Here we are, on the cusp of one of the biggest workplace transformations in history. Four out of every ten employees around the world have switched to remote work in the past year, and according to one Global Workplace Analytics survey, as many as three quarters of them might never return to the office. What we’re experiencing now is the kind of seismic workforce shift that’s likely to be studied in economics courses for decades to come.
Large-scale changes like this call for new practices and new technologies. For the past 25 years, most organizations have supported remote computing through virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). And VDI was generally adequate for the small percentage of users who needed or wanted remote access prior to 2020. It provided them with a familiar desktop interface on a standardized client, and that was just enough to stay productive until they were back in the office.
From an IT standpoint, however, VDI was (and remains) overkill for most scenarios. As its name suggests, it requires additional infrastructure. That in turn demands more IT staff, more hardware, more licensing, more resources, more costs. Furthermore, when it comes to the needs of the average user, virtual desktops are a clear case of overprovisioning. It’s like handing someone the keys to an 18-wheeler when all they want is a fuel-efficient hybrid sedan.
DaaS: VDI by another name
In recent years, virtual desktop solutions have morphed into desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). DaaS leverages the cloud to deliver some of the same benefits of VDI but with slightly less complexity and lower CapEx budgeting.
Despite these advantages, DaaS still doesn’t address the overprovisioning issue. What the majority of users need is secure access to a select pool of business-critical apps. Yet DaaS gives them a full-blown desktop whether they want it or not.
The additional problem that remains unsolved by both DaaS and VDI is device agnosticism. Long before COVID-19 hit, organizations were struggling to get to grips with the proliferation of mobile devices. The user that was once content with a Windows desktop now had a Chromebook, an iPhone and an Android tablet. And they wanted to toggle between those devices seamlessly throughout the day.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. As organizations attempted to adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, IT wound up saddled with having to find some way to support their variety without having to divert even more staff time to do it. When BYOD employees went remote and began working out of very different home environments, that only multiplied the number of variables that IT had to contend with.
Apps, the new paradigm
The massive uptake of mobile devices has had another important and far-reaching effect. It’s changed how users approach computing. Today, the OS is more or less an afterthought. Instead users think almost entirely in terms of apps.
Trends like these have given rise to a robust new paradigm for remote computing: virtual app delivery. Departing from the practice of foisting a full desktop experience on users by default, virtual app delivery is a strategic solution that gives users convenient access to specific apps on any device in any location. This solves the perennial problems of overprovisioning and device agnosticism in one fell swoop.
Compared to VDI and DaaS, virtual app delivery has the following key advantages:
- Rapid deployment: A 2020 ESG survey found that nearly half of all VDI/DaaS deployments required third-party implementation services to get off the ground. Whereas organizations have to set aside extra time and resources to deploy virtual desktop solutions, virtual app delivery can be rolled out in a matter of hours.
- Lower costs: When it comes to the costs of upfront infrastructure and ongoing licensing, virtual application delivery platforms can cut them by up to 75%. Over half of the respondents to the ESG survey also reported that their VDI/DaaS deployments required 10+ full-time employees. By contrast, virtual apps can be deployed and administered by one person.
- Tighter security: VDI and DaaS introduce new, complex infrastructure that can create security gaps. Virtual app delivery is inherently much more streamlined and maintains a small footprint—with solutions like Cameyo leveraging the native browser to give remote users easy, secure access to Windows and internal web apps.
That’s encouraged more and more organizations to migrate away from VDI or DaaS in favor of virtual app delivery. In fact, virtual app delivery is likely to reach parity of adoption within a few years.
The right tool for the job
The evolution of remote computing from VDI to DaaS to virtual app delivery doesn’t mean that older technologies have to be abandoned altogether. It actually means that organizations have more choice than ever before.
For example, organizations can scale down their existing VDI or DaaS deployments to cater exclusively to the small pool of power users who still need the full desktop experience. Those same organizations can also use virtual app delivery alongside virtual desktops to give the majority of users the secure, seamless access they need to all of their business-critical apps.
This more balanced approach creates a rich digital workspace ecosystem that empowers users with the precise tools they need to stay connected and productive—on any device, from any location. And that kind of cost-effective flexibility is exactly what’s needed for the hybrid and remote workforces that are taking shape as we speak.