The bells and whistles of cloud-based management appeal to many organizations running virtual desktops, but IT pros should look before they leap.
Citrix is an example of one VDI vendor that is pushing the cloud subscription model to customers. As the company reframes its business model from a products supplier to a services provider, it invests more heavily in its cloud services.
Citrix Cloud subscriptions bring in a steady revenue stream and benefit the company, whereas selling individual components results in intermittent bursts of revenue. The strategy seems to be working: As of May 2019, more than 10% of Citrix's revenue is thanks to Citrix Cloud subscriptions.
Citrix Cloud boasts a major benefit -- streamlined IT operations -- but there are even more significant factors, like Citrix Cloud costs, that keep an organization's management on premises. IT pros should carefully weigh the pros and cons before jumping on the cloud bandwagon.
On premises vs. cloud debate
Cloud services are a hot topic when it comes to IT management, but IT pros shouldn't underestimate the use cases and benefits of hosting virtual desktops or other workloads on premises. Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of on-premises VDI is freedom.
On-premises hosting enables IT to have a wide range of software choices, rather than get locked into a particular vendor. It also gives IT pros tighter control of back-end infrastructure and the ability to use any monitoring and capacity tools they want.
Another significant advantage to on-premises VDI is reduced latency. Virtual desktops hosted in the cloud have a greater chance to encounter network communications issues, because end-user traffic is competing for bandwidth, whereas users with on-premises virtual desktops have a direct connection.
Cloud-based management has its benefits, as well. Simply put, cloud-based VDI requires less back-end management. Citrix Cloud, for example, provides nearly all of the infrastructure components, including Delivery Controller and License Server. On top of that, Citrix maintains and upgrades the servers. Customers can opt to include Citrix Gateway, which eliminates the need for certificate maintenance, patching, upgrades and testing a high-availability setup.
With cloud services, organizations can sit back and let the vendor do the work -- to a certain extent.
Legacy lives on
No matter the benefits of cloud-based VDI, however, some organizations simply can't commit to a cloud migration due to legacy infrastructure and compliance concerns. Healthcare organizations, for example, cannot migrate many infrastructure components off premises due to HIPAA compliance requirements. Other highly regulated industries, such as government or financial institutions, don't have the option to host workloads in the cloud.
Citrix Cloud will expand internationally, however, so organizations that need to keep their data within certain boundaries may have the option to migrate soon, according to Jo Harder, a virtualization expert and Citrix Technology Professional.
Existing and legacy infrastructure is another major reason that organizations cannot undergo a cloud migration. Financially, it doesn't make sense for organizations that have recently built an on-premises data center or invested heavily in legacy applications to move to the cloud.
When it comes to cloud, the biggest kicker for many organizations is cost -- and it's often unclear what those costs will be. Citrix Cloud cost calculators are likely to produce a lower cost than the reality, so IT pros need to carefully analyze the costs of a migration, Harder said.
When they add up the Citrix Cloud costs, IT pros should factor in maintenance for Citrix Virtual Delivery Agents. IT will also need to have and maintain at least two Cloud Connectors to communicate with Active Directory, as well as two additional servers to accommodate that infrastructure. An organization shouldn't expect savings when it comes to personnel, either, according to Harder.
Cloud subscription costs can also fluctuate widely, depending on user workloads and consumed resources. On the other hand, on-premises VDI offers predictable monthly costs.