Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: VDI or DaaS? That is the question.


By Guy Brandon, Managing Director, MBA IT

So, we’ve covered VDI challenges and considerations in the last few blogs, but what is DaaS or Desktop-as-a-Service and how do you differentiate between this and VDI?

How do you then decide on the right solution for your business?

Whilst VDI is hosted in a data centre, DaaS is hosted in the cloud. With DaaS, your IT department outsources virtual desktops to a cloud service provider. VDI and DaaS do however share many of the same benefits.

As DaaS is still fairly new, analysts have not followed DaaS closely enough to provide meaningful growth estimates, however, it is definitely gaining ground as a viable alternative to VDI. In a Forrester survey, 11% of IT Managers were planning a DaaS project in 2014, as opposed to 12% who were planning an onsite VDI solution. 12% were planning a DaaS project in a year or more, whilst 12% had plans to implement an onsite VDI solution in a year or more

VDI can be complex and often time to deploy is slow. Some VDI projects can take 6 to 9 months before they actually start scaling whereas a cloud hosted DaaS can do it in a month. Needless to say, each come with its own set of challenges. There is no simple answer nor is it easy to make sweeping statements about DaaS over VDI. Why? Each offering is dependent on the customer’s needs.

DaaS takes the infrastructure out of the IT departments hands as the third party provider takes care of the resource provisioning. And if your business already relies on web based applications, it can make sense to go for cloud hosted desktops. Without in-house VDI expertise, DaaS may be the best choice for your business as it will reduce pc costs and should in theory offer faster access due to the large cloud infrastructures which take advantage of economies of scale. In addition, cloud hosted desktops are easier to patch, upgrade and restore because they are not connected to your servers.

VDI however, gives your IT Department more control over the data and associated data security. Another consideration is VDI licensing which, as challenging as it is, is much clearer than that of DaaS.

MBA IT through its expertise in the both VDI and DaaS, can demystify any of the above mentioned features if they are a concern. As a leading London IT solutions and services partner, we don’t just take care of your IT Infrastructure – with a range of managed services to suit your business needs including a fully managed, outsourced IT service, we are able to deliver technology led business solutions through a defined consultative approach. We can also provide high level direction and expertise in the form of a Virtual IT Director.

MBA IT Technical Director, George Ralph says,

When faced with the decision of VDI vs DaaS, we take a consultative approach. We need to understand the user environment, the network environment, security, the storage infrastructure and the licensing estate. Perhaps a customer requires a pay as you grow DaaS service and not VDI? Without understanding the customer’s environment, we will not be able to make these sorts of judgement calls.

For more information or to discuss the merits of VDI over DaaS, contact us on 0845 0505622, visit or complete this contact form and we will call you.

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Licensing Mayhem

Software LicensingBy Dean Flynn, Software Licensing/SAM Manager, MBA IT
Now, we know that most VDI Projects are planned without due consideration for the CapEx and ongoing OpEx related to Software Licensing. Research shows that on average a VDI project reduces the total hardware cost by 32% but increases the software costs by 64%. Licensing is deemed as one of the main reasons businesses have stalled the adoption of VDI.

When Forrester surveyed clients on 15 software licensing policies, their ‘Q1 2011 Global Unfair Licensing Policies Online Survey’ revealed a high level of unhappiness amongst buyers they surveyed. The fact that there is no homogenous approach to licensing makes it a huge headache for IT Managers.

When deploying VDI, you need to review all of your license agreements to determine whether or not they include a forethought for virtual execution. Why? Because many software licenses specifically prohibit use in a virtual environment and the vendor requires that you purchase specific virtualisation rights in order to use the software in VDI.

In the case of Microsoft, licensing with regard to VDI can be quite fiddly. The vendor sells a license known as the Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license that is to be used in conjunction with virtual desktops accessed from non-Windows-based devices, such as thin clients and tablets. This is a per-device license, which is a major frustration, especially with BYOD situations or when users want to access their virtual desktops from more than one device.

Microsoft makes available what is known as a ‘Product Use Rights’ document that outlines what organisations can and can’t do with the company’s software. But if you are not going to review it, then you should work with a reputable reseller who has the expertise in licensing. That’s where we can help. MBA IT takes a holistic approach to VDI, helping you understand all aspects of the solution to help mitigate risk and the delivering of the best possible solution.

What’s our secret? I run a dedicated Software Asset Management team who will carry an in depth software audit, collect critical information on deployed software; collate all software agreements and associated license entitlements; make sense of the information and rationalise to reduce the total cost of ownership of your software estate.

Our Technical Director, George Ralph says,

‘ We know from experience that the first step is for our customers to understand their licensing set up and what the consequences may be with a VDI implementation. We help our customers do this through centralised management and we provide our customers with application rationalisation. In a nutshell, our customers end up with fewer applications to support; have lower training and licensing costs and are able to predict a realistic budget’.

We run regular workshops to educate and help customers stay one step ahead and combined with the Scenario Analysis tool, we are the partner of choice for many organisations.

Join us next time as we help you decide if it’s VDI or DaaS that your business needs.

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Securing your virtual desktops


By Dean Flynn, Software Licensing/SAM Manager, MBA IT

Guy has covered the basics of VDI, in terms of what hardware to run the solution on and getting the fundamentals right before starting out, but this week I’m talking about securing your VDI deployment. Server-based desktop virtualisation keeps corporate assets inside the data centre rather than on the client workstation, however you must take measures to secure your VDI environment.

While our partners Nutanix, Cisco and HP build rock solid back-end systems for VDI deployments, the application partners like VMware and Citrix often allow organisations to use the endpoint devices and endpoint client of their choosing to connect in. The arrival of the BYOD (bring your own device) era, whilst helping drive greater adoption of VDI, has further highlighted the complexities of securing a modern VDI environment. For organisations which plan to address these issues by themselves, think again – there is much more to consider when it comes to VDI security.

The Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report for 2012 showed that 44 million records were stolen in 2012. Two thirds of breaches involved data stored or ‘at rest’ on assets like databases and file servers. So it’s no surprise that IT managers want to tread with caution on this rather sensitive matter. But even more disturbing were the stats in the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report for 2013, that 75% of breaches exploited weak or stolen credentials.

So whilst corporate data remains securely on the server, a business has no control over what happens to the virtualised desktop at the end point. We know all too well that even though this is true, there are many ways to eliminate and counteract these risks.

MBA IT’s Managing Director, Guy Brandon says,

“Most IT decision makers today hold back from making the transition to virtual and cloud environments because of the intrinsic security risks and concerns – endpoint security being one of the biggest risks. We look closely at our customers’ IT infrastructure and work with them on creating a VDI strategy with a holistic overview. Security is just one of the key elements of the overall strategy. There is a lot of hand holding during this process and that’s our key strength as an IT outsourcing company. The customer has to understand how the VDI solution will work in his environment before we roll out the project”.

With the endpoint being the weakest link in any VDI environment, it can be difficult to authenticate users, sessions are open to hijacking and devices (particularly with BYOD policies in place) are not always secure. Trusted connections are accessible by non trusted connections with Denial of Service attacks and user lockouts. There are a number of solutions on the market to help secure the end point device and we will help you  to understand the options. Two factor authentication and end point protection software can each bring benefits, as can data encryption, if a security breach occurs. Continuous scanning and monitoring of ports and networks can detect threats, allowing protection software to kick in. Virtual and physical firewalls that can detect DoS attacks are also needed.

MBA IT’s Technical Director, George Ralph adds

“You really have to manage user expectations along with the need for security. At MBA IT we look at the holistic VDI solution, direct businesses to putting policies in place and support our customers in building solutions based on the premise that the host device cannot be trusted.”

So with the trend towards mobile working and hot-desking growing, the drive for greater adoption to virtualisation and, in particular, VDI, means that more businesses than ever are considering this technology. Recent IDC statistics showing an increase of 7.4% in shipments of thin client and terminal client devices as proof that “momentum in the desktop virtualisation market is growing”. We are here to help you. We can roll out a successful and secure VDI solution because we have the know-how and partner with the industry leaders and innovators in this space.

Join me next week as I run through the software licensing challenges for VDI as we help you avoid creating ‘toxic assets’.

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Now for the hard task of selecting the right hardware to run your virtual desktops on

VDI Blog 2




By Guy Brandon, Managing Director, MBA IT


In our recent blog, part one of the VDI series, I covered a general overview of the areas that you need to consider when rolling out a VDI project. Today I wanted to get to grips with the hardware options out there.

Three of the common requirements (there are many) that most businesses would want to fulfil with the hardware platform underpinning a VDI solution in the Data Centre are:-

A)     The server platform must deliver a reliably quick end-user experience by providing fast data access to applications.

B)      Low/zero downtime for scaling up

C)      Storage demand/bandwidth bottleneck

To begin with, we’ve already whittled it down for you since we’ve partnered with arguably THE best players in this space. At MBA IT, we believe Nutanix, Cisco and HP have the best hardware offerings when it comes to VDI platforms.

So how do the offerings from i) Nutanix, ii) Cisco and iii) HP meet the requirements that are key for a successful VDI implementation?

A)     The data centre server platform must reliably deliver a sufficiently quick end-user experience by providing fast data access to applications.

i)        Nutanix – Providing server and storage power in a single appliance In addition to the usual HDD’s, each node (up to four nodes per 2U appliance) very cleverly caches frequently accessed data on high performance SSD Flash drives. This keeps demanding end-users and applications happy. Perfect for VDI.

ii)       Cisco – Cisco’s UCS servers, like the Nutanix offering, allow the use of SSD’s however none are dedicated to caching frequently accessed data.

iii)     HP – Can offer a traditional architecture using a combination of HP Gen8 servers with the popular 3PAR StorServ. StoreServ also allows the use of SSDs but adds “pre-fetching” to the mix. The OS tracks and memorizes complex read streams and then cleverly pre-fetches data ahead of known sequential read patterns.

However, HP’s power and space efficient Moonshot servers have been built specifically as a VDI platform. HP believe Moonshot servers provide 6x the performance for less than half the TCO of a traditional VDI set up.

B)      Low/zero downtime for scaling up

i)        Nutanix appliances and nodes can be added and activated as and when needed non-disruptively. This is a horizontal Google-like scale-out.

ii)       Cisco UCS is a fully redundant system, and is form factor agnostic. You can move service profiles from rack server to rack server to blade server (even in a different chassis). That means you can add/remove servers and migrate/extend service profiles to the new servers as needed. The Cisco UCS Manager is an extremely powerful piece of management software.

iii)     In comparison tests, Moonshot servers can be deployed 90% faster than a traditional VDI set up.

C)      Storage demand/bandwidth bottleneck

i)        Each Nutanix node (up to 4 per appliance), provides its own individual storage access channel which sidesteps the bottleneck associated with a traditional SAN/NAS when accessed by multiple sessions.

ii)       Cisco UCS employs a low-latency, lossless, 10-Gbps Ethernet plus industry-standard FCoE and native Fibre Channel fabric. A SAN specification way above average.

iii)     HP Moonshot servers or cartridges are designed to hyperscale, with each cartridge having four nodes and each node hosting its own OS for each individual hosted desktop user. As with Nutanix, this avoids the bottlenecks associated with traditional architecture.

Our Technical Director, George Ralph says, ‘The vendors we promote in terms of VDI hardware solutions offer a sophisticated approach to VDI and put virtualisation in the driving seat. The collaboration between our vendors and ourselves is important. Through our IT consulting services, we make sure that customers do not end up purchasing hardware before a VDI solution is properly architected and sized – the end result being one that not only results in huge cost savings but also a solution which fits the customers’ needs’.

There are many more requirements to consider for any given environment with each vendor offering something extra/different and all of them presenting a compelling case. So what hardware should I run the VDI application on? Contact us at MBA IT. We will offer you expert guidance on VDI hardware for a successful VDI implementation in your organisation. We know from experience that the most effective solutions require a specialist with the relevant expertise to properly size your solution. That’s where we come in.

Come back next week as we run through how to secure your virtual desktop.

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail.

ImageBy Guy Brandon, Managing Director, MBA IT

This is the first in a series of blogs in which we aim to guide you through the process of choosing and designing a VDI solution.

I remember a time, not too long ago, when the IT guy would come to your desk, upgrade your software then disappear off to the next person on his, seemingly exhaustive list. I have fond memories of extra long tea breaks…. But those days are long gone and today, life is much simpler. Now software updates appear magically on your desktop and all you have to do is agree (sometimes it even does it without waiting for input) and all the updates happen whilst you continue to work. Afterwards all you need to do is restart your machine, and voila.

In the last decade, IT advances have ensured a fairly painless experience for the end user. And while the end use/mobile information worker appears to be empowered by the latest technology, the IT department appears to be lumbered with a mountain of challenges mostly brought about by these same technological advances. One advancement which has had the greatest impact on technology has been virtualisation. You’ve probably all virtualised a server or two hundred in your time, enjoying benefits like:

  • Consolidation
  • Centralised systems admin and management
  • Workload scalability and agility
  • Optimised use of computing resources

Now virtualisation of the desktop really seems to be a viable option, you’re probably wondering what your options are and how to go about starting a project of this nature?

VDI requires careful planning and consideration, which is where MBA IT can help.

Let’s start by defining VDI.

Gartner define Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) as the practice of hosting a desktop operating system within a virtual machine (VM) running on a centralised server.

When designing a VDI solution, there are some key considerations:

  • What hardware platform should I choose to run my VDI application on?
  • How do I secure my Virtual Desktops?
  • How does the software licensing work in a VDI environment?
  • What alternatives to VDI are out there? Ie Desktops-as-a-Service, Thin Clients with RDS etc?

Here at MBA IT we partner only with best of breed vendors in the areas of relevance to our clients, and as such we have amassed experience with VDI software solutions from the likes of VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. We also collaborate with Nutanix, HP, Dell and Cisco on the hardware requirements side.

I truly believe that we are successful because we work hard to understand our clients’ unique set of needs when it comes to virtualisation. We keep our knowledge base fully up to date and use our own data centre as a test ground for brand new technology. We can provide our customers with this knowledge and know how when they are faced with choosing a VDI solution.

MBA IT’s Technical Director, George Ralph says, “When choosing a VDI solution, an IT consultancy like us knows from experience that the initial RFI is a vital piece of the puzzle. If a customer has not been asked the correct questions at the beginning, unnecessary costs and a bad VDI solution can surface, which can be disastrous for the organisation as a whole.”

We know that a detailed analysis of a customer’s environment needs to be ascertained right at the beginning of this process. We need to understand the user environment, the network and security, the storage infrastructure and licensing information. Perhaps a customer actually requires DaaS, a pay as you grow service rather than VDI? But without understanding the customers’ environment, we can’t make those sort of judgement calls.

Forrester interviewed service providers in a recent study and key findings indicated that not enough information is shared about a clients’ environment in the RFP. MBA IT takes a holistic approach to VDI; helping you to understand all aspects of the solution to mitigate risk and help deliver the right solution, whilst ensuring that your organisation complies with EUC Licensing obligations. We will make sure we ask the right questions and source the vital information from your business to drive an informed decision.

Join us next week as we discuss what you should consider when deciding on your VDI hardware platform.

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