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HPE bolsters VDI product offerings

With an eye toward maintaining business continuity, HPE is making VDI product moves. Experts said the news comes at a critical time for companies.

HPE is bolstering its VDI product offerings as it looks to ensure business continuity for its customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 2, the company released higher-performance VDI hardware and new preconfigured server products, intended to assist customers in setting up virtual desktops quickly.

Saadat MalikSaadat Malik

Saadat Malik, vice president of IoT and intelligent edge services at HPE, said customers he spoke to, from those with limited business continuity plans to those that transitioned easily to remote work, faced a common challenge: striking the right balance between employee productivity and security in such extreme circumstances.

"They want to keep [their businesses] going, but they don't want to be exposed to a massive amount of security risk," he said. "VDI keeps coming up as one of the options for many of these customers."

Industry observers said HPE's moves were well-timed, as they come at a moment when firms are reevaluating their tech options in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Eric KleinEric Klein

"[HPE] is pretty smart to do this at this time right now," said independent technology analyst Eric Klein. "The timing is good, and the interest level is there."

New VDI offerings

HPE's new, preconfigured products are intended to provide Citrix and VMware virtual desktop environments to organizations with as few as 80 workers and as many as 2,000. These offerings make use of HPE's traditional ProLiant brand of servers as well as its composable infrastructure Synergy servers.

Malik said HPE's aim is to help customers get these products deployed quickly, but also to ensure these businesses are positioned to achieve their long-term goals.

"I know it's a very urgent situation, and customers want to jump and very quickly get stuff up and going to get their businesses up and running," he said. "Just a few moments of looking strategically … ensures the decisions they're making today make sense in the long term as well."

HPE's VDI product, Moonshot, uses the recently released HPE ProLiant m750 server blade and is geared toward power users who are working from home. HPE said the offering provides a 70% performance boost and uses 25% less power than the previous generation.

Andrew HewittAndrew Hewitt

Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the commitment to power users was a notable one, given that VDI performance in heavy compute use cases has historically been a sticking point.

Adjusting to a pandemic

Given the pandemic, Malik said, firms must balance moving quickly with ensuring security, limiting risk and aligning tech investments with their long-term strategies. He noted that quick fixes to meet the needs of the present day are not always beneficial for the future; adopting an easy video-conferencing option, for example, might overlook other business needs.

"The right thing to do is to step back and ask them the question, 'What is the business you're in, and what are the requirements of that business?'" he said. "Maybe conferencing is an immediate requirement, but there may be applications beyond conferencing that they need employees to share and gain access to. If we dig a little deeper, we may find out they need something heavier than a conferencing solution."

Hewitt said the need for remote work products, driven by work-from-home measures, was high. Virtual desktop infrastructure, he said, is one piece of the overall puzzle of ensuring workers remain productive.

HPE's announcements, Hewitt said, come as interest in VDI product offerings has spiked.

I think it's a good move, overall.
Andrew HewittAnalyst, Forrester Research

"I think it's a good move, overall," he said.

Klein said virtual desktops appear to be well-suited to meet the current remote work demands, having matured substantially over the years.

"[VDI] used to be a cost-prohibitive technology; there were too many components required [and] it was difficult to configure and administer," he said. "We're at that point where [IT organizations] have to make some decisions on how to provision and support their users. Provisioning users now with applications through VDI is really seamless and nice."

In the longer term, though, Klein questioned whether web apps, delivered through a browser, might supplant virtual desktops, given the potential for cost savings.

"That's going to be an interesting fight," he said.

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