digital abstract

Can The SDN Workspace Address VDI Shortcomings?

digital abstractUnlike data center evolution, which has continued to virtualize and therefore leverage the efficiencies coming from consolidation and flexibility; the desktop environment, at many companies, has languished. In order to move workspace development forward, corporate decision-makers need to focus on faster deployment of new desktop images and ensure fast, reliable and secure access to corporate apps and services. For security purposes they need to maintain accurate inventories of authorized apps and operating systems, e.g. with a corporate apps store, and keep disaster recovery user profiles in secure data centers.  Securing data on mobile devices requires the ability to lock down, wipe lost equipment, limiting apps access etc. Automating the deployment of up-to-date configurations on devices accessing corporate resources, and proactive monitoring and analysis of device and apps performance across the enterprise to ensure the quality of user experience will reduce help desk calls.

Many companies have looked at Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions, but VDI has hitherto had limited success because of significant barriers to adoption. Typically, mobile users encounter bandwidth issues that degrade the user experience. The required virtual private network (VPN) connection is not always available or easy to deploy. In these days of bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) not all devices will work with specific VPN protocols or have the necessary client software installed. Volume licenses are not well-suited for VDI usage. Each VDI vendor handles storage issues differently (templated shared images, session-based hosts, disk de-duplication etc.), and simultaneous VDI logins floors server resources when everyone logs on at 9am. Adapting to such VDI requirements puts additional strains on the IT staff, in order to manage the scale-out server resources needed to handle such demand bursts.

How can the network contribute?

Today’s corporate network agenda dictates:

  • Reduced CAPEX and OPEX through lower equipment costs and reduced power consumption
  • Faster deployment of new applications and network services
  • Improved Total Value Proposition from new applications services
  • Greater network flexibility to scale up and down, and evolve new services
  • Using DevOps for faster roll-out of new applications and services at lower risk

Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) are central strategic concepts guiding developments in both LAN and WAN aiming to achieve faster, ubiquitous ways to deliver apps which is essential when virtualising the desktop. SDN is largely focused on automating network operations in the data centre. NFV virtualizes and disaggregates the various services offered by telco providers in both wired and wireless environments, in order to simplify the operational model and increased agility. Virtualized services also simplify orchestration, a key aspect of an NFV environment. For virtualizing the desktop, SDN and NFV standardize hardware resources as well as many network processes e.g. storage and scale-out solutions allowing faster and cheaper resource scalability.

For desktops to transition to SDN workspaces, existing barriers among VDI vendor offerings need to be standardized to be able to support best-of-breed approaches. This requires a combination of several virtualization technologies to encapsulate and deliver desktop operating systems and applications, connected over standardized networks to users’ devices in a manageable, secure way.

The Application Delivery Controller (ADC) can play a vital role in connecting the two environments, with  SDN enabling a programmable networking model that allows the ADC to disseminate its application intelligence into the network, making the network a unified Layer 2–Layer 7 intelligent application fabric.