Changing business and IT priorities as employees told to work from home

We are living in extraordinary times and businesses are responding to extraordinary challenges.   

Operating a business in lockdown presents different challenges for different organisations.  However, unless you are operating in anything other than critical aspects of life such as health care, then the chances are almost all your employees are having to work remotely, if it’s possible to work at all.

Somewhere on the to-do list behind ensuring businesses stay afloat and staff are paid, will be changing systems and procedures to ensure people can actually continue to carry out their jobs from home.

This is where technology can play its part.

Solving the challenge of remote working

The first challenge for the CTO and IT teams will be to complete an assessment of the organisations remote working capabilities:

  • Is it possible for staff to work from home with the systems and procedures currently available in the organisation?
  • If so, can these systems accommodate a steep upturn in user numbers and concurrent usage?
  • How will this be achieved and maintained for what seems, at the moment, an indeterminate amount of time?

Many companies will find themselves in a position where due to these challenges they will need to introduce new or updated technology capabilities and get into a position where these capabilities can operate on a vastly increased scale. This brings into question the resources available.  Increased user numbers will require increased compute resources, meaning there is a high likelihood that IT departments will need to expand back-end systems and capacity to account for new computing workloads and applications.

Where will this capacity come from?

Traditionally an IT manager may order new hardware and have engineers deploy it into one of the companies’ data centres or office premises, this is not an option in the current situation – who will be there on-site to carry out these tasks?

And what about the users?

Do they ALL have a company issued device such as a laptop or desktop to take home? Sure, you can order more devices but usually a device rollout requires software installs such as company approved operating systems and applications, then interaction with users to ensure all is working correctly for them.  Again, there is nobody around to do this right now and social distancing means even if you could visit every user, it is not permitted.

Add to this the networking, security and data complexities and the scale of the challenge becomes clear.

But there are solutions available to help you through this, VMware’s digital workspace portfolio of products, combined with their software defined data centre in the cloud could be the answer for you, for now and the future.

Remote working with VMware Horizon

In response to the remote working challenge directly, VMware Horizon technology allows for the creation of a virtual desktop and applications capability for your business. The latest iteration is Horizon 7, which provides a collective suite of technologies offering a far greater array of functionality and features when compared to previous versions of the product known as VMware View.

This will allow your business to quickly build virtual desktops, such as Windows 10 machines, with all your corporate applications, systems and data accessible then deliver this out securely over the internet to wherever your users are. Users can access the desktops from any device such as a home PC via a browser using HTML option or get a more feature rich experience by installing a lightweight Horizon client.

VMware Horizon and supported infrastructure

So, Horizon can help with virtualising desktops and applications, but what about where to run them and where will the compute resource come from?

Horizon 7 has a number of different deployment modes, made easier by VMware’s switch to universal licensing meaning it doesn’t matter from a licensing perspective where Horizon is deployed.  Also, the introduction of subscription options means an up-front perpetual purchase is no longer the only buying option.

Firstly, Horizon 7 can be deployed on-premises, this is still a very popular option generally, however, we have already discussed the difficulties this will pose given the current situation, so unless you have lots of spare capacity on-site already then this is not really going to be an easy option right now.

Secondly, Horizon can be deployed via its cousin know as Horizon Cloud into public clouds such as Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud, this may well be viable especially if you have existing tenants set up. One thing to note here is that Horizon Cloud has been developed as a desktop-as-a-service offering following VMware’s acquisition of Desktone Inc back in October 2013. As such it uses a slightly different code set and has been subject to a separate development cycle, this means features you may want to use that are native to Horizon 7 may not be available to you in the Horizon Cloud solution in the same time frame.

Thirdly, Horizon 7 can be deployed on VMware’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) in public cloud – VMware Cloud on AWS. This couples together the tried and trusted VMware base products such as vSphere and vSAN with the might of Amazon’s public cloud offering. This option will not only provide great performance in a public cloud, with all of the efficiency, automation and management benefits that it brings, but also will ensure the highest amount of native Horizon 7 capabilities (including those that interact with vSphere and vSAN) are available to you.

A scalable digital workspace with VMware Cloud on AWS

VMware Cloud on AWS is born out of a partnership between VMware and Amazon Web Services, offering a VMware based managed and maintained IaaS environment running on bare metal servers inside AWS datacentres. It provides the per consumption costing and autoscaling that is expected with public cloud.

 Incorporating the components key to VMware’s Cloud Foundation (VCF), vSphere, vSAN and NSX, it is not only software defined compute, but storage and networking as well. The thing to note here is this is all managed on your behalf by VMware, including regular maintenance and upgrades taking that headache away from your IT function leaving you to concentrate on other more important projects.

VMware
  • Leading compute, storage and network virtualisation capabilities
  • Support for a broad range of workloads
  • The standard for Enterprise DC
Amazon Web Services
  • Flexible consumption economics
  • Broadest set of cloud services
  • Global scale and reach

VMware Cloud on AWS is rapid to deploy, you can have infrastructure on line in a matter of hours, and is suitable for not only running Horizon workloads but as it is based on vSphere is ideal for any IT infrastructure workloads you would normally run on-premises on your virtualised environments – such as domain controllers, file servers, web servers, applications servers and even databases.

VMware Cloud on AWS can also extend your on-premises estates, particularly if you are already a user of vSphere. On-premises vCenter’s can be integrated with their counterparts in VMware Cloud on AWS to provide a true hybrid cloud, with migration capability between the two. VMware’s Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) is an as-a-service component that is included with your VMware Cloud on AWS subscription for integration and workload migration.

VMware Cloud on AWS also provides proximity to native AWS services via a high speed zero cost link into the AWS platform.

vRealize Suite ISV ecosystem
Figure 1: VMware Cloud on AWS Logical Architecture

VMware Cloud on AWS is globally available, meaning you can be up and running in a region local to your business operations for most efficient performance and management of cost. Highly available capability can be achieved with stretched clustering across multiple AWS availability zones and/or multiple clusters across regions.

AWS Data Centre Locations as of January 2020
Figure 2:  VMware Cloud on AWS’ global availability to date

The key thing to remember here is that not every AWS region is necessarily a VMware Cloud on AWS region – yet!

Horizon with VMware Cloud on AWS

VMware Cloud on AWS provides an ideal landing place for VMware Horizon 7 deployments in the cloud. Horizon 7 has been specifically developed to leverage existing VMware technologies such as vSphere and vSAN.

As discussed earlier, VMware Cloud on AWS is powered by vSphere, vSAN and NSX which means you are getting VMware’s premier virtual desktop and applications platform in the cloud that performs and manages just the same way as if it was deployed on-premises.

By bringing together these two technologies your business will benefit from:

  • A cloud hosted VMware based IaaS platform that is not only managed and updated by VMware but also auto-scales and is billed on consumption.  This takes the responsibility of management and capacity monitoring away from IT infrastructure teams when compared to on-premises.
  • A cloud hosted VMware Horizon 7 virtual desktop and application platform with support for enterprise components and almost full parity with an on-premises deployment (vRealize Operations for Horizon and hardware GPU acceleration are road map items at the time of writing).
  • Secure remote access to cloud-based desktops and applications as well as any other resources or workloads you want to host close by such as file and web services.
  • The opportunity to not only integrate on-premises and cloud-based VMware vSphere environments as a hybrid cloud but also to integrate cloud based and on-premises Horizon ‘pods’ to provide a single global entity (this will be covered shortly)
  • Direct access into Amazon’s wealth of AWS native services with zero ingress/egress charge (subject to design)
VMware Cloud on AWS architecture with Horizon 7 running inside
Figure 3:  VMware Cloud on AWS architecture with Horizon 7 running inside

In this architecture you may have noticed some key capabilities such as Instant Clones, App Volumes and Dynamic Environment Management, these are part of VMware’s Just in Time Management Platform (JMP). These are of huge benefit to desktop provisioning and management but require enterprise licensing so will need some thought when choosing the right Horizon version in line with your budget.

Creating a single global entity with Cloud Pod Architecture

As mentioned earlier, an additional Horizon feature compatible with VMware Cloud on AWS is Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA), this uses multiple Horizon ‘pods’ and global entitlements to provide an integrated global Horizon solution. This configuration allows users to be directed to the site or ‘pod’ which is local to them geographically (or least network latent). In the event of an outage at users’ local sites they are automatically diverted to another functioning site (pod).

Global Elastic-POD Federation
Figure 4: High-level example of Horizon Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA)

By hosting Horizon 7 exclusively on VMware Cloud on AWS or by extending existing on-premises deployments, your business will have the capability to enable secure remote working on a scalable platform to support the current home working situation a large part of the world finds itself in today,

Making the story even more compelling is the opportunity for an easy entry point in migrating your infrastructure workloads to the cloud as well going forward, add to that the possibility of leveraging cloud native technologies directly it really does put you on a modern and strategic pathway for your IT operations as you look to the future.  

Accelerate Cloud and Digital Workspace success with Xtravirt

Xtravirt are one of VMware’s top tier service delivery partners.  Our proven expertise and track record of success has meant we have attained all 5 VMware Master Services Competencies and are one of a handful of Principal Partners for Digital Workspace and VMware Cloud on AWS in the UK.

Xtravirt have been deploying Horizon projects for over a decade and were the service partner of choice to several of the earliest adopters of VMware Cloud on AWS.  Our deployment of the largest VMware on AWS environment in EMEA to date, even won us our most recent VMware award. 

Xtravirt have a range of packaged services designed to enable your cloud and digital workspace transformation projects happen faster, more effectively and without risk, including:

  • Cloud Connect for VMware Horizon
  • VMware Cloud on AWS Planning service
  • VMware Cloud on AWS Implementation Service
  • Horizon PoC on VMC on AWS
  • Horizon Cloud PoC on Microsoft Azure

To request more information about our packages of support, simply email [email protected]

Request a virtual meeting

If you would like the opportunity to discuss your organisation’s unique challenges with one of our specialists, why not request a free one-hour virtual meeting?  Simply drop us an email to [email protected] and we’ll set up a call.