The virtues of desktop virtualisation technology
Written by Jochen Polster, VP Sales EMEA, NComputing
According to research by The World Bank, Africa is experiencing a period of positive economic growth, with a predicted strengthening of regional GDP to 5.3 percent in 2014.
In fact, the continent has experienced a significant increase in investment in recent years, with major tech companies looking to expand their presence here.
Africa is clearly a major driving force behind technology innovation and companies need to look at how to encourage this, while at the same time ensuring their solutions are tailored to meet local constraints, such as limited broadband connectivity and power.
This is of particular importance with regards to small businesses that often don’t have the available resources to support a major IT infrastructure.
Small businesses therefore are being forced to consider options outside of the more traditional computing solutions.
These conventional solutions are often complex, expensive and require several costly third-party hardware components which is just not a sustainable option for small businesses, particularly as they also need to be maintained, updated and are prone to daily wear and tear.
One such option that enables small businesses to maximise their available resources, but which still delivers the same powerful performance as a PC, is desktop virtualisation.
For many people, when they think of desktop virtualisation, full VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) springs to mind.
However, VDI tends to be quite a costly and complicated solution as it requires an independent operating system per user and large resources in the datacentre and is therefore off-putting to small businesses that won’t have the resources to support this.
It is typically suited to large multinational companies as it supports thousands of employees and can be scaled up if needed.
Fortunately, there is another branch of virtualisation for small businesses to consider and this is session virtualisation. It differs from VDI by allowing companies to run one standard version of an operating system which multiple users can then access through a central server.
A standardised desktop, as well as set of applications, can also be applied across the entire business, offering a simple to manage, affordable solution which still delivers a great performance.
Small businesses don’t have the time or manpower to spend on installing a whole new IT system.
They need solutions that can be implemented with as little disruption to working life as possible or else there is a major risk of falling behind and missing potential new business opportunities.
Session virtualisation can be deployed in a matter of days, not months, which is ideal for small business employees who can quickly get on with their day-to-day working lives.
What’s more, in terms of maintenance, only one virtual desktop operating system needs to be managed for one hundred users.
This reduces the number of operating systems to be maintained by as much as 97 percent. Given that there is unlikely to be the budget for 24/7 IT support, solutions that are constantly breaking down and needing attention are just not feasible.
This is why it’s also important that solutions are well-suited to a climate which characteristically is dusty and hot, as there isn’t the available support for constant maintenance of overheating, required for traditional PCs.
It’s well understood that that ICT needs to work hand in hand with available power supplies, which can’t always be relied on in Africa.
What’s also growing in importance are issues around e-waste. There is a lot of emphasis in Africa about how best to combat growing levels of e-waste and small business need to be implementing technologies that don’t exacerbate this situation any further.
In 2010, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that around 11,400 tonnes of e-waste were being dumped in Kenya over a period of three years. The UNEP also forecast that this could sharply rise over the next ten years as ICT use continues to grow.
Desktop virtualisation solutions can help businesses address this and ensure that they’re adhering to e-waste guidelines.
As the solutions are durable and long-lasting, they don’t need replacing regularly like PCs and there is no need to dispose of big and bulky machines when it is eventually time for an upgrade.
In fact, the thin client devices used in desktop virtualisation computing generate just a few ounces e-waste.
In order for small businesses to be able to innovate further with technology, it’s essential for this to be both well-suited to their needs, in terms of affordability, durability and ease of management and also to the demands of the African environment.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”