Insight by Nutanix

How the pandemic jump started the move to desktop-as-a-service


Over the last nine months, the coronavirus has jump-started agency IT modernization.

Agencies had to pivot on a dime to make sure hundreds of thousands employees could work remotely. Agencies also leaned heavily on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics in the cloud to help find solutions to a range of other challenges.

As agencies move into calendar year 2021, agencies must consider how they can take that momentum from the pandemic around IT modernization and continue to be innovative in how they solve challenges.

Chip George, the vice president of U.S. Public Sector at Nutanix, said there are ways for agencies to continue to evolve the technology that supports their mission and citizen services.

One of the biggest trends that emerged was the use of desktop-as-a-service, George said. Nutanix, which received its authorization under the Federal Risk Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) just before the pandemic hit, saw a steady increase in the use of DaaS as part of agencies move to public and private cloud services over the last year.

“Some of the studies we’ve seen, McKinsey went and looked and said during the pandemic, ‘did you move slower or faster given this stress of how to put everyone at home in terms of implementing cloud services and desktop-as-a-service. They basically found people moved 40 times faster [toward modernization] than they expected between getting those things out there in the cloud,” George said on the IT Innovation Insider sponsored by Nutanix.

Desktop-as-a-service is similar to a virtual desktop interface (VDI) providing a scalable and flexible approach to ensure capacity for remote workers.

George said part of the reason why desktop-as-a-service caught on was also the broader acceptance of the “pay-by-the-drink” model or the consumption model.

He said agencies grew more comfortable buying software-as-a-service based on what the needs of their employees are versus just doing a best guess estimate.

“We did see that play out even with this accelerant of the pandemic where people are driving to this consumption model that is subscription based. They are moving some of these workloads and applications into the cloud, an all subscription based approach that provides agility for a plenty of government agencies,” he said. “They will spend less. They can also budget more carefully. And certainly, and we saw it again this year with the federal budgets and continuing resolution, a lot of times it is much more stable during those continuing resolution months because you know exactly what you’re spending.”

At the same time, George said agencies also realized during the pandemic that not every application or workload was suited for the cloud or this consumption model.

Agencies are getting better at recognizing that some applications and workloads are better suited to remain on-premise or come back on-premise after being put in the cloud initially.

“We certainly saw that both the move to cloud and fully baked software-as-a-service are getting a lot of investment as agencies hurrying to make applications more available and more scalable because the demands of the pandemic,” he said. “But some of those were looked at and folks said ‘I think we can serve that better on-premise. We saw a significant investment from our federal and our defense agencies hustling to deliver cloud-like capabilities, but doing it from on premise. They were trying the things they wanted out of cloud, which is speed and agility and scale, but doing it on premise.”

George said it’s no surprise that this hybrid cloud set-up will continue to be the way agencies run their infrastructure in the near future.

He said one of the main reasons agencies will stay in this mixed environment is cybersecurity.

The use of micro-segmentation of the network will become more important.

“Basically we’re saying if you get into this data, it’ll be harder to get to the other data because you’ve segmented all your data, and you can’t traverse around very easily,” George said. “It also gives you time to respond and time to recover.”

George added agencies must continue to make remote access to data, applications and systems easy and secure as the IT modernization journey continues to evolve.

“The lift and shift is exactly what people are trying to avoid. That speaks to the how hard it can be to get to cloud. But some of those applications don’t lend themselves to that,” he said. “So the first thing they should do is improve the underlying infrastructure of that application, and then give yourself the chance to say, ‘Did that achieve the speed and agility I was looking for? Or even if it did, then I can move it to the cloud much more easily if what I’ve done is converged and improve the operations and management of that underlying infrastructure on-premise?’ So improve what you’ve got, look at the apps that are appropriate to go to the cloud for cost concerns, then move them and it won’t be lift-and-shift anymore, and it won’t create silos of completely different operations.”

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