What is virtual desktop sprawl? It’s the creeping rise of unused desktops, parked to the side when staff leave an organisation. By looking to next-gen virtual desktop technologies, such as Amazon Workspaces, and using automation practices, organisations can make savings and gain efficiencies, CMD Solutions’ Fred Dy writes.

A feature of many larger organisations is the gap between concluding employment and decommissioning the employees infrastructure, which includes informing the IT department to delete an employee’s virtual desktop from its systems.

In many organisations after a user leaves the organisation, their virtual desktop was placed in maintenance mode so that the virtual desktop broker didn’t mark it as ‘available’ in the virtual desktop pool. Whether or not the status of the desktop placed in maintenance mode was reviewed, and actually deleted, was dependent on the resourcing and priorities of the virtual desktop team. Often the result was a fleet of VDIs that were not in use but put aside, which is known as virtual desktop sprawl.

As you would expect there is an adverse impact of virtual desktop sprawl, the underlying infrastructure resources are reserved and ultimately restrict the number of new users that can be allocated to the solution before having to upgrade the underlying hardware. It can restrict the overall performance of the solution and can increase the amount of maintenance needed to manage the solution.

Some organisations clean-up more or less efficiently, but the point is that often, decommissioning of virtual desktops is not viewed as a critical function or understood as a way of making the business more efficient and effective, particularly in on-premise environments.

The approach to VDI is changing though, as VDI on cloud services provide the opportunity to reduce reliance on manual management of virtual desktops, improve scalability and speed, and easily provision only the systems that are needed.

Amazon Workspaces is one service changing the landscape of desktop provisioning. We at CMD, use Amazon Workspaces to provide managed DaaS (Desktop as a Service) services, hosted within a customer dedicated Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) on AWS. The service is fully managed by CMD, our customers just manage user access and provide the application software to be packaged.  

CMD has a custom process of provisioning a user Workspace using a Lambda function after a user gets added to Active Directory, and removing the Workspace using another Lambda function after a user gets removed from Active Directory group. This design streamlines the VDI lifecycle process, and removes reliance on manual processes and the IT staff’s ‘proactiveness’ to delete stale desktops.

This type of automated commissioning and decommissioning process becomes all the more compelling for particular use cases of cloud DaaS solutions, such as consultants working on short assignments and being provided a Workspace, or a large university where the turnover of students  – and their corresponding Workspace – can be quite frequent. It represents an opportunity for organisations to reduce maintenance and cost overheads.

CMD-managed DaaS using Amazon Workspaces includes other benefits, like potential cost savings utilising the pay-per-desktop consumption based service, the ability to quickly ‘spin up’ desktops to users wherever they are located around the globe, and to offer employees the option to ‘bring your own device’ without compromising the enterprise security controls.

Automation is the key to solving the issue of under utilised virtual desktop environments. If your organisation is considering a cloud-based VDI solution, like Amazon Workspaces, it’s critical to ensure you’re getting the most out of the technology and automating processes like provisioning so as not to leave resources hanging around. It’s only through automation the business will get the full benefits of cost and scalability.