Recent technological innovations skyrocketed in popularity with remarkable speed. The modern, capacitive touch screen smartphone, ushered in via the iPhone in 2007, only took a few years to become a ubiquitous phenomenon. But sometimes, it takes longer for a technology to take root, especially in certain niche markets.
That’s what happening with virtual desktop infrastructure in the public sector. It has been more than 13 years since VMware unveiled the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Alliance, but VDI is only now starting to take off for state and local governments. There is widespread interest in adopting VDI solutions among its state and local government customers, particularly in the public safety realm.
A 2017 study by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group anticipated strong growth for VDI in government agencies, with proportionate virtualized agency desktops expected to rise from 45 percent in 2015 to 58 percent in 2019.
VDI provides a desktop operating system to each client computer attached to a central server. VMware identifies several key benefits of the technology, including simplified management of end users from a centralized control console; reduced total cost of ownership, especially for provisioning, maintaining and monitoring desktop images; increased flexibility for end users; and centralized enforcement of endpoint security and policy configuration.
New York State’s Office of Information Technology Services notes on its website that VDI represents “a positive move toward the future, and aligns with ITS efforts to consolidate and centralize IT resources.” VDI, the agency notes, “streamlines support and reduces costs,” and at the same time “enables users to access virtual desktops anytime, from anywhere.”
VDI Enables Continuity of Operations for Government Users
The VDI market is not standing still. For example, last year Citrix introduced Citrix Cloud Government, a platform built directly on Microsoft Azure Government. The new Citrix platform provides Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) High Authorized Infrastructure as a Service. The platform, designed specifically for U.S. local, state and federal agencies, offers virtual desktop and application features.
VDI is also becoming more robust and capable than ever before.
“In the past, virtual desktops found a niche in computationally less-demanding environments such as education, healthcare and government. But thanks to cloud computing and the availability of fast networking, the performance and bandwidth needed to stream computationally intensive PC applications is now possible,” ComputerWeekly reports. These include streaming media applications and other bandwidth-intensive apps.
The city of Corona, Calif., which is home to more than 160,000 people and sits roughly 50 miles east of Los Angeles, is currently piloting Citrix’s VDI software based in the cloud to power Windows devices, according to Computerworld.
The city is starting with a few police cars but hopes to expand the effort to include its fire, water and other departments that have emergency workers who operate outside of traditional office environments. The city wants to ensure that it will have continuity of service in case of a natural disaster, especially one that takes out buildings or other critical IT infrastructure.
“We sit near the San Andreas fault, so any modernization effort has to take natural disasters into account,” Kyle Edgeworth., deputy CIO for Corona, tells Computerworld. “VDI gives us additional capability in that area.”
There are other clear benefits for the city. “With virtualization and Microsoft solutions for automated maintenance and deployment, we’re saving money, reducing IT response time, and accelerating ROI,” Corona CIO Chris McMasters tells Computerworld. “What used to be a four-day turnaround to resolve a computer problem may now take 10 to 20 minutes.”
VDI is not new, and probably not all that flashy compared to virtual reality, artificial intelligence and other emerging solutions. That doesn’t make it any less valuable, though, something state and local governments should remember as they modernize their IT infrastructure.