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Everything you need to know about running your desktop in the cloud: The transcript

July 10, 2012 / Evolve IP

We interviewed our own Bill Maun last month on remotely accessing your desktop. The post has been extremely popular, but we know there are some people who might not have the time to sit and listen. Here’s a printout that you can scan at your convenience:


Rich: Hello, and welcome to the Cloud IQ Podcast. I’m Rich Levin. Cloud IQ is brought to you by Evolve IP and www.EvolveIP.net and is featured on the Cloud IQ blog at blog.EvolveIP.net. Today we’ll be speaking to Evolve IP’s Bill Maun about desktop virtualization and specifically whether all desktop virtualization models are created equal.

When we talk about desktop virtualization, it’s thrown around as if it is one thing but, in fact, it’s many things and that distinction is actually getting some organizations into trouble. We’ll talk about that and more in our time with Evolve IP’s Bill Maun. Thanks for joining us today on Cloud IQ, Bill. What’s on the agenda today?

Bill: Basically, the offerings that are out there in a virtual desktop environment. What is it you’re getting? Are you really getting a virtual desktop with dedicated resources or are you getting server emulation, terminal servers, or are you getting just applications being streamed to a Web interface?

Rich: So why should listeners care, Bill? I mean, that sounds pretty technical to me. I think some folks will hear that and they’ll have stars floating around their head. Why should they care? Why do we need to understand the different types of technology that fall under the umbrella of virtual desktop, that language that vendors are using today?

Bill: You’re right. In a lot of cases, unless they’re really being discerning consumers, right off the bat they’re, oh wow, I can get these things and everything is working the way it would in front of me. However, the real differentiator is the fact that can you integrate with your existing infrastructure.

Can you leverage your existing infrastructure? Will it support true client-server applications in the cloud where if you have SAP or you have some type of CRM product that’s specialty or industry, will you be able to actually run that in the cloud? Or are you being forced to, like certain vendors, it is what it is, you get Word, you get Office, you get email and maybe about 50 gigs of storage and that’s it.

Does it integrate with anybody else? Can you collaborate with anybody else other than going through email? No. Can you collaborate or use other tools to work and have your own file shares, your company data up in there in the cloud?
These are the types of things you would want to think about and want to really look at closely. Because on the surface it looks all well and done like, wow, it’s cheap. Some of these offerings are extremely cheap, but what are you getting for the price is the real question. Is it going to be able to meet your business needs?

Rich: Okay. So there are several ways you can achieve desktop virtualization is what I hear you saying. Can you walk us through each one of these techniques specifically? How are they referred to in the industry, and then what are their advantages and what are the caveats that you need to be aware of?

Bill: What people have been using for years is terminal services. So basically you have server emulation, you have a desktop that you think is really yours, that’s a virtual machine. But in reality it’s a slice of a multi-tenanted server that you’re sharing with 50 other people.

So that’s basically Microsoft’s approach. They call it remote desktop services. They do have the idea of what they call MED-V, but that is still using older protocols so the user experience is lacking in today’s multimedia expectations on the Web and the Net. So the idea of being able to stream video, the idea of being able to watch Flash and things along those lines are very limited using this older technology.

There’s other companies out there like Desktone which are actually using some of their technology that they have developed for online gaming to present you a very barebones look and feel desktop. And that, too, is also server emulation. Basically taking the Windows Server 2008 using the registry hacks that Microsoft has made available on their TechNet and making it look like a Windows machine.

But you’re not really getting a Windows machine. You’re just getting applications on a multi-tenanted server that you think is a desktop that is really not giving you anything other than your own little area to work in, your own little sandbox. It can’t collaborate in the work with other people except with the exception of email.

You have Citrix. Obviously, Citrix has been out there for a long time and they have the idea of XenApp which is streaming applications, and XenDesktop which is their version of BDI. It is a good product. It’s been around for a long time.

The only problem is it does have its issues on a true broadband WAN connectivity. It’s more geared towards the metropolitan-type network connection of a campus area or a large corporation where you have more dedicated control over your network connectivity speeds, switching, more control of the actual infrastructure itself than you would find in a traditional broadband environment.

And then, of course, you have VMware which VMware using the PC-over-IP protocol is really now giving you the best of both worlds where you have that true dedicated virtual machine, your own workstation. In the environment in the model that we provide that you have, you think of it moving your LAN you have in your office with the infrastructure in the office now moving to the cloud.

So your Microsoft Server, your Active Directory, your file servers, your Exchange Server, your SQL servers, your SharePoint Servers are all dedicated servers in the LAN and your desktops are part of that virtual LAN in the cloud.

So all these are now communicating as if you were doing it physically, but now that it’s in the cloud you don’t have to worry about the CapEx. You don’t have to worry about that HVAC and electricity and having to upgrade and refresh your hardware every year. A third of your hardware should be refreshed every year in a best practices cycle. So these are the types of things that are now removed from that by going to the cloud.

Rich: Great. Thanks for that, Bill. Now let’s take that one more step and talk about each one of these virtualization approaches and in what scenarios they make sense. In other words, who is the right customer for approach A, approach B, approach C?

Because it’s not like any one of these approaches is right or wrong or better than the other, fundamentally or overall, but rather they’re aligned to specific business requirements today. So let’s help the listener understand what their requirements are and what virtualization approach might make the most sense for them.

Bill: That’s a very good point because not everyone is ready or needs to go to what we’re offering. A company that is looking to leverage the technology of the cloud in that in reducing that overall CapEx recurring yearly expenditure that in a best practices you should be utilizing. Which, given the economy over the last 24 months, a lot of people have been avoiding.

Those people that want to or still have business-level applications, enterprise applications like SAP, like SharePoint, like Exchange, like SQL, these applications that require resources and in a true client-server application environment, these are the type of people that want to be able to or are going to want to use the type of environment that we’re providing for the virtual private cloud.

Those users that are really just looking for taking their laptop and putting it in the cloud and being able to work as an individual segregated, almost like in a workgroup environment, then yeah, that’s some of these one-off individual desktops or these Web applications where you can work on your PowerPoint, you can work on your Excel document.

But being able to actually now then enter your time in your CRM system and/or running an application that is managing your entire practice, your law practice or your accounting firm, and managing and doing audit work. These kinds of applications require the traditional model, the client-server application and the only way to accomplish that in the cloud is by actually taking that physical LAN environment, transposing it into cloud, and using technologies to leverage VM to give you that in the cloud.

Rich: Okay. Now you mentioned at the top of that answer, not everybody needs what we have to offer and we being Evolve IP. Tell us a little bit about Evolve’s approach. Who is it for? How is it unique? What are the benefits? Why have you taken this approach?

Bill: Yeah, that’s a big difference between a lot of them. We are leveraging VMware for both our server and for our virtual desktop infrastructure. With that, our model we call a virtual private cloud. So this idea of being able to move your physical LAN into the cloud or not preclude you from being able to leverage existing infrastructure that you may have in your facility.

Some approach the idea of the cloud with an all-or-nothing. Either you’ve got to move everything to the cloud or you don’t move anything to the cloud. We’re not that rigid. We give you lots of options. There’s many ways to skin that cat. We have clients right now that have existing infrastructure that they have spent money on and they don’t want to necessarily just do away with that.

But yet the bigger picture of expenditures and CapEx that’s coming down the road for them made it a very attractive alternative to go to the cloud for most of their infrastructure. So in these cases they are able to use their infrastructure that they have physically in their location and they use that as a backup.

So what they do is they actually use that infrastructure, their data is in the cloud, their VDI is in the cloud, their server is in the cloud. And because they have a dedicated connection between the physical office and the cloud now, they actually use the physical server in their office as a place where they actually back up their data at night.

So this is one of the ways you can leverage both the physical and the virtual to meet your business and technology needs. The nice thing about that model as well is you can move slowly. If you’re not ready for a complete immersion into the cloud and you want to move slowly and migrate things. Maybe some of your applications at this point have not been certified that they are capable to be virtualized. Or they are but you haven’t upgraded them to the proper version yet.

We have clients like that, as well, that have had to actually co-locate a physical server of a certain CRM application that’s managing basically their entire printing operation that cannot be virtualized because they are on such an old version. They’re getting ready to go to a newer version, but that’s going to take a long migration process.

So they go to the cloud. They’ve got their VDIs, they’ve got their desktops in the cloud, they’ve got their regular business standard applications in the cloud, and then they have this one final piece that is now actually co-located in one of our data centers. And from a virtual perspective, they’re all communicating on the same VLAN. They’re all part of the same happy family, so they’re all doing the work together.

But now you have the physical meld with the virtual. So this is really the difference of what Evolve offers as opposed to a lot of the other ones out there. We want to find a way to be able to meet the clients’ needs and we’re not opposed to anything.

If it’s technologically possible and can be worked out where it fits with the technology and we can make it work where it’s not a burden expense-wise for the client or ourselves, then there’s lots of things you can do make it happen and make it work. And that’s really one of the major differences between Evolve and the other vendors out there right now.

Rich: Okay, so you gave us a lot of insights there into Evolve’s approach and, perhaps more, it’s mentality around serving the customer, being adaptable in terms of the technology offering. I mean, what I really got from what you just said is it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

You have a starting point for the platform and then you analyze the client’s business requirements and have built flexibility into your platform so that you can accomplish those needs. And that’s where you’ll draw the line is if it becomes ridiculously expensive for either you or the client.

And I would characterize as what you just shared with us as falling under the category of transparency, which is a big topic in the cloud computing space right now and media is writing about it, people are talking about it, users are complaining about a lack of it.

And that leads me to my next question which is, what are some of the questions that buyers and shoppers look for, look into, are interested in cloud computing services. What are some of the questions they should be asking to push transparency on the vendors and make sure they have a full and deep understanding, an appropriate understanding of the offering, its technology, and the company’s approach to implementation?

Bill: Yeah. Obviously one of the first things from an IT perspective that I would ask is can I integrate my existing infrastructure into your virtual environment? That’s going to be the first thing. The second thing I’m going to ask is what platform? What virtualization technology are you using? Are you using OpenStack or are you using Citrix or are you using Microsoft’s Hyper-V or are you using VMware?

When you talk about VDI, when you talk about virtual desktops, what exactly are we talking about? Are we talking server emulation here or are we actually talking about dedicated virtual machines that are running a Windows 64-bit operating system and that have dedicated resources of RAM, hard drive space and CPU?

Those are the big ones, but does your offering work over broadband? Do I have to have a dedicated connection to the cloud or can I use my existing Comcast connection which I have 10 down and 50 up? Do you offer other hosted services like hosted PBX? Or is this the only thing that you do and I’ve got to go to another vendor to be able to now if I want to go voice over IP on a hosted solution, I’ve got to go to another vendor?

What other solutions do you offer? Do you have a managed platform where you can manage my WAN as well, you can monitor my WAN, you can provide me that hosted PBX as well? Oh, I’ve got virtual server and virtual desktop. Why do I need to go anywhere else? These are the things that I, from an IT perspective, would ask.

Rich: Thanks, Bill. I think you’ve given us a lot and I appreciate your time talking about the 360-degree view of desktop virtualization in 2012. Is there anything I didn’t give you a chance to address in my line of questioning that you’d like to throw out there?

Bill: I think it’s important that, while there is a need for transparency and I agree with that. It is also the due diligence of the client with the customer. They really need to make a concerted effort in their due diligence because the only thing that comes to mind caveat emptor.

And, unfortunately, given the lack of transparency that you’re seeing right now and the hype of the technology, there are people out there, as I said in what I had written, it seems like everybody is in the space right now. Oh, yeah, I’ve got V, I’ve got this, I’ve got that. Well, actually in some cases, they don’t have their own platform. They’re actually getting it from somebody else. So it’s a hosted solution, it’s a cloud solution, but it’s hosted by somebody else.

So where’s that one throat to choke, so to speak? And then trying to get the answers that you need that we discussed earlier about what the platform is and what is your technology, can I integrate with my own system? That creates other issues, so caveat emptor, I guess, is about the only thing I can say in a single phrase.

Rich: You’ve been listening to Cloud IQ hosted at blog.EvolveIP.net. Thank you for listening.

Categories: Virtualization
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