In a world where IT and large information systems are dominating the needs of most companies, virtualization is a miracle solution. Indeed, this technology makes it possible to get rid of an indeterminate number of physical workstations by virtualizing them. But how do you manage so many positions at once?
An essential element of the various virtualization solutions, the management console! Beyond the technical prowess, the problem now is: which solution to choose? Many companies have felt the right way, so DaaS, VDI, server infrastructure, Cloud, which choice to make?
Before getting to the heart of the matter, a little reminder of the basics is necessary. Let’s start with the definition of the two technologies presented in this article: VDI and DaaS. We will then discuss the centralized management solution proposed by Microsoft: SCCM, and finally we will see in detail the solution proposed by Wisper: ceBox®.
1 – VDI, centralized management via a unified virtual image
VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), makes it possible to dissociate the (virtual) machine from the end user of the physical machine. The system is based on a server infrastructure that allows the user’s office and application content to be transferred, creating a virtual office that encompasses the computer and software capabilities of the workstation.
By running virtual machines on servers, the power of the user terminal is thus untapped, which has favored the emergence of thin clients, even the famous 0 clients.
There are several VDI oriented solutions like Citrix XenDesktop, View Horizon at VMWare, Hyper V at Microsoft.
The advantages of VDI to centralize the management of your fleet
VDI promised to bring many benefits to IT departments, starting with centralized desktop management. The management of masters shared by different users allows groups based on the same software image to be managed: centralized updates, scheduled starts, homogenization, automation, security, rapid deployment of patches or patches, etc.
Another key advantage of VDI is the non-persistent mode. Wisper was one of the first VDI players to offer the non-persistent mode. This mode, also called “Read Only”, allows you to find an image that conforms to the original master image each time the workstations are restarted. This major asset for security makes it possible in particular to get rid of malware with a simple restart and to actively fight against IT shadow.
VDI also allows multiple virtual machines to be offered on a single terminal. For specific uses, this asset is often praised by developers, call centers or training centers.
Last but not least, the VDI makes it possible to offer virtual images “on the fly” for specific uses such as external access, trainee workstations, etc. In a few minutes, the virtual machine is assigned to a user and recovered as it is as soon as the terminal is switched off.
The disadvantages of VDI for centralising fleet management
The main shortcomings of VDI would first of all be the high cost of the necessary infrastructure, which may discourage some decision-makers, knowing that this may cost more than fully equipping the company with physical workstations.
In addition to the cost of hardware (servers, terminals etc…), it is necessary to ensure redundancy of the infrastructure and its maintenance, without forgetting that this type of equipment must constantly be air-conditioned to avoid any overheating.
VDI offers limited performance when tackling resource-intensive tasks such as multimedia, i.e. image processing, video editing etc.
In addition to hardware costs, VDA licensing costs are generally underestimated by companies. It is however a license imposed by Microsoft within the framework of the virtualization of its OS which is added to the Windows license. If this cost is not taken into account during the planning phase, the VDI infrastructure budget can soar to around $100 per position per year.
From a software point of view, business applications that require modifications or specific settings locally are difficult or impossible to virtualize. This can also be accompanied by storage problems since a specific setting can lead to a local backup of the configuration.
Added to all this is training for administrators and a loss of mobility as users are no longer as independent with VDI. This is due to the centralization of the system.
Moreover, moving from a “traditional” computer park to a VDI park requires a lot of upstream planning, knowing that technologies are still evolving at a dizzying speed and that it is necessary to resize the network in anticipation of the strong impact on the bandwidth that VDI can have.
It is therefore essential not to make mistakes when choosing the equipment, network layout and technology to adopt.
To conclude, we can say that VDI has not had the desired effect on the desktop management market, even if it is beginning to take precedence over RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) session use, its use is now limited to specific uses such as public workstations, developers or trainee workstations.
2 – DaaS, an office on demand in the Cloud
DaaS, Desktop as a Service, is a relatively new term on the market because it corresponds in particular to the arrival and explosion of “Cloud Computing” services.
As a reminder, cloud computing, used to virtualize workstations, is limited to harnessing the power and storage of computer servers via the Internet through a remote display. This service is generally offered on a pay-per-use basis.
The advantages of DaaS to centralize the management of its fleet
The DaaS has the main advantage of freeing itself from any server infrastructure cost, which solves anything that is hardware or software failure, or even maintenance!
Indeed, the supplier takes care of the provisioning of the resources, the distribution of the loads and even the network, the management of the park is thus easier because the architecture is not complete.
The subscription system allows flexibility in cost management as it is charged on a pay-per-use basis. On the software side, DaaS allows you to easily equip yourself with the latest versions of the market without compatibility problems.
The DaaS takes all its relevance for the use of web application. Another advantage, and not the least, is mobility. Since workstations linked to the Cloud are not directly connected to a server, it is thus easier to apprehend the movements of each one, this “non connection” also plays on the level of security, workstations are thus easier to patch or even to restore.
Last point concerning the advantages, the network, the stations are most often connected to the company environment via a secure connection such as a VPN tunnel for example.
The disadvantages of DaaS to centralize the management of its fleet
One criticism of DaaS, apart from its novelty on the market, is that most of the current suppliers only provide conventional programs, often those by default of the different versions of Windows, all the other applications must be provided internally by the IT department.
DaaS suppliers offering turnkey solutions are currently rare. Always concerning suppliers, it is imperative to ensure, if not continuity of service, compensation in the event of unavailability.
Some solutions may not support USB devices or printing, for example.
We must also ensure the protection of private data. On the licensing side, we find the same problem as with VDI, software licenses are very expensive, market players are always looking for a solution to make them more adapted to the DaaS business model.
In addition, for the operating system, the client company must have its own licenses.
Last point: in case of internet failure, the user’s virtual machine is unavailable. Moreover, it is unimaginable to consider deporting your entire workstation fleet to a DaaS solution: the WAN (Internet) link, for the display offset being, most of the time, not enough.
3 – SCCM, the veteran
Before the arrival of these different technologies on the fleet management market,’physical’ information systems were managed via software solutions such as SCCM, System Center Configuration Manager from the world-renowned and recognized American publisher, Microsoft.
SCCM has been able to manage large IT assets since its first version in 1994.
The advantages of SCCM to centralize the management of its fleet
The possibility of task automation, remote control, patch management, application distribution, security policy administration and since 2013, the deployment of complete operating systems make SCCM the most used solution for fleet management in recent years.
With support for the latest Windows 10 features, updates are easier and mobile devices are supported.
During a migration, SCCM allows to keep local data by copying them on a server and then on the new machine. This process is fully automated and no data is lost. This allows the local IT department not to waste time reinstalling an image on the new workstation.
The disadvantages of SCCM to centralize the management of its fleet
SCCM is of rare complexity. The installation process alone takes an enormous amount of time and it is imperative to know the ins and outs of an initial installation.
Concerning logs, there are 138 different files, so it takes courage to find the right one. Moreover, the application is relatively slow, it is the price to pay to be able to manage several hundreds or even thousands of workstations, the changes made will never be applied instantaneously.
If a workstation is not connected during the deployment of a security patch or if it does not have the correct version of SCCM, it will never benefit from the patch or update, which represents a major security hole!
Also, if ever a problem occurs within the application, the troubleshooting is very complex, the application is so vast that it covers an important number of parameters and the slightest grain of sand in the machine can cause a deterioration of the service as well as a considerable loss of time!
In summary, SCCM has long been the only solution capable of meeting the need for centralization of IT services, but its complexity of use to obtain 100% reliability pushes companies to remain attentive to market solutions.
4 – ceBox®, the innovative management solution
The Wisper ceBox® solution combines the best of the centralized solutions (see above) without their constraints.
Marketed at the end of 2017, CeBox® is designed to enable centralized management of a set of workstations by combining the power of a PC, the intelligence and flexibility of the cloud, all without any server infrastructure or impact on existing network links.
Put that way, it could sound like magic or a lie. Yet, all this is true, many CIOs are adopting the right solution for these many benefits.
The advantages of ceBox® to centralize the management of your fleet
This solution proposed by Wisper is ideal for all kinds of office automation stations. The workstations are standardized via a common image, via a process called masterization, including the chosen operating system (Linux, Windows…) as well as business applications.
Thanks to its clever use of Intel’s NUC, a small box as powerful as a conventional computer, ceBox® can boast of combining both the advantages of the VDI and those of the DaaS for which it also owns the business model, namely the subscription model.
Indeed, the NUC provides the necessary power to perform tasks that would not be within reach of a VDI infrastructure, such as image processing, DTP, etc…. Using the IGD makes it possible to offer a user experience largely comparable to that of a classic PC. Indeed the virtual machine uses the hardware graphics chipset directly and not a virtual graphics card.
Another advantage is that the ceBox® solution allows workstations to remain powerful and reactive over time thanks to the non-persistent mode. On each reboot, the disk that does not contain the user data returns to a clean image that conforms to what has been defined by the administrators.
As management is centralised via the console developed for this purpose, management of deployments, updates and security patches is carried out in just a few minutes and on all workstations. Unlike SCCM, updates are not pushed to the user machine, but it is the user machine that comes to get its virtual image, and has no choice but to start on the updated image made available by the IT department.
What could be better than making sure that 100% of the workstations have really benefited from the patch and that the entire park is secure?
Moreover, from this same console, it is also possible to take in hand the various virtual machines running regardless of their location.
In terms of security, ceBox® natively manages VLANs and USB port blocking if the latter is provided for in the group’s IS policy. In addition, the non-persistent mode prevents the spread of any malware across the park through a simple reboot and in the event of a cyber attack, centralized management of OS and application updates ensures great responsiveness.
Finally, through an add-on, the ceBox® solution allows to manage a unified image and to customize user environments according to their needs.
An application “masking” system will allow ultra simplified management, for increased productivity of IT teams.
The disadvantages of ceBox® to centralize the management of your fleet
Cannot recycle existing positions
No synchronization with the AD, therefore impossible to manage software resources according to users
No very powerful graphics cards for large graphics resource requirements
no multi machines simultaneously
The ceBox® solution does not yet manage mobility. Indeed, ceBox® is not compatible with any laptop PC. However, this feature is announced for 2019.
The solution does not allow either to manage BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) insofar as thisBox® relies exclusively on Intel NUC boxes. Here again, the Wisper teams are redoubling their ingenuity to offer this functionality.