Scale Computing and Leostream – Is It Finally VDI’s Year?

Scale Computing announced a partnership with Leostream a little while ago. With the global pandemic drastically changing the way a large amount of organisations are working, it seemed like a good time to talk to Alan Conboy about how this all worked from a Scale Computing and Leostream perspective.

 

Easy As 1, 2

Getting started with Leostream is surprisingly simple. To start with, you’ll need to deploy a Gateway and a Broker VM. These are CentOS machines (if you’re a Scale Computing customer you can get likely some minimally configured, pre-packaged qcow appliances from Alan). You’ll need to punch a hole through your firewall for SSL traffic, and run a couple of simple commands on the VMs, but that’s it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The way it works is that Leostream has a small agent that you can deploy across the PCs in your fleet. When users hit the gateway they can be directed to their own (physical) desktop inside the organisation. They can then access their desktops remotely (using RDP, SSH, or VNC) over any browser that supports SSL and HTML5. So, rather than having to go out and grab a bunch of laptops, setup a VPN (or scale it out), and have a desktop image ready to go (along with the prerequisite VDI resources hosted somewhere), you can have your remote workforce working remotely from day 1. It comes with a Windows, Java, and Linux agent, so if you have users running macOS or Linux they can still come to the party.

I know I’ve done a bad job of describing the solution, so I recommend you check out this blog post instead.

 

Thoughts

I’m not at all passionate about VDI and End User Computing in the same way some people I know are. I always thought it was a neat solution that was frequently poorly executed and oftentimes cost a lot of money. But it’s a weird time for the world and, sadly, it might be something like a global pandemic that finally means that VDI gets its due as a useful solution for remote workers. I’d also like to point out that this is just a part of what Leostream can do. If you’re after something outside of the Scale Computing alliance – they can probably help you out.

I’ve spoken to Alan and the Scale Computing team about Leostream a few times now, and I really do like the idea of being able to bring users back into the network, rather than extending the network out to your users. You don’t have to go crazy acquiring a bunch of laptops or mobile devices for traditionally desk-bound users and re-imaging said laptops for those users. You don’t need to spend a tonne of cash on extra VPN connectivity or compute to support a bunch of new “desktop” VMs. Instead, in a fairly short amount of time, you can get users working the way they always have, with a minimum of fuss. This is exactly the kind of approach that I’ve come to expect from Scale Computing – keep it simple, easy to deploy, cost-conscious, and functional.

As I said before – VDI solutions don’t really excite me. But I do appreciate the flexibility they can offer in terms of the ability to access corporate workloads from non-traditional locales. This solution takes it a step further, and does a great job of delivering what could be a complicated solution in a simple and functional fashion. This is the kind of thing we need more of at the moment.

Random Short Take #20

Here are some links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 20 – feels like it’s becoming a thing.

  • Scale Computing seems to be having a fair bit of success with their VDI solutions. Here’s a press release about what they did with Harlingen WaterWorks System.
  • I don’t read Corey Quinn’s articles enough, but I am glad I read this one. Regardless of what you think about the enforceability of non-compete agreements (and regardless of where you’re employed), these things have no place in the modern workforce.
  • If you’re getting along to VMworld US this year, I imagine there’s plenty in your schedule already. If you have the time – I recommend getting around to seeing what Cody and Pure Storage are up to. I find Cody to be a great presenter, and Pure have been doing some neat stuff lately.
  • Speaking of VMworld, this article from Tom about packing the little things for conferences in preparation for any eventuality was useful. And if you’re heading to VMworld, be sure to swing past the VMUG booth. There’s a bunch of VMUG stuff happening at VMworld – you can read more about that here.
  • I promise this is pretty much the last bit of news I’ll share regarding VMworld. Anthony from Veeam put up a post about their competition to win a pass to VMworld. If you’re on the fence about going, check it out now (as the competition closes on the 19th August).
  • It wouldn’t be a random short take without some mention of data protection. This article about tiering protection data from George Crump was bang on the money.
  • Backblaze published their quarterly roundup of hard drive stats – you can read more here.
  • This article from Paul on freelancing and side gigs was comprehensive and enlightening. If you’re thinking of taking on some extra work in the hopes of making it your full-time job, or just wanting to earn a little more pin money, it’s worthwhile reading this post.

Scale Computing and Leostream – Better Than Bert And Ernie

Scale Computing recently announced some news about a VDI solution they delivered for Illinois-based Paris Community Hospital. I had the opportunity to speak with Alan Conboy about it and thought I’d share some coverage here.

 

VDI and HCI – A Pretty Famous Pairing

When I started to write this article, I was trying to think of a dynamic duo that I could compare VDI and HCI to. Batman and Robin? Bert and Ernie? MJ and Scottie? In any case, hyper-converged infrastructure and virtual desktop infrastructure has gone well together since the advent of HCI. It’s my opinion that HCI is in a number of enterprises by virtue of the fact that a VDI requirement arose. Once HCI is introduced into those enterprise environments, folks start to realise it’s useful for other stuff too.

Operational Savings

So it makes sense that Scale Computing’s HC3 solution would be used to deliver VDI solutions at some stage. And Leostream can provide the lifecycle manager / connection broker / gateway part of the story without breaking a sweat. According to Conboy Paris Community Hospital has managed to drastically reduce its operating costs, to the point that it’s reduced its resource investment to a part-time operations staff member to manage the environment. They’re apparently saving around $1 million (US) over the next five years, meaning they can now afford an extra doctor and additional nursing staff.

HCI – It’s All In The Box

If you’re familiar with HCI, you’ll know that most of the required infrastructure comes with the solution – compute, storage, and hypervisor. You also get the ability to do cool stuff in terms of snapshots and disaster recovery via replication.

 

Thoughts

VDI solutions have proven popular in healthcare environments for a number of reasons. They generally help the organisation control the applications that are run in the (usually) security-sensitive environment, particularly at the edge. It’s also useful in terms of endpoint maintenance, and removes the requirement to deploy high end client devices in clinical environments. It also provides a centralised mechanism to ensure that critical application updates are performed in a timely fashion.

You won’t necessarily save money deploying VDI on HCI in terms of software licensing or infrastructure investment. But you will potentially save money in terms of the operational resources required for endpoint and application support. If you can then spend those savings on medical staff, that has to be a win for the average healthcare organisation.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t get overly excited about VDI solutions. I can see the potential for value in some organisations, but I tend to lose focus rapidly when people start to talk to me about this stuff. That said, I do get enthusiastic about HCI solutions that make sense, and deliver value back to the business. It strikes me that this Scale Computing and Leostream combo has worked out pretty well for Paris Community Hospital. And that’s pretty cool. For more insight, Scale Computing has published a Customer Case Study that you can read here.

Atlantis – Not Your Father’s VDI

 

I’ve written about Atlantis Computing a few times before, and last week Bob Davis and Patrick Brennan were nice enough to run me through what they’ve been up to recently. What I’m about to cover isn’t breaking news, but I thought it worthwhile writing about nonetheless.

 

Citrix Workspace

Atlantis have been focusing an awful lot on Citrix workspaces lately, which I don’t think is a bad thing.

 

End-to-End Visibility

The beauty of a heavily integrated solution is that you get great insights all the way through the solution stack. Rather than having to look at multiple element managers to troubleshoot problems, you can get a view of everything from the one place. This is something I’ve had a number of customers asking for.

  • Single pane of glass for the entire virtual workspace infrastructure monitoring;
  • Proactive risk management for workspace;
  • Troubleshoot and identify workspace issues faster; and
  • Save money on operational costs.

 

Reporting

People love good reporting. So does Citrix, so you’ve got that in spades here as well.  Including:

  • Detailed historical information;
  • Proactive risk management;
  • Trending infrastructure requirements; and
  • Scaling with confidence.

 

On-demand Desktop Delivery

The whole solution can be integrated with the Citrix cloud offering, with:

  • Elastic dynamic provisioning on-premises or in the cloud with one management platform;
  • Rapid deployment of applications or desktops with simplified administration; and
  • Easy provision of Desktop as a Service.

 

HPE Intelligent Edge

It wouldn’t be product coverage without some kind of box shot. Software is nothing without hardware. Or so I like to say.

Here’s a link to the product landing page. It’s basically the HPE Edgeline EL4000 (4-Node) with m510 cartridges

  • M510 Cartridge: Intel Xeon D “Broadwell-DE” 1.7GHz – 16 cores w/ 128GB RAM
  • Equipped with NVMe
  • 4TB Effective Storage Capacity

It runs the full Citrix Stack: XenApp + XenDesktop + XenServer and was announced at Citrix Summit 2017.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I have a lot of clients using all kinds of different combinations to get apps and desktops to their clients. It can be a real pain to manage, and upgrades can be difficult to deliver in a seamless fashion. If you’re into Citrix, and I know a lot of people are, then the Atlantis approach using “full-stack management” certainly has its appeal.  It takes the concept of hyperconverged and adds a really useful layer of integration with application and desktop delivery, doing what HCI has done for infrastructure already and ratcheting it up a notch. Is this mega-hyperconverged? Maybe not, but it seems to be a smarter way to do things, albeit for a specific use case.

If there’s one thing that HCI hasn’t managed to do well, it’s translate the application layer into something as simple as the infrastructure that it’s hosted on. Arguably this is up to the people selling the apps, but it’s nice to see Atlantis having a crack at it.

Atlantis aren’t quite the household name that SimpliVity or Nutanix are (yes I know households don’t really talk about these companies either). But they’ve done some interesting stuff in the HCI space, and the decision to focus heavily on VDI has been a good one. There’s a lot to be said for solutions that are super simple to deploy and easy to maintain, particularly if the hosted software platform is also easy to use. Coupled with some solid cloud integration I think the solution is pretty neat, at least on paper. You can read about the announcement here. Here’s a link to the solution brief. If you’d like to find out more, head to this site and fill out the form. I’m looking forward to hearing about how this plays out in the data centre.