This is a transcription of a panel discussion on virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in the SiliconAngle Cube at VMware 2011 August 30, 2011, and originally webcast live at SiliconAngle.tv. The three participants on the panel were Jason Langone, VCDX #54 at Microtech; Andre Leivobici, Senior vSpecialist at EMC, and Wikibon Sr Analyst Stu Miniman.
SM: Talking desktop virtualization, joining me today are Andre Leivobici and Jason Langone. Welcome guys. With VMworld and some of the other shows we've been covering for the last few months, we believe we are beyond just talking about it and are really doing it. The theme this year is “Own it, Do it”. There's new opportunities. So both of you have become involved with desktop virtualization for many years. Jason, we happened to have your CEO on our program a few months ago, back when we were actually back at this same convention center. And Andre, you're with EMC as we can see from your attire. So maybe for a quick second if you can just give us a little of your background professionally as well as your experience with desktop virtualization?
AL: I actually was working with VDI even before it was called VDI. And before I joining EMC I was with VMware in professional services, where I was the Asia/Pac lead for end-user computing. Prior to that I was in Brazil, the country I was born in. And now I am relocated to the U.S. and am with EMC as a Senior vSpecialist.
SM: So do you see adoption of desktop virtualization different by geography?
AL: I definitely see adoption. I think it will take a little while to ramp up the way organizations are expecting to, but I think the organizations that have been through the deployment are really happy with what they are getting.
SM: Jason, if you could give us a little of your background. People who follow the Wikibon community might remember that you were part of a Peer Incite we held towards the beginning of this year. We felt we got some great information on this journey going from traditional desktops to virtual environments. So could you give us a little about your background and what's been hot with you these days?
Growth of VDI
JL: I work for a federally-focused Microtech services group better known as ??? small business. We focus on VMware and Citrix, delivering it in the federal space, both here in the U.S. and supporting missions abroad. And much like Andre, we've seen it in the last couple of years go from 50-person proofs-of-concept to 100-person proofs-of-concept, and now it seems the 500 mark is where people are starting to dip their toes in the pool. And now with VDI we are moving on to 4-or-5-figure VDI deployments finally, which is kind of nice because I know people like Andre and myself have been waiting for this to gain a little traction. I think we are starting to see it get some good numbers.
SM: So Jason focuses on the government. Andre, do you have a specific vertical that you focus on when it comes to desktop deployment?
AL: No, not really. I've been working with several different kinds of companies, government and private companies, banks. I just relocated to the U.S.; I'm kind of new to this market, but in Asia/Pac there definitely is a ?? option – the government of NZ is doing a big rollout, thousands of desktops there. Definitely I agree that we are seeing a ramp-up in the number of seats. The proofs-of-concept is definitely ramping up. Before we had proofs-of-concept with 10s or hundreds; now we are seeing proofs-of-concept of like 5,000 desktops ramping up. So soon maybe we will be on hundreds of thousands.
VDI and Disaster Support
SM: Jason, when we talk about going from a traditional desktop to a more virtual desktop environment, I wonder how many of your clients are thinking about disasters. When we look at what's been happening – there's earthquakes happening where they never happened before; Hurricane Irene just hit. And VMware has almost a dare out there in the marketplace: “Let's do it. It's the cloud. We're going to go there.” And government has this mandate to go to cloud. So how to you see this fitting into that whole desktop environment?
JL: A little tricky, to be honest. Going back to hurricanes and earthquakes, I was in Arlington, VA, just outside of Washington when the earthquake happened. Fifteen minutes later I was getting text messages “We are ready to do our SRM [vSphere Site Recovery Manager] . Should we hit the panic button?” So I think SRM has been adopted as a proper DR by a lot of agencies, a lot of organizations. And now those people are looking at VDI and thinking, “Great, this will enable our workforce to actually do something. SRM for the most part is failing over mission-critical applications or e-mail, Web, or whatever these services are, but it's not allowing people to work from home in the case of an earthquake or something like that. So a lot of those same folks are now making the phone call and saying, “We're finally ready for that VDI deployment that we've been kicking around for the last 12 months.” So that's good.
As far as cloud goes, yes U.S. Federal has this cloud-first mentality. I had a discussion with Randy Blyth earlier, and I think he and I are on pretty much the same page as to what cloud is. So I won't pontificate too much on that. But VDI is what we're here to talk about. You don't need the cloud to do it. You don't need a ????
SM: I happened to have a conversation earlier this year with Brian Madden. The interesting thing he said is, “Everybody who needed VDI as a solution actually has it.” He said cloud is a big piece of it; enabling security is a big reason, especially in the government space, as you guys were talking about. So I guess where I wanted to go with this – desktop and cloud, one of the things I've heard from EMC and also from the VCE group is desktop-as-a-service. So maybe you can tell us – is this reality? How much is the desktop and the cloud merging, and where do we see this going today from a real customer deployment?
AL: I think we are really moving towards desktop-as-a-service; if it's going to be in private cloud. If it's going to be in public cloud, I'm not sure about that yet. But what I see is we are creating containers, and we are providing desktops from a container, we might provide user profiles from a different container, and we might provide applications from a different container, that will be consumed in different ways. How these will plug together, whether it's in a public or a private cloud, I'm not sure about that. But definitely we are moving to a consumption-based desktop.
SM: So one of the big things we see is service providers are obviously a huge piece of the cloud deployment. And I've heard from EMC, I've heard from NetApp, I've heard from HP that desktop-as-a-service from these service providers is one of the ways that we might be able to overcome some of the slowness that we've had in the VDI marketplace. Just kind of rip the cord and go full bore with the cloud and own that technology. Jason, any comments on the service provider market, is that playing to the government much?
JL: I think a lot of people are interested in it. It's a very sexy solution; people like the idea of having a Win 7 instance on demand. There's a lot of folks who are saying “We want to do desktop-as-a-service” when actually they want to do published applications and not a published desktop. So actually there's some confusion there. And if you look at the two main heavyweights – Citrix on the Desktop and VMware View – neither of them natively are designed to do multi-tenant from either a front-end or a back-end properly. So I've got my VMware admin console, and you 're the service provider and Andre and I are tenants. How do we all access and manage our own little piece of the puzzle? We can't today.
VMware vs Citrix on the Desktop
SM: So Jason, can I put you on the spot here for a second? When we talk about desktop virtualization, the big player, we're here at VMworld talking about VMware. Citrix is a big player here. So there've been some rumors going around that potentially we'll have some announcements this week regarding desktop virtualization. Obviously we can't preannounce anything, but how is VMware doing with the adoption compared to the likes of Citrix?
JL: I would say in my primary focus, which is US Federal, VMware is very strong from an adoption standpoint. A lot of the federal agencies have been very comfortable and very happy with the way vSphere has performed, very happy with the way it's been managed from a security perspective with things like SIG, and the way it supports TAC[?] from a VMware View perspective. I think a lot of the agencies – rarely do I get “Hey, we want to do thin desktops.” I'll get the ???, which if its a LAN perspective is tit-for-tat normally. But VMware View nine-out-of-ten what I'm doing in US federal.
SM: It's interesting because first of all what I've heard is most vendors – if you look at EMC, it has lots of solutions for using vSphere with thin desktops, and thin desktop still is the market leader out there. So we think VMware is looking to close the gap, but Citrix isn't sitting still. So we have a lot of coverage at Citrix Synergy, there's definitely a large ecosystem there, so I think it's good for the marketplace that there's some strong competition there, VMware and Citrix. I didn't want to put you on the spot, Andre, working for EMC at VMworld. I did hear an announcement this morning around VCE, so I didn't know if you wanted to comment. They have a new solution they're offering for desktop.
AL: I'm not aware of the announcement.
Andre's VDI Calculator
SM: Fair enough. Maybe I can pivot off that. One of the biggest challenges I hear when I talk to Jason and Lakeside Software is tools that help us understand the desktop environment and how I get from where I am today to where I need to go. And the problem is it's not standardized, and everybody's different in their users and applications. So you have a tool, I believe, that's very popular out in the blogisphere. Maybe you can tell us a little about that?
AL: Sure, and btw my blog is “MyVirtualCloud.net by Andre Leibovici.” So basically when I was at VMware working as a consultant, I built an online calculator that helps people in administrative situations in a VDI environment. And over the years it has been improving, and that calculator has more than 1 million hits per month today.
SM: Wow. Do you have a sponsor for that yet?
AL: Yes I do have a sponsor there.
Zero Clients and Secure Cross-Domain Systems
SM: Excellent. So here with Jason & Andre talking about the future of desktop virtualization. I guess we've got a couple more minutes to wrap up. Jason, if I could start with you: Where do you see the white space in the marketplace? What are your customers asking for today that's really kind of lacking? And I think what your company helps provide?
JL: I think one of the things, the U.S. federal focus has been across domains. We have unsecured networks, secured networks, how do I roll that into a VDI solution? I think it was last week or the year before that Clearcube – and if you're not U.S. federal you may not have even heard of this company – they make zero and thin clients. They now have a certified and approved cross-domain solution, PC over IP Zero Client, it has a secured KVM, a cool little chassis, pop in your zeros. I can have unclassified, classified, top secret, secret, all coming into one device, KVM between them all. I've had people asking for that for years at the three-letter agencies and some of the other folks. I do a lot with DoD. We bumped into one of the DoD guys on the way in here. So from what I do that's been very much welcome.
I think the other big hole is something that Horizon – next year or the year after of 2052 – at some point Horizon will bridge the other gap that we both agree exists. And one other thing before I forget: EBGA is sort of a newcomer in the zero client space. Most people know EBGA from a consumer electronics perspective – motherboards, graphic cards. I look at it from the perspective of what are all the zero clients available today, what are their price points? So Wyze – I'm probably not going to make any Wyze friends here. So you've got the Wyze P20 zero client, which in theory is the same thing functionally as an EBGA PD02, with a pretty significant price delta. If all the zero clients do roughly the same, more or less, why would I pay a price delta? So to see a consumer electronic company like EBGA come out of nowhere and start to ramp up and get market share.
Tuning Storage for VDI
SM: So Andre, a similar point, but from a vendor standpoint, one of the biggest challenges I've heard in this marketplace is it's highly fragmented, there's so many pieces, and to put together a full end-to-end solution. It's not even a Flexpod or a Vblock, it's more that you need because you need the client, it's services are a huge piece of that. So where do you see the ecosystem maturing, and where are you guys trying to help that?
AL: So let me focus on what we provide at EMC. So in most VDI deployments where I go, and even before I came to EMC, the bottleneck is most often the storage. But it's not because the storage is ???, it's because it was not properly speced for a VDI solution.
We at EMC now have been trying to help customers not only to sell them the storage arrays and our solutions, but we are trying to educate them on how they should adjust the storage for performance. VDI has very specific storage requirements. We try to have customers deploying VMreview, we try to have them deploying Zen Desktop. I think VDI is a great solution for companies that have adopted it. An American company that started deploying VDI for its call center. And for a remote workforce. They suddenly realized they had completely changed their hiring process because they're hiring part-time workers, moms who have their kids at home in the morning who could work during the morning, and disabled people. It's great. I think it's doing very good.
SM: It's interesting because we've seen a number of startups come into this space, and there's that balance between how do I take this environment and make it really fit into it, and there are some companies that are trying to come in and say “I have flash-based technology that takes care of all those desktop virtualization.” Obviously EMC plays heavily in the flash space, and it's good to see some startups moving into there to help build for virtualization, and for desktop virtualization, to help with that space.