effectiveness: Server-nodes with high CPU core-count now make it possible for hyperconverged solutions to deliver hundreds of virtual desktops in a very small footprint. The increase in compute fire-power translates to a direct increase in cost-effectiveness as well. For virtual desktop use cases in space-constrained locations, look for highly dense models with proven efficiency. The HPE SimpliVity 325 lets businesses stand up 300 remote workers per rack unit and scale to 1,800 virtual desktops in less than a foot of rack space. That’s twice the rack density at half the cost of any other vendor.
Efficiency: Make sure efficiency is not an afterthought in platform selection. As the number of virtual desktops increases, system slowdowns can be an issue. Equipped with always-on inline deduplication and compression, HPE SimpliVity is validated to deliver peak and predictable performance for VDI knowledge workers at half the cost per desktop and double the desktop density of alternate solutions.
HPE SimpliVity also includes built-in data protection features to provide security against malicious activity like ransomware, and predictive analytics to stay ahead of potential problems. HPE InfoSight helps customers assess capacity growth and address issues before they happen. The artificial intelligence engine can provide visibility into detailed system, performance, and capacity utilization information without onsite staff.
Hyperconvergence as-a-service keeps pace with unpredictable demands
Clearly, an investment in HCI is an investment in simple, minimal, on-premises infrastructure that can accelerate transformation and prepare businesses for what comes next. While HPE SimpliVity makes HCI management just about as simple as it can be, there are pay-per-use models that provide fully managed services and no additional capital expenditures. HPE GreenLake consumption-based HCI sets businesses up with a fully managed hybrid cloud, allowing organizations to offload many data center management tasks. Start with the capacity needed today, grow with business demand, and pay only for the capacity you use.
New paradigms can breathe new life into business and unlock the capabilities of remote workforces. Pairing VDI and HCI together to enable a stay-at-home workforce, IT organizations can achieve an order of magnitude of better performance, better efficiency, and better dollar-per-workload.
Omer Asad is the Vice President & GM of Primary Storage in the HPE Storage & Big Data group. In this role, he leads HPE Primera/3PAR & Data Management Product Management, Nimble Product Management, and the Nimble Support teams. In addition, Omer is responsible for driving the Next-Gen strategy and overall business plan for our Primary Storage business. Omer holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from Duke University. He is based in San Jose, CA.