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Computing is more than ones and zeros

I am aware that computers and software are based on binary operations. Everything a computer does ultimately boils down to a one or a zero. But computing is not computers. Computing is defined as ‘the use or operation of computers.’ When using a computer you have many choices, many are binary choices, some are not. Do you use Chrome or Edge for your web browser? Do you use Microsoft Office or Google Docs for word processing and such? Even with just these things there are four different permutations of uses.

Now let us extrapolate all that to a full enterprise. If an individual has a minimum of four use cases, how much more might an enterprise have when they are dealing with one thousand or more users. Is it realistic to think that all one thousand users are going to have the same workflow or even if their job function allows for use of the same systems? It may happen, but that is likely the exception rather than the rule. Odds are that there are going to be business units or divisions of the enterprise that each have their unique requirements.

So far nothing I have said is very startling…until now. If the above information is true, it is surprising to find so many administrators trying to put everything into a monolithic solution. We are a Citrix shop, we are a VMware shop, we are a Nutanix shop…those are common statements to hear. The real concern is when it goes from, we are an X shop to we are an X only shop.

Let us take an example of an enterprise that traditionally has provided a virtual desktop environment to their users leveraging virtual desktops hosted on Nutanix and delivered by Citrix (note: total bias there but I am allowing it). The enterprise is growing through acquisition and recently acquired a small start-up in the Asia Pacific region and need to provide them access to the enterprise’s resources. The start-up has approximately ten users, no physical office space, and nobody with infrastructure experience. The standard would say they need a Nutanix cluster, but there is no place to put it. And the latency to get from APAC to the US could make for an extremely poor experience. So why not put some virtual desktops in Azure, where the desktops can be physically close to the users, providing a good front end experience, and then the backend communication can ride the Azure network?

Another concern is the enterprise wants to be judicious in its spend, particularly with an acquisition, so they are going to test Windows 10 multi-session. Trying to keep operations cost down during an acquisition is a common theme; however, this might not fit the enterprise standard. So why do something that defies the standard?

The answer is options. Keeping options open is something that does not seem to happen often enough, particularly in a large enterprise. Standards get in the way and become restrictions rather than guidance. Understanding the need for standard operating procedures, flexibility is a key feature that often gets overlooked. Even companies that want to be ‘cloud-first’ are often just leveraging public cloud as a hosting mechanism. Getting to the operational model of cloud gets lost.

So how might this look in an organization? I’ve had several discussions where the question is asked, ‘why if you have Azure Virtual Desktop would you add Citrix on top of it?’ or the reverse of ‘if you have Citrix, why would you look at Azure Virtual Desktop?’ Let us go back to the example up top. Company A acquires Company B based in Asia. Company A standard is to run virtual desktops on Nutanix in their datacenter in the US. In this case Company B is a small company of only ten users with nothing resembling a datacenter. Getting a virtual desktop close to them means putting it in Azure. If the are only going to be in Azure, perhaps Azure Virtual Desktop fits the bill a little bit better than trying to get Company B to ‘comply with the standard.’

This also explains why vendors produce features that are seemingly conflicting or redundant. Why does Microsoft still produce traditional Office when Office 365 is where they want users? Why does Nutanix allow you convert machines from their on-prem hosting to Azure? They realize that providing flexibility is what truly enables a business. If they limited options, a customer could easily tell them ‘You don’t fit the bill, have a nice day.’ By showing they provide flexibility, they show they want to make customers successful.

Keeping options open gives an enterprise flexibility when the unexpected happens. Planning solutions that keep options open is difficult, but so is trying to plan a solution on a compressed time frame. We all seem to be catching our breath from the pandemic and getting things planned out from that, but the economy is showing some signs of concern. Keeping in mind a solution that can scale down as well as up, can be hosted in different ways to maximize efficiency…. keep options open. Often the right answer in technology is BOTH AND, not EITHER OR.


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