Tucked appropriately but perhaps too quietly into the set of a Dell EMC and VMware announcements at Dell EMC World was an example of synergy from the Dell EMC acquisition and tighter product collaboration occurring with VMware: Dell EMC VDI Complete. We noted it in our event coverage but want to elaborate on an offering that could drive an inflection point in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) market that has long underperformed versus its technical merits for enabling IT cost savings and strengthening control of security.
Dell EMC VDI Complete bundles the full hardware and software stack into a simple to purchase, deploy, manage, and scale solution supported directly by a single enterprise OEM vendor. As much as that may seem like an obvious offer structure, Dell EMC is the first to provide such a distinct end-to-end solution. On top of that, it is now offering a monthly cost per user consumption model as an alternative option to the existing upfront prepay model. I’ll cover the key points and implications. We wrote a more in-depth product analysis in a paper here.
VDI Adoption Barriers and Implementation Challenges
To understand why these offer improvements could be so impactful, it’s worth reviewing what has held VDI adoption back for so long. VDI moved through the textbook technology hype cycle peaking in the 2009-2010 timeframe with more enterprise IT adoption than the technology was mature enough to support. Among the biggest challenges, it was tough to plan cost and capacity, challenging to deploy, suffered from performance bottlenecks impacting users, and was tough to administrate with support spread across a variety of vendors. The entire effort was a customer challenge in gluing together technology from the spectrum of infrastructure and software vendors for a workload with an unfamiliar performance profile. There were sharp swings in resource utilization during the workday that needed to be handled without any portion of the stack becoming a performance bottleneck or administrative pain point.
Given the technical complexity in implementation and the risk of impact to user productivity that could drive additional resource purchase requirements and/or force scaling back the addressable user base, the resulting business problem was that it was hard to reliably project the return on investment and achieve it once implemented. This stunted adoption for a decade of an otherwise clear opportunity to improve IT resource control to operate more securely and cut a lot of wasted cost.
Single Vendor Simplicity
The first key to addressing each of the challenges has been a reliable, consolidated VDI stack offering. Dell EMC’s VDI Complete bundles compute, storage, networking and software that is pre-validated and packaged for ease of deployment planning and management up through the VDI application stack using normal VMware management tools. There have been OEM VDI bundles around for years that intended to absolve IT from having to solve the riddle themselves of purchasing and configuring an optimal stack of components, but even for those that were tested across vendors to a profiled performance level with no customization allowed, no one enterprise OEM vendor could stand behind what was deployed.
That is why the second key to IT confidence is the new single vendor support of the end-to-end stack by Dell EMC, including support of the VMware Horizon software now that VMware is part of the Dell Technologies family. VMware is one of the top two leaders in VDI according to IDC. Its Horizon software is designed to deliver dynamic, near-instantly available user desktop generation via layering of a fully-configurable, user-specific application stack and management policy on a base image. This has better normalized consumption of infrastructure resources per VDI user added, which in turn enables IT to plan and deploy the infrastructure necessary to deliver a high quality user experience. Customers can even add Dell Wyse thin clients as part of the package from Dell as the single vendor (where the latest of these devices was covered previously).
Third, Dell EMC eased the past investment planning challenges of a VDI project. The bundled stack is packaged as a scalable unit for ease of growing the deployment size with business needs. This keeps the incremental purchase and implementation costs clear, including with the new option of a monthly cost per user consumption model for simple, predictable pricing down to as little as $8 per user.
Dell EMC has now better enabled a best practice approach to VDI projects for IT in starting small, building confidence, then scaling the deployment. This will allow IT to avoid the past challenge of creating a big speculative business case on future returns predicated on a large scale deployment in a way that didn’t enable appropriate risk management.
Enterprise Value in Cost Savings and Security
Much of the press attention on this announcement focused on the nice, new pricing scheme. The pricing scheme will be attractive for some enterprises, particularly smaller enterprises that will focus more on cost savings than the security benefits. The broader appeal in enterprise is the distinct single OEM vendor solution from start to finish—i.e., purchase to support—where the pricing simplicity is just one element of that story.
To understand that, consider VDI’s place as a workload in the IT portfolio. This is a one-off, critical-to-productivity but non-differentiating workload that customers want as a turn-key experience where they increasingly rely on the vendor to fully deliver instead of having to build expertise in-house themselves.
Dell EMC VDI Complete lands at an interesting time for enterprise. The opportunity for cost savings was what attracted the broadest attention to VDI in the first place. The challenges with achieving those cost savings reduced adoption, but each challenge has now been directly addressed. IT executives and their business leaders may want to revisit VDI at this point to evaluate their opportunity for cost savings, for example, through reduced application testing and helpdesk / support costs as well as through the opportunity to deploy thin clients to appropriate user groups.
Perhaps just as important now in enterprise should be the opportunity for improving security. To date, compliance has been a leading driver of VDI adoption, particularly in highly regulated industries like healthcare where security of data forced the need. Now the value in maintaining tight security of company data, especially customer data, across all industries has increased with the high profile security compromises by private actors for identity abuse or data ransom (e.g., the recent WannaCry ransom attack) and sovereign actors for intelligence collection and potential destructive purposes. The combination of these drivers of enterprise interest with the new highly simplified offer and end-to-end support model from Dell EMC could prove to be an inflection point in enterprise adoption of VDI.