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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Dell Cloud Client-Computing – dealing head on with VDI complexity and cost for SMBs

VDI gets a bad rap because of cost and complexity but its utility in a mobility driven market segment cannot be underestimated. Although Techaisle's most recent SMB VDI adoption survey is still in the field, as per our last survey conducted in January 2014, the US SMB VDI adoption continues to increase. Techaisle's quantitative VDI/DaaS research shows that the SMB objectives in adopting either on-premise or hosted VDI/DaaS solutions revolved around mobility, application availability from anywhere and on any device, disaster recovery, centralized management and administration of end-point devices at the same time reducing costs. SMBs are recognizing the need to adopt virtualization within their businesses, however, Techaisle survey also shows that 56 percent of SMBs consider the technology complex to understand and implement.

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Seven Lessons for Successful deployment from Current SMB VDI and DaaS Users

Where is the market for client devices going – and what does it mean to corporate strategy? These are questions that Techaisle and its clients – and the industry as a whole – has been wrestling with ever since the decline of the traditional PC opened the door for alternative client technologies.

In many cases, users now combine mobile and fixed devices, and with this multi-device approach, consistency and security become even more important than they were in the laptop era. Many organizations are responding to a need to securely manage and distribute user data and applications by investigating virtual desktop (VDI) technologies enabling delivering of “desktop as a service,” or DaaS. With VDI/DaaS, businesses deploy client virtualization technologies from suppliers like Citrix and VMware to ensure that users have anywhere/any time/any device access to current information, their applications and their desktops. These technologies allow for better data security and auditability, and often offer the additional benefits of reduced CAPEX and OPEX.

The allure of VDI and DaaS is clear – but the technology itself and the path to realizing its benefits can still seem somewhat mysterious to many small and mid-sized businesses. To understand implementation challenges and lessons learned, Techaisle conducted depth interviews with small and mid-market businesses (from 50 employees to 999 employees) that are currently using VDI and/or DaaS solutions. Based on a random sampling these businesses belonged to financial services, professional services, manufacturing, construction, utilities, retail and private education segments. These early adopter SMBs have rolled out VDI and/or DaaS solutions within their organizations. The number of users using VDI and/or DaaS within the businesses interviewed ranged from a low of 30 employees for a small business to a high of 600 employees within a mid-market business.

Techaisle’s quantitative VDI/DaaS research shows that the key user objectives in adopting either on-premise or hosted VDI/DaaS solutions revolved around mobility, application availability from anywhere and on any device, disaster recovery, centralized management and administration of end-point devices at the same time reducing costs. Based on users’ real-world experiences and feedback, Techaisle has compiled a list of seven key lessons for success for small and mid-market businesses planning to adopt VDI/DaaS solutions.

1.       Prepare a roadmap of the solution and a blueprint of implementation process

Before starting the implementation process and before even considering a pilot, current VDI/DaaS users advise potential users to create a roadmap of the solution and a blueprint of implementation process. The roadmap and blueprints should include solution and brand selection criteria, a list of solution components and their objectives, changes required (if any) to the core infrastructure to support the solution, costs involved and budgets for cost overruns, security vulnerabilities, phase-in of users and their training process and timeframe for enhancements post implementation.

2.       Hire external consultants - people who have experience

It is almost impossible to develop a roadmap and blueprint without the guidance and close involvement of experts.  All SMBs that we interviewed had contracted with external consultants varying in size from a group of 4-5 to a maximum of 40-50 people. In each case, consultants were preferred over resellers and service providers due to their focused deep expertise and track record. However, each of the current users of VDI/DaaS had decided on either Citrix or VMware solution prior to engaging with consultants with corresponding expertise.

“We approached our known consultant which is a small company formed by 6 to 7 people and have expertise in VMware solution. They are highly technical professionals providing free infrastructure and free connectivity support and covering infrastructure maintenance and end user connectivity”.

“We preferred going with Consultants as they had solution specific expertise. They gave optimal options taking into consideration both cost and technology sound solution. They even offered technical assistance even after post implementation and maintenance for one year. They are a small company with VMware expertise formed by a core group of people”.

“We approached consultants, a small group of people, with deep Citrix expertise, because they had relevant qualifications and certification”.

3.       Ensure that the solution supports legacy software

Not all SMBs are using all modern applications; many mid-market businesses have core legacy applications and/or applications that are essential to a specific department and workgroup. Current SMB users of VDI/DaaS advise that the blueprint prepared should include a list of applications currently being used within the organization and to systematically test to ensure that they will continue to be supported in the new DaaS environment.

The VDI/DaaS SMB users also advise that businesses should also revisit the current licensing arrangement they have for some of their applications and ensure that in a virtualized environment those licenses are valid and applicable.

“We learned during the implementation phase that not every application is supported by VDI or DaaS solution. It is difficult to understand and analyze the amount of storage used by different departments”.

“The main concern was with software licensing concerns. Few of our application’ licenses restricted the use of software on systems accessed by terminal servers. There were issues coming up initially that affected our end users as these applications were not accessible on multiple virtual desktops”.

“The main concerns were the length of the project, the cost of the project and back end integration. Backend integration was a major concern as we have legacy application running on the system”.

4.       Get the business users ready

Business users do not like changes that affect their interfaces – it takes time to build new usage habits, and this can (and generally does) have a short-term impact on productivity. Although a VDI/DaaS roll-out is often used to deliver better mobile systems to business users – generally, a well-received benefit – it is essential to prepare the business users with new interfaces, log-ins, support mechanism, and training on the use of thin clients. This will require IT to manage a number of VDI/DaaS-specific issues, including application downloads to user devices, management of persistent or non-persistent desktop experiences, and tactics to address latency if/where it impacts performance.

“A challenge we faced post implementation was to manage new rounds of user trainings. The new solution meant introduction of a different system to the users and one where users had to undergo a series of trainings to become comfortable with it”.

“The main challenge that we faced was user training and that was a really big concern for us”. 

“We had to give training to users in about two weeks which was taken out of their operational hours and once the service was put in place the learning was steep, the users were not very productive during that time”.

“Most of the issues were to do with the users who were unable to come to terms with the changes and the content that could access easily”.

5.       Conduct a pilot

Conducting a pilot helps in fine tuning the roadmap and blueprint for implementation.

“During the pilot test, we observed a need to modify our terminal server as they were not responding to the end users request. Then we decided and made changes in terminal server by making a cluster of terminal servers so that similar end users request would be sent to desired terminal server, to cut down network traffic congestion”.

“At the initial stage we started facing issues which were basically related with bandwidth or poor network response. We decided to increase our bandwidth for offering end-users customizable experience similar to that of a physical desktop”.

“In the pilot stage some issues popped out. First of all, the expected cost for the pilot stage rose considerably. Also we got a mixed reaction from the team using it as some said they were able to fully utilize the resources, whereas when we tested it over other networks like WLAN, the data was not accessible”.

6.       Create a detailed budget, be prepared for cost overruns

The current users of VDI/DaaS suggest that potential adopters should budget 25 percent for software, 20 percent for services, 20 percent for networking and one-third for hardware. The percentages vary for small businesses where the budget allocation for hardware varies between 10-15 percent and the proportional cost of software rises to 30-35 percent. Current users advise businesses that have legacy applications to allocate higher budgets for hardware and services, as high as 45 percent and 35 percent respectively.

As many as 40 percent of SMBs indicate that cost overruns of 10-20 percent is a given.

“There was additional expenditure required. The testing phase was difficult as we had to change our server and switches”.

“In testing phase we found out that the users had to get software assurance which delayed the project, delayed purchase of licenses and forced additional expenditure”.

7.       Upgrade server and network infrastructure

The most common and almost universal changes to the IT infrastructure to prepare for VDI/DaaS usage are installation or upgrades of blade servers, upgrading cabling to fiber optics cable thus enabling substantially higher data bandwidth, replacement of switches for routing higher throughputs, installation of thin clients and in some cases increasing storage.

Current users generally opted for specific server and thin client brands based on either recommendation from their consultants or because of existing relationships. Brands most often used were IBM, HP and Dell. Most SMBs preferred to use Blade Servers.

“We upgraded cabling by using fiber optics cable which boosted our bandwidth and smooth flow of data from the data center to the end users. We used fiber optics as it was a cost effective solution for us rather than going on with existing metal cabling which had an impact on bandwidth”.

“Networking and replacement of cabling was one issue as it did not work with the solution initially, the cabling between the server switches and office switches and for this we looked for fiber cabling”.

Concluding observations

The need for VDI/DaaS as a mobility enabling technology is clear, and its corresponding benefits for user experience and data management are compelling. However, the path to VDI/DaaS can be tricky to navigate. By capitalizing on the advice provided by current users, SMBs interested in adopting VDI/DaaS can set realistic objectives and expectations, and can manage confidently towards effective deployment.

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VMware Mobility Solution: Innovation to Execution

Techaisle Take

VMware won – handily – the battle for leadership in server virtualization. The company attained broad acceptance within companies looking to bridge the gap between growth in compute demand and contraction in CAPEX budgets, and then drove penetration within these accounts, to the point where virtualization is the default approach to servers, and VMware is the de facto standard for virtualization within the data center.

The issue for VMware now is – what next? There is still some opportunity for growth in server virtualization, but customers are starting to hedge their virtualization bets by moving to multi-hypervisor strategies, including Hyper-V, Xen, and/or KVM within their environments. While successfully competing in its core market is essential, the “next big thing” for VMware isn’t found in beating back smaller server competitors – it’s expanding into the two big adjacent markets, client virtualization and cloud infrastructure management.

The client virtualization space poses some interesting challenges and opportunities, especially in the SMB market. Mobility has become a “must have” capability in today’s IT portfolio, but there’s no single, well-established path to deploying it: the visible hardware vendors (Apple, Samsung) don’t provide enterprise-grade solutions, and there is no existing standard for the various software components required to seamlessly support corporate and BYOD devices in an enterprise network. At the virtualization layer, Citrix is the current and clear leader, but anticipated growth provides enough opportunity for multiple competitors and strategies.

With its Horizon portfolio, VMware is attempting to position itself as an enterprise-grade answer to mobility requirements. The approach is interesting – but will it resonate with the channel serving the millions of SMB customers that fueled VMware’s success in server virtualization?

End-user Computing

Last week’s VMworld was a showcase for messaging about execution. Bite-sized announcements centered around three key areas – end-user computing, hybrid cloud services and software-defined data centers.  End-user computing is perhaps the most exciting for small and mid-market businesses as it directly feeds into their voracious appetite for mobility.

Techaisle study shows that the worldwide SMB Mobile Workforce will grow to 298 million by 2016 at 6.3 percent CAGR from 2013. Nearly 150 million SMB employees will be telecommuting and 120 million will be traveling on business. We are in a mobility cycle now that is characterized by intense competition for hardware, system software and applications leadership. The wave is young enough to offer margins on hardware, software and services, but as de facto standards become more entrenched this market will consolidate, and reseller focus will move to recurring service revenue as the margins erode in the hardware space.

With rapid increase in number of mobile workers, there are five main concerns that are percolating to the top of SMB's concerns: Cost of solutions that support mobile workers, security from theft and data privacy, mobile data pricing, transaction security and mobile device pricing. Recognizing some of these issues, Sanjay Poonen, VMware EVP & General Manager, End-User Computing said, “Mobility is a management and security problem”.

To cover its bases, VMware is currently betting on its Horizon Suite consisting of three products:

  1. Horizon View: VMware’s Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering powered by View
  2. Horizon Mirage: VMware’s physical desktop management tool based on its Wanova acquisition
  3. Horizon Workspace: VMware’s mobility management solution enabling mobile users to access corporate data, applications and virtual desktops from different endpoint devices

As Ben Goodman, Lead Evangelist, End-User Computing told Techaisle, “Workspace is a single space for getting your stuff”. It will include MDM (Mobile Device Management), MAM (Mobile Application Management) and plans are afoot to develop MIM (Mobile Information Management) and MCM (Mobile Content Management).


VMware is slightly late into the SMB mobility space as most SMB-focused channel partners are offering Citrix solutions and a plethora of niche MDM solutions for SMBs. But Sanjay Poonen’s aggressiveness was palpable. He plans to invest heavily to drive growth in VDI. VMware is bullish on the potential for its installed base of 500,000 customers, many of them SMBs, to become customers for its mobility solutions. It plans to focus on IT (not just end-users) who are open to centralized policy management and who agree with VMware’s vision that mobility is part of a larger platform. This strategy has its advantages and disadvantages. By VMware’s own admission, Horizon Suite lies in the chasm between Innovators and Early Adopters along the adoption curve. For VMware, Early Majority to Laggards is a big white space. But this highly fragmented, disjoined white space within the SMBs is getting filled with its competitors. To achieve success, VMware must:

  1. Target its customers that have yet to adopt mobility management solutions
  2. Target its customers who are willing to rip and replace
  3. Target SMBs that are still investigating viable mobility management solutions


MDM and MAM are by far the most prominent top-of-mind issues for SMBs across different geographies. Surveys conducted by Techaisle reveal that SMBs worry about these issues a lot, but fail to protect themselves adequately. A Techaisle survey of 9,500 SMBs across different geographies found that accidental loss of device followed by imminent danger of mobile viruses are the top concerns of SMBs while using mobile applications. This clearly demonstrates the need for remote mobile device management, authentication, and remote erasure of data.

For a vendor like VMware, the route to these SMBs is through channel partners, who are themselves increasingly turning towards their vendor suppliers as their trusted advisors. Techaisle’s channel partner study shows that on the technology side of the business, 50 percent of channel partners want training on mobility solutions including VDI, DaaS and BYOD. Partners are also looking for help in marketing: to help position these solutions to customers, 42 percent of channel partners are looking for case studies that are relevant to their own client base. In addition, channels want to acquire capabilities to be able to customize mobility solutions for their SMB client base. Affordable maintenance and support, ease of use and features and functionalities suitable for SMB needs are top sales messaging that are being used by channel partners to sell end-user computing solutions.

Clearly, VMware has to use every trick it has in its arsenal to address these issues if it is to make end-user computing market segment the “next step” in its overall growth strategy.

For more information on Techaisle mobility and/or channel research, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Software-Defined-Networking (SDN) Promise for SMBs

The Quotes

In a recent Techaisle depth-interview, the CIO of a Network Dependent (Techaisle’s proprietary Segmentation) Mid-Market business with 950 employees, 110 servers, 50 percent of servers virtualized, said, “Yes, I have heard about SDN. It’s a service where the architecture can be dynamically reconfigured or driven by a software personality layer as opposed to being hard-wired. Yes, we are planning to invest in it. Today the trend is towards intelligent networking. Software defined networking is something that can be used to automatically handle the traffic in the network. So, we can expect reduced costs from this type of a service. Brocade and Cisco are the two companies that have good solutions about these services.”

Although the awareness starts to fall rapidly for lower employee sized businesses Software Defined Networking (SDN) holds promise within the SMB and Mid-market business segments.

The IT Manager of a 70 employee size business with 4 servers using cloud, virtualization and managed services belonging to Network Increases Efficiency segment (Techaisle proprietary networking segmentation) said in another depth interview, “Yes, I have heard about SDN. I think it probably has an advantage of being much more flexible because of the different approaches that it has to dynamic network management. It has certain development tools that can be used to operate different network services. We, first of all need to investigate more about this technology and then see how well it fits in our infrastructure and only after we find enough information of it fitting the bill, should we implement it.”

The Opportunity

Techaisle’s research finds that 3 percent of small businesses and 11 percent of mid-market businesses globally have heard about Software Defined Networks. In the US the awareness jumps to 19 percent among mid-market businesses. SMBs that have some knowledge about SDNs, exhibit enhanced interest to adopt them in next 12-18 months with the objective of reducing their network related CAPEXs and managing their growth in cloud, mobility, big data technology usages.

Techaisle’s market sizing estimates that the SMB market for SDN will be US$204 million in 2016 growing at CAGR of nearly 81 percent. The market could open up more once the awareness and use cases increase.

The Concept

Software-defined networking (SDN) is a new approach to building computer networks that separates and abstracts the underlying networking elements thereby making the network more agile. SDN allows system administrators to quickly provision and program network connections on the fly instead of manually configuring policies. Administrators have programmable central control of network traffic without requiring physical access to the network's hardware devices.  Some even call this 'virtualizing the network', in the sense that each individual hardware switch may be part of multiple Layer 2 and Layer 3 networks and have its configuration and traffic management policies dynamically changed by the master network controller.

The Strides Made

Most of the large IT vendors have made very strong commitments to providing SDN solutions. Prominent among the larger IT vendors are:

    • Avaya with its Application Development Network (ADN)

 

    • Brocade with its Vyatta acquisition

 

    • Cisco with its Open Network Environment (ONE) and Cariden acquisition and funding of Insiemi

 

    • Dell with its Virtual Network Architecture (VNA)

 

    • HP with its Virtual Application Networks (VAN)

 

    • IBM with its Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet (DOVE)

 

    • Juniper with its Contrail Systems acquisition

 

    • VMware with its Nicira acquisition



Then there is OpenFlow, closely associated with SDN, an industry consortium of about 70 members, much like the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit group that oversees development of the OpenFlow protocol. Both Google and Facebook have adopted OpenFlow (ONF) protocol within their data center operations. And most of the new switches from networking vendors like Arista, Brocade, Dell/Force10, Extreme, Huawei, HP, IBM, Juniper, NEC, and Pronto are OpenFlow compatible.

‘OpenDaylight’ Project which includes Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Ericsson, IBM, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, Red Hat, NEC and VMware, aims to provide an open-source software-defined-networking (SDN) controller, with vendor-agnostic interfaces thereby accelerating innovation around the SDN controller itself.

All of the above points to tremendous jostling for leadership roles and confusion in the market place. In spite of the confusion, SDN will continue to gain acceptance as enterprises will develop proof of concepts and the market itself will shake out the true leaders in the next 3-4 years.

The Promise for SMBs

SDN is ideally suited for the SMB segment with its promise of reducing complexity, costs and management along with easing implementation of cloud, mobility, social and big data connectivity.

Specifically within the mid-market segment, SDN will begin to pop-up in conversations among CIOs and IT Directors when they find their businesses faced with:

    • Increased public and private Cloud adoption

 

    • Network's inability to provide flexibility required to support virtualization, cloud, and mobility

 

    • Inefficient network and traffic management with the explosion of devices, worker locations and applications

 

    • Deployment of ultra-low latency networks to effect real-time transactions especially for the financial services vertical and those working on big data analytics



Announcement from HP

However, it must be said, that SMBs will look for product solutions with embedded SDN. We are already starting to see some solutions for the SMB market segment along the same lines. A new BYOD solution bundle was announced at HP’s recent Global Partner Conference. The solution includes end-to-end management software, switches with integrated wired and wireless capabilities, and is extended with a software-defined security solution. Ever bullish on the SMB market, HP believes this is an easily deployable, complete solution for a small to medium sized-business, very cost-effective and that provides investment protection with free switch software upgrades for OpenFlow support. Not only does it mean lower capex, but also less maintenance and less complexity.

Indeed, there’s a viable play for SDN for SMBs. A perfect use case could include implementation of virtual routed network on hypervisors, a web-based unified management application for provisioning, monitoring and control of the entire distributed network.

Technology complexity is continuing to increase for SMBs. And Techaisle is finding that majority of SMBs are required to re-architect and re-configure their networks to make a move to cloud or virtualization. Most of these SMBs take external assistance either from an IT Consultant or their channel partner. Nevertheless, they all have one refrain that reconfiguration is extremely complex, time-consuming and resource intensive.

Final Remarks

SDN is yet very complex even for the most cutting edge and aggressive technology adopter SMBs. It requires tools and structures that are still evolving. Managed services was introduced into the market several years ago but the RMM, PSA and other tools are still being refined so one should not expect the channels or the SMBs to jump onto SDN immediately.

sdn-smb-techaisle-blog

There will be a lag between the enterprise and the SMB adopters. However, once products are available with SDN capabilities, SMBs will adopt SDN faster than enterprises. The SMBs that have virtualized their servers and storage will be the early adopters. Looking at potential savings SDN will a difficult opportunity to pass up on by the SMBs.

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