Over the past couple of years, a battle has been brewing. The battle is not about technology or devices. It is about data and usability. The contenders are Software as a Service (SaaS) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). There are proponents for both camps. And while they are not a direct replacement for each other, they do overlap in many ways. For many, the core value proposition for VDI comes from a specific application or data set. While VDI could be used for other activities, their value simply doesn’t reach the tipping point.
Challenges for VDI
While VDI has been around for many years, it has struggled to make significant inroads into today’s IT environment. In the interim, other solutions have filled the gap. The leading challenges to VDI are the value vs. the cost to implement and operate (as compared to the alternatives). In addition, as we move to a more mobile workforce, the underlying technology that connects clients and servers becomes more challenging for mobile devices.
The Impact of BYOD
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) presents somewhat of a curveball for VDI. On one hand, BYOD increases the demand for VDI by moving applications and data off personally owned devices. Seems simple enough to implement VDI as a response to address the app/ data challenges with BYOD. However VDI brings a new set of challenges in a BYOD scenario that only adds to the already existing BYOD complexities. In the end, the offset is not as rosy as the surface would indicate. BYOD also creates demand that can be serviced by other means. Meaning, VDI is not the only option here.
Leapfrog to SaaS
Over the past few years, SaaS applications have matured significantly. That is in part due to the marketplace. It is also due to the maturity changes within the IT organization. There are three types of demand that could warrant bypassing VDI and going straight to SaaS. The first is off-the-shelf applications. Movement from an internally hosted software package to a SaaS offered version is one way to make the move. The second is greenfield applications. At this stage, IT organizations building new applications should be evaluating cloud-based architectures. The third are the legacy applications. Some of these will continue to require client-server based architectures. However, at the appropriate time, a change will be needed for legacy apps. It is important to understand where that tipping point is. If SaaS is an option, it presents an opportunity to leapfrog over the incremental improvements and should be considered.
Healthcare: A Case for SaaS vs. VDI
Specialized use cases demand further scrutiny over the requirements and potential solutions. Healthcare is a great example where HIPAA’s requirements around Protected Health Information (PHI) are a key consideration. Many healthcare providers are finding new ways to engage patients while working within compliance requirements. VDI seems like a good fit, right? Wrong. Yes, it could work. But the reality is that usability becomes a strong factor in consideration. Add in the movement to mobile users and SaaS (or mobile apps) start to look more appealing.
Bottom Line: As SaaS becomes commonplace for applications, the existing demand for VDI will further diminish. Unless there is a compelling use-case today, investing in VDI is probably a poor choice.