Working from Home: Architecting for the New Normal

Leveraging Desktop-as-a-Service in the time of COVID-19

Oscar Cobles

In previous blog articles, we discussed how businesses should proactively prepare for any unknown situation and increase their resiliency. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good example of what we meant by an “unknown situation.” If we had asked any company a year ago if they expected something like this to happen, no one could have answered “Yes.”

One of the pandemic’s main challenges was that many offices had to close overnight and enable all their employees to work from home. After that, the struggle began for those IT departments trying to support the massive increase of homeworkers. Specifically, they needed to maintain both computer availability as well as similar working conditions, such as supporting access to internal services or providing good network quality without compromising security. In the blog article, “Data Privacy vs Data Security in the New World,” one of our recommended approaches to working from home was through a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

Most mature VDI solutions in the market have demonstrated how private desktop virtualization solutions, including those in the cloud, give companies the flexibility, accessibility, control and cost efficiency required to drive digital transformation. But there are other options that offer the flexibility of VDI plus the agility of hosted, public cloud services, such as Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions.

One of the pandemic's main challenges was that many offices had to close overnight and enable all their employees to work from home.

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DaaS – Enabling Remote Workforces

In addition to all the advantages of the traditional VDI systems, hosted DaaS solutions quickly and smoothly address teleworking challenges in the following ways:

  1. Swift implementation: Fully-managed options, such as AWS Workspaces, Windows Virtual Desktops (Azure), VMware Cloud or Itopia (Google Cloud Marketplace), allow you to remove the VDI expertise barrier and enable remote working in a matter of hours through a self-service portal.
  2. Easy connection from any device: Since it is hosted in the cloud, you can enable access to DaaS solutions from any internet-enabled device.
  3. No long-term contracts needed: You can cancel the service at any time.
  4. Cost efficiency: There is no hardware to maintain, so you can turn CAPEX into OPEX with a pay-per-use model.
  5. Improved control and management: Implicit cloud benefits such as automation and orchestration services let you simplify IT management.
  6. Enhanced security: Extend your on-premises security and governance policies together with cloud authentication tools and services.

Putting DaaS into action in the real world

A call center was forced to close its office and enable teleworking for all its employees. The company had dozens of desktop computers shared between employees in multiple shifts with a “thick client” for its in-house VDI software. The IT department followed these steps to deploy the solution:

  1. Asked employees to use their personal laptop or buy a laptop (approx. 100 PCs).
  2. Installed thick client and all required software in each laptop.
  3. Bought/Upgraded/Installed additional VPN hardware to handle hundreds of point-to-site (P2S) connections.
  4. Increased capacity and network bandwidth.

The result of this solution created further issues for the company such as unstable network performance, saturated bandwidth and security risks due to using personal computers for work. It also took weeks to implement and was expensive due to the added hardware costs.

In addition to all the advantages of the traditional VDI systems, hosted DaaS solutions quickly and smoothly address teleworking challenges

At Equinix, we propose a solution to customers facing similar issues that is based on a cloud-hosted VDI/DaaS, along with Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) and Network Edge services from Equinix, to extend their on-premises footprint into the cloud:

  1. All major cloud service providers (CSP) have their own DaaS solution and they all come together inside Equinix data centers. Choose a solution from vendors such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, VMWare Cloud and many others.
  2. Leverage cloud automation and, only once, define a template with the required OS and software installation.
  3. Extend your on-premises VDI infrastructure to the cloud while maintaining control:
    • Include ECX Fabric™ to gain direct and secure software-defined interconnection from your network to the cloud. ECX Fabric sits adjacent to cloud-based collaboration platforms. Moving video and voice traffic over high-speed, low-latency connections improves the end user experience, which especially applies to customer call centers.
    • Even without a presence in Equinix, you can quickly deploy a Network Edge virtual networking device via the ECX Fabric Portal and connect it to your network service provider (NSP) colocated at Equinix to extend your network without needing additional physical infrastructure.
  1. Let your employees quickly and safely work remotely, just by installing a light client in any internet-enabled device.

The benefits for the IT department and the remote workers include:

  • Improved accessibility and reduced maintenance with fully managed services.
  • Integrated security cloud services such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • The flexibility to increase/decrease bandwidth on demand.

Having ECX Fabric in place also allows you to connect securely to third-party providers required for your business such as Salesforce or SAP. And the time to deployment for this solution just takes hours, at less cost.

Findings and recommendations

  • Do not wait to find yourself in an extreme situation to define your remote desktop strategy.
  • Take advantage of the special DaaS offers for new customers that some cloud providers are making to support working from home.
  • Embrace hybrid-cloud models by leveraging ECX Fabric and Network Edge services.

In addition, DaaS solutions have many benefits, but for those companies with special requirements, they can host cloud agnostic VDI farms within an Equinix Performance Hub.

Learn more by visiting Remote Access and Online Collaboration.