VDI Set for Strong Growth Across Government

For a technology that is still trying to gain footing and widespread acceptance in the government arena, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) already has a fairly extensive history. After a tottering start some 10 years ago, issues like security and enterprise IT manage­ment continue to bring it to the forefront.

In a recent study by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, the responses showed VDI should experience strong growth in gov­ernment agencies over the next few years. The propor­tion of virtualized agency desktops is expected to rise by at least a third by 2019, as compared to 2015. The relative enthusiasm at state and local agencies is catch­ing up to federal agencies, for an overall deployment of between 55 and 60 percent of available desktops.

Agency Use of VDI is Increasing

“A decade ago, neither the IT infrastructure or the server power was there. Consequently, most people had a horrible experience with VDI,” says Troy Massey, director, enterprise engagements for Iron Bow. “Now virtual desktops perform at least as well as traditional desktops, and there are also significant cost savings agencies can realize.”

Government agencies at all levels are faced with urgent hardware and software upgrades over the next few years. For one thing, Microsoft’s introduction of the Windows 10 operating system is a complete rewrite that promises major improvements in system performance and security. That poses problems for any organizations with more than a small number of desktops that need to be upgraded. The Defense Department, for example, has mandated a department-wide move to Windows 10 by January 2018. It has potentially millions of desktops that will need attention.

VDI promises a much simpler upgrade experience. With central servers provid­ing the software and data for thin client desktops, only one image of the operating system has to be updated. There are also potential hardware sav­ings. Many legacy desktops machines don’t have the horsepower or the compo­nents to run Windows 10 and the built-in security features. Trusted Platform Module 2.0 chipsets are required to run Microsoft’s Device Guard and Credential Guard, for example, and many current agency desk­tops aren’t equipped for that.

Government agencies therefore face major capital outlays to upgrade their desktops to handle Windows 10. Again with VDI, the only thing that needs to be upgraded are the central servers. Even legacy desktops can easily serve as thin clients, saving agencies those individual desktop upgrade costs.

In the survey, more than 40 percent of agencies that have already deployed VDI cited centralized updates and changes as a major reason for adoption. Operating system image consolidation was also a major reason by 28 percent of those that had already adopted VDI. For those in the process of deploying the technology, that concern rose to 39 percent.

VDI Simplifies Management Tasks

Mobility support for tablets and smartphones— again due to centralized device and data management—was also a major reason for VDI adoption. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, a rising factor for agencies, also figured prominently in the survey responses.

Overall though, Massey believes that now with the years of experience agencies have handling server virtualization for data center consolidation, the issue of virtualization itself is not the big issue it was in the early days of VDI. Most of the time, it seems agencies consider VDI as a part of that consolidation, with both server and desktop environments managed through the same single pane of glass. “That’s a big talking point for us with customers since, particularly if they are already deploying server virtualization, we don’t have to start with the basics of virtualization,” he says.

Massey believes VDI is now looking at “exponential” growth throughout the government arena. Besides the centralized management capabilities and security advantages, agencies also have that decade of confidence on the server consolidation side. So the atti­tude increasingly seems to be that it’s finally worth a shot on the desktop side.