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VDI hurdles push IT toward virtual, published apps

At VMworld 2017, VMware aims to simplify app publishing by moving it to the cloud, and the Dell EMC VDI Complete bundle adds application virtualization.

LAS VEGAS -- Application virtualization is gaining steam, as more organizations shy away from delivering full desktops to users.

The cost and complexity of desktop virtualization, plus the growing variety of devices that users bring to work, have driven IT professionals to reconsider their application delivery strategies. Two new offerings aim to help them take a more application-centric approach.

"People aren't going to continue to do [traditional] VDI," said Brad Tompkins, CEO of the VMware User Group. "It's just gotten too clunky."

Here at VMworld, VMware launched Workspace One App Express, a cloud service for published apps. And Dell EMC added application virtualization support to its VDI Complete bundle.

"It's really easy to provide a basic desktop and then deliver apps based on users' entitlements," said Mark Ellersick, client technology analyst at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C.

But application virtualization presents some challenges, as well, such as getting multiple apps to work well together -- especially when they live on different hosts, Ellersick said.

Published apps head to the cloud

Workspace One App Express results from a partnership with Frame, a cloud workspace provider in San Mateo, Calif. IT pros do not need to create a separate infrastructure as they typically would; they can instead publish applications directly through a Frame-provided Workspace One portal in the cloud. Users then access the published apps from a web browser.

Advancements in storage, networking and compute technology have made it easier to publish applications using traditional methods, but it still requires a significant level of IT skill. The cloud will lower the barriers to application publishing and allow organizations to deploy more quickly, said Frame CTO Ruben Spruijt.

"It takes a while on premises before you are able to publish apps," Spruijt said.

And a benefit of publishing applications to browsers is IT does not have to manage domains, as would be the case when publishing directly to users' PCs, said Courtney Burry, a VMware senior director of product marketing.

Application virtualization cost savings

VDI Complete, which includes VMware Horizon View, hyper-converged infrastructure and thin clients, now offers application virtualization at a starting price that works out to $7 per user, per month. The desktop virtualization version starts at $11.

The cost of VDI is driving more organizations to consider application virtualization, said Jeff McNaught, chief strategy officer for Dell client computing.

Apps are far less expensive to deploy.
Jeff McNaughtchief strategy officer at Dell

"Apps are far less expensive to deploy," he said.

At the University of Arkansas, which runs VMware Horizon on Dell EMC infrastructure and thin clients in its student computer labs, IT leaders plan to take advantage of these cost benefits. They are launching a Workspace One pilot program for delivering applications to staff, and they hope to eventually do the same for all 27,000 students.

The cost to deliver apps to students on 27,000 virtual desktops would be enormously prohibitive, but application virtualization makes it feasible, said Jon Kelley, associate director of enterprise systems at the school in Fayetteville, Ark.

Removing vGPU roadblocks

Horizon View administrators with graphics-intensive workloads also received some welcome enhancements. VMware's vMotion technology, which migrates virtual resources without downtime, is coming to virtual GPUs (vGPUs). And Horizon View shops that use Nvidia Grid to allocate vGPUs will be able to manage that process through VMware vRealize Operations Manager instead of relying on a separate console.

At Western Carolina, which delivers applications through a mix of VDI, VMware App Volumes and Microsoft Remote Desktop Session Host, vMotion will help IT reallocate vGPUs among virtual desktops without having to shut them down, Ellersick said.

"That's a roadblock for us currently," he said. "Right now, we have to kill everything."

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