Flexible, scalable and efficient technologies are in demand, as they reflect modern business practice, and the EUC domain is no exception, CMD Solutions’ Asim Rasheed writes.

Technology is a key platform underpinning how efficiently an organisation operates in modern enterprise. As organisations focus on ways to adapt and innovate to gain competitive advantage, be more efficient and improve profits, evolving technology within specific domain areas to support change is key. End User Computing (EUC) is one such area. Flexible, scalable and efficient technologies are in demand, as they reflect modern business practice, and EUC is no exception. EUC is an integral part of any business, fulfilling the function of providing the systems and applications that people need to perform their jobs and drive business. It’s therefore critical that EUC enables access in alignment with geographical separation requirements, using consistently secure access patterns, and meeting the diverse performance needs of the variety of systems an organisation typically hosts and operates.

The modern business

Today, businesses expect their users to connect to business applications not only from the main office premise, but from locations around the country and globe using different devices. As well, users often need to collaborate with geographically distributed teams that may have different access profiles and these teams may be made up of internal and external providers, meaning flexibility and security is key. Virtualisation has played a vital role over the last decade in the growth of the EUC market by enabling scalability within a more efficient operating model, increasing the density of systems that can share resources on a single server. Rising to the challenge of increasing agility, manageability and security within a diverse user base – which needs its apps available to it no matter where they are and regardless of the end user device – is taking EUC to the next level.

Modern EUC management

At the macro level, cloud computing addresses these challenges as it provides security, agility, flexibility and when configured and managed correctly is very cost effective. Although not new, the ‘pay-as you go’ consumption based model to EUC management now is seeing a surge in the type and maturity of services available on cloud. Historically, the leading players in the virtualised EUC market have been Citrix and VMware, which have solutions that typically work well with on-premise based hosting models. However, as enterprise customer needs change rapidly, they’re taking advantage of the benefits of adopting cloud based services, which is where Amazon End User Computing specialist services comes into the picture as an alternative to the traditional approach. Within the Amazon EUC offering there are two key services, Amazon Workspaces and Amazon Appstream 2.0 – essentially the equivalent of Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp. Amazon Workspaces is a virtual machine running as service in the AWS Cloud environment and the AppStream 2.0 Service provides a streamed application experience for users over a browser or client. At CMD, we’ve used Workspaces and AppStream 2.0 to solve the typical customer challenges associated with End User Computing.

The use case

Here’s one example: The challenge At the outset of a recent CMD EUC project our client was facing cost pressures from the Azure hosted Citrix environment and management challenges with a dispersed workforce. There was additional complexity in the Azure/Citrix solution, where having two vendors involved to provide one service was not ideal as it delayed resolutions due to inter-dependencies between the two providers. An additional challenge was a complex, in-flight SAP implementation which needed to be integrated with other business systems as part of the EUC service. The integration to BC, SAP GUI, Analysis for Office, IBM Cognos TM1 etc posed many challenges in terms of the application talking to each component internally. Providing a solution CMD was engaged to move from the Azure hosted Citrix environment to AWS. Workspaces and AppStream 2.0 provided a single Vendor Solution that met our client’s security, scalability, and agility requirements while remaining cost effective. The solution used Amazon Workspaces to replace Azure hosted XenDesktop, and on-premises XenDesktop. Amazon AppStream 2.0 was used to replace Citrix XenApp applications. The CMD team provisioned a highly available compute environment spread across multiple availability zones to address resiliency challenges. Security was baked into the solution by using KMS and TLS to encrypt all in-flight and at-rest data. A custom AD group membership based provisioning workflow was created and established by CMD to provide the client with self service provisioning of EUC devices on AWS as required. With a large user base of around 2000 end users it was critical to realise a more financially efficient run model that could scale rapidly as needed but contract when not in use, to achieve this customised lambdas were deployed to scale and optimise the environment based on usage. With these services, our client can focus on its core business, with less overhead: reducing license management, server storage and maintenance, VPN cost (not required now as users connect to their workspace hosted in Cloud and not On Premise) and other ongoing maintenance activities.

In summary

There are plenty of opportunities to ‘tune’ a businesses VDI environment and find efficiencies – for example in relation to scalability, or flexible access. In another recent example from our client work, we provided a solution for an organisation that utilised a graphic-intensive geospatial application, requiring high performance computing and accessible only at fixed assets, to have more flexibility by using Appstream 2.0 to provide access to the app from more devices and locations. With a track record of assisting a number of clients to overcome EUC delivery challenges, CMD can bring its deep AWS expertise to improving the end user compute environment for any large organisation.