The first electric traffic signal system was installed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. The signals were wired to a nearby booth and controlled by hand. While this may have been sufficient for their needs 100 years ago, the continued growth of cities – and the accompanying traffic – means it’s no longer possible to manage traffic manually. Now, we rarely stop to think about today’s highly complex, computerized traffic management systems employed throughout the world.
While the physical infrastructure of cities has grown steadily over the last century, the technological infrastructure of businesses has been progressing by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. As a result, IT departments are struggling to provide their users with access to the applications they need to keep the business running. To address the evolving needs of business and reduce management challenges, many organizations are turning to virtual desktops.
The Advantages and Challenges of VDI
A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) provides businesses with centralized resources for managing end user machines. They can provision and modify whole images or individual applications, applying updates and patches from a central location. As a result, VDI can dramatically reduce ongoing maintenance costs. At the same time, virtual machines provide increased agility, allowing businesses to more quickly roll out new applications to respond to quickly changing business needs.
But, as with any new technology, VDI comes with its share of challenges. At its heart is the fundamental issue of effective application delivery. Today’s users need reliable access to resource-intensive applications with no delay or downtime, requiring an effective way to prioritize and route network traffic. To handle this functionality, organizations are turning to application delivery controllers (ADCs). ADCs can provide a wide variety of features to help businesses make the most of their VDI initiatives while overcoming the challenges. Here are four areas that are of critical importance in effective application delivery that an ADC (News - Alert) solution should effectively address.
The challenge: As data centers become more complex, a single point of failure can cause a cascading series of problems, interrupting application availability for users. Making this even more challenging is the increase in overall traffic over today’s networks, including east-west traffic between virtual machines. Meanwhile, there is always the risk of issues such as a server outage or a sudden spike in traffic. The ADC must be able to handle the varied network conditions a business experiences every day. This includes managing the increase in distributed traffic as businesses incorporate more remote offices.
The challenge: A variety of network processes can negatively impact the performance of virtual desktops, including the use of resource-intensive user applications such as video and multimedia tools. Meanwhile, other IT trends are also potentially impacting VDI performance, such as an increase in remote workers. This can put a strain on bandwidth and affect the ability of IT to keep data flowing with minimal latency. As businesses grow and more devices connect to the network, maintaining speed is becoming more of a challenge, as well as maintaining high service levels. Any solution introduced to manage traffic must not only be able to handle current loads, but anticipate continued traffic growth in the future. It should also maximize compute cycles by offloading functions such as SSL encryption whenever possible.
The challenge: Large-scale attacks on business information are constantly in the news. It seems that as soon as organizations deploy new safeguards, malicious parties immediately begin working to circumvent them. Meanwhile, businesses constantly face new internal threats as employees connect more of their own potentially unsecured devices to corporate networks. And, other emerging technologies introduce additional points of attack, such as companies using public cloud providers to store business information. Routing traffic effectively and securely is more important than ever to ensure continued business operation and keep virtual desktops functional. The ADC solution should be configurable to limit the traffic that is admitted into the network, based on values such as account type or geographic location.
The challenge: IT administrators need a great deal of flexibility in order to manage traffic from moment to moment as needs change. In addition to traditional load balancing requirements, there is an increasing need to shift traffic to new resources for maintenance or to upgrade user sessions across application instances. And visibility becomes even more of a concern in an environment that contains both physical and virtual elements. An effective ADC will allow administrators to create custom rule sets to manage traffic flow. It should also be able to analyze and report on the effectiveness of current configurations.
Integrated Functionality to Improve VDI Performance
These challenges can be supported with the right ADC, particularly if it integrates with a VDI solution that supports the same goals. The virtual desktop software should incorporate the following features:
1. Availability: With virtual machines depending directly on server uptime, uninterrupted service is critically important for VDI to provide an effective replacement for traditional desktops. The virtual desktop solution should support redundancy through support of an active-active configuration, and it should incorporate a secondary deployment that can be utilized immediately in the event of failure.
2. Mobility: One advantage of virtual desktops is that because the server hosts them, they can be accessed from a variety of internet-capable devices, including thin clients and tablets. The virtual desktop solution should provide session persistence across all user devices to ensure seamless application delivery for users.
3. Security: The security support provided by the ADC should extend to the virtual desktop solution as well. It should provide features such as hypervisor-based antivirus capabilities and support access restrictions including two-factor authentication.
Moving Forward with Effective Application Delivery
Today’s data center is as much about anticipating the future as it is concerned with meeting present needs, and virtualization is quickly becoming a way of life for businesses of all sizes. Combined with other technology trends, however, the result is a dramatic increase in network traffic and complexity. Administrators must remember that fast, secure delivery of applications to the user remains the highest priority. Whether they are using physical or virtual desktops, downtime is unacceptable in today’s always-on business environment. Just as uncoordinated signals can bring a city’s traffic to a standstill, successfully introducing new technology such as virtual desktops into a business requires an intelligent approach that uses the right tools.
Edited by Maurice Nagle