This content is part of the Essential Guide: VMworld 2015 conference coverage

Federal agencies tout VDI security, flexibility

Several IT pros from federal government agencies face the same dilemma as all IT: How to provide security and the freedom and flexibility to support a mobile workforce.

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. government's IT pros face the challenge of giving end users choice while balancing security,...

and many use VDI to do both.

IT pros in the federal sector face numerous regulatory and compliance constraints that businesses typically don't have to deal with. But end users want the flexibility to get their work done anywhere, on any device they choose, whether they work for the government or an SMB.

By embracing mobility and the needs of end users, IT representatives of several federal governmental organizations said they've seen a great deal of overall success during a session here at VMworld 2015.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence began the process of better enabling end users three years ago by tackling "application rationalization," which determined what apps were being used on the network through an exhaustive inventory, said Akram Al-Mudallal, the organization's chief architect and operations program manager.

"We asked users which apps they preferred more and looked at which apps cost more [than others]," Al-Madullal said. "We had to corral the IT decision makers and business unit heads to do that."

A challenge for Al-Madullal is his organization has numerous laboratories set up across the country and they all "want to do their own thing" with technology. The department uses VMware Horizon View for VDI on zero clients, along with storage from NetApp and  Atlantis Computing for VDI workloads.

VDI security

VDI and other virtualization software also helped one agency stem issues with data breaches, said Kris Ostergard, chief architect for Imperatis Corp.'s Cyber Solutions Group, an Arlington, Va.-based company which provides IT services to U.S. military and civilian agencies.

Imperatis recently worked with a government agency—which Ostergard declined to name—that experienced several data breaches and changed its IT infrastructure as a result. It bought in wholesale on the VMware technology stack, using Horizon View for VDI as well as NSX for virtual networking and vSphere for server virtualization.

Going that route has allowed a level of separation between what end users see and what exists within the data center, keeping important information off their devices.

"It doesn't matter where you are or how you're getting there," Ostergard said. "Your machine is separated from the virtual desktop inside the infrastructure."

Meanwhile, the General Services Administration (GSA) recently underwent an IT operations reorganization where it consolidated its IT shops across the country. One of the initiatives included a move to VMware VDI for many of the administration's 14,000 desktops, said Roberto Rosales, mobile technology branch chief at the GSA.

Through a volunteer program called "My View," GSA's users can use their laptop with VDI layered on top of it to see if they like it, Rosales said.

"We're doing that rather than saying 'Here's your new technology, use it,'" Rosales said. "It seems to have gotten a better response from the user community."

Jake O’Donnell is site editor for TechTarget's Contact him at [email protected].

Dig Deeper on Virtual desktop infrastructure and architecture