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Posts Tagged ‘service provider’

How VDI will break service provider offerings

Posted by riverbedtest on February 24, 2011

I had a fascinating presentation and discussion with a Riverbed customer yesterday. He’s the cloud computing architect for a global manufacturing company, with about 40 locations worldwide. One fact of note is that their entire organization runs on VDI – that’s impressive in and of itself. But what was more interesting to me is that he believes all service providers are currently at least 5 years behind in enabling him to run VDI the way he wants to. In short – he believes service providers are broken when it comes to the next wave of distributed computing.

The architect used a couple of great parallelisms that couldn’t help but make the topic stick in your mind. First – look at the last wave of traffic to move onto the wire – voice. In many cases it was massively challenging for organizations to engineer their environments to support voice effectively throughout – especially if you were including very remote sites or locations that used public internet or satellite as their connection. In the beginning he argued much of this happened through organizations engineering around service providers, instead of with service providers. (Full disclaimer – these are the claims of the customer, not of Riverbed or myself!)

At the time, voice was the essential communication mechanism that could not fail. People frequently spent hours a day on the phone, so both quality and reliability were essential. But another interesting phenomenon happened along the way – the cell phone. Somehow the world at large was OK with going backwards in quality and reliability (does the phrase “Can you hear me now?” sound familiar?). For the enterprise, why was that acceptable? The customer posited two reasons – for one, the benefit of mobility was a productivity enhancer, but two, the phone was simply no longer as important as your interaction with your computer.

For a knowledge worker like myself, this couldn’t be any truer. On a busy day I might spend 1-2 hours on the phone. The rest of the time I’m probably doing something with my computer. In fact, in many cases when I’m on the phone I’m on the computer too! I could much more easily survive without telephone communications than I could survive without computer access in general.

And now back to VDI. For our customer, he discovered two major problems with regards to how he uses his network today. His service provider has difficulty separating out “real-time traffic” like voice from “interactive traffic” like VDI, where intense back-and-forth WAN communications could massively limit the effectiveness of a worker. Moreover, it’s not just downtime that would affect him, but even high latency would drive losses of a few hundred thousand dollars per hour, per office. And since his service provider only reports average latency for the past month, he’s out of luck in terms of proactively addressing the problem.

The other challenge he has is, in some way, to model the way transitioning to VDI or making changes to your setup will impact your end user experience. For example, if you switch to Windows 7 virtual desktops it’s likely that the bandwidth required per session will go up about 40%. It’s easy to say how much network capacity you’ll require based on number of users, but how will a blip in latency impact the user experience? Will it change on Windows 7 versus other platforms?

Technology is going in the right direction – though the architect needs to see it move faster. For example, he can use Steelhead appliances today in order to prioritize VDI traffic above everything else, even voice and video. But the ability to effectively and scalably model the user experience of VDI is a hurdle that he has not been able to overcome, beyond simply making his users or staff sit at a desk, and spend time testing software instead of closing business.

I would be interested in hearing from others – do you have the tools that you need to implement VDI across your distributed environment? 



Posted in Application Acceleration, Private Cloud, Virtualization | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »