Unidesk, A Simple Yet Powerful Game Changing VDI Solution
—Interview with Don Bulens, CEO, Unidesk.
By Ramesh Chitor, Business Development Executive: Cisco Datacenter.
Ramesh Chitor: So the first question is for anyone who does not know Unidesk, what’s the elevator pitch? What would you tell them if you have 20 seconds?
Don Bulens: Unidesk is insanely simple desktop and application management designed from the ground up for virtual environments. One console, one image, any cloud – private, public or hybrid. Unidesk customers save time, money, and are happier people.
Ramesh Chitor: Perfect, that’s a great one. What are the problems you’ve seen customers experience when deploying and managing traditional virtual desktop applications. What are typical problems that you see?
Don Bulens: There have been two curses for desktop virtualization – complexity and cost. Too many images to deploy, patch an update. Many applications that are too difficult, even impossible to virtualize. Users are accustomed to personal desktops and the non-persistent model often used doesn’t well suit the end users. So then a switch to persistent models causes an explosion in storage requirements. Storage becomes an increasing cost in order to deliver a great end user experience. Probably one of the most important day-to-day virtual desktop management is too difficult for level one administrators, so it is expensive level two and level three administrators, or worse, expensive third party consultants who have to be brought in in order to make VDI deployments manageable and successful. So it’s really created a tremendous problem on both of these aspects.
Ramesh Chitor: And Cisco is changing the infrastructure landscape by saving customers from all these curses.
Don Bulens: Exactly right. This is the magic of our combination together is that we are going directly at these two core problems.
Ramesh Chitor: I’ll move on to the next question. Why are the existing desktop virtualization platforms, brokers and other client management tools not solving the problems that you just highlighted?
Don Bulens: So first, we should take a step back and look at the research of some of the leading analysts in our industry who over the past several years have pointed out that the number one goal of organizations deploying VDI has been to simplify Windows desktop management, or just Windows management. And Citrix and VMware have built complex portfolios through acquisition. Their many tools and consoles make Windows management harder and increase the operating expense for VDI. While at the same time they do not solve the fundamental image management and app delivery problems that customers struggle with, as we were discussing complexity earlier.
As an example, just last week I visited a large hospital in Europe that has a thousand-seat stalled VDI project.
It’s stalled because they have several dozen business critical applications that they have been unable to virtualise.
What that means is any users of those applications, they’ve found that they can’t deploy with VDI. After just days of a POC with Unidesk, they discovered that a level one IT administrator who had no application packaging experience whatsoever was able to virtualize all of those applications and now their deployment is proceeding with rapid speed.
If you think about selling infrastructure for a VDI project to a customer such as this, a stalled project means no expansion. This is a customer who’s going to be buying much more infrastructure in order to accommodate the expansion of their deployment hospital-wide.
So on the traditional agent-based client-management tools side, these are tools that are decades old designed for distributed PCs with local CPU and local disk. Their architectures bring shared resources like VDI hosts and storage to their knees, a huge impact on the performance of the VDI deployment. They just don’t fit this new world of cloud.
Our vision, Unidesk’s vision from day one was to simplify delivery and management of virtual desktops and applications and we are delivering that now on Hyper-V and VSphere VDI environments, with Citrix and desktop Microsoft VDI and of course VMware Horizon. And now with over a thousand customers I think that we’ve proven that simpler is better.
Ramesh Chitor: Thank you. This may be a bit technical. Can you, if you may explain your concept of layering and how it differs from traditional management approaches.
Don Bulens: So our founder and CTO, Chris Mitchly, came up with a unique invention that separates Unidesk from everyone else. He chose the harder path. Chris’ approach or Unidesk’s approach is to change storage, not the desktop itself.
We break up the monolithic Windows C: Drive into modular building blocks called layers. The building blocks include a Windows, one and only one, Windows operating system layer, and then individual or collection of application layers created by IT that are read-only and shared across many desktops.
We then also provide a virtualized and writeable personalization layer that is unique to every user. Our advanced file system and registry virtualization technologies know how to merge these layers together to form a virtual C: Drive.
When you think about the solution stacks – well, actually I’ll go into it. This fundamental innovation of virtualization above the hypervisor but below the operating system is very distinct. All other technologies start above Windows and therefore have some constraints that we don’t suffer from. With our approach you achieve one Windows operating system layer that can be used for all desktops. No gold image draw. Any application can be layered. We don’t have any limitations of other app delivery technologies that cannot deliver system services, boot time drivers and other apps with deep Windows dependencies.
Layered apps look like they’re locally installed, so you have full interoperability. Even apps that are delivered in different layers. This provides a personal desktop experience for end users with all of their customizations and user-installed applications preserved in their unique personalization layer. The result of this is incredible simplicity.
One technology, one easy to use console for all management capabilities.
In contrast, what Unidesk customers can achieve through a single console takes four, five or six consoles with the Citrix and VMware approaches. That’s why Unidesk customers are happier people. You don’t have to put that in.
Ramesh Chitor: My next question is, how do you help accelerate and expand virtual desktop deployment and how do you know your ROI is good, how do you measure? What are your metrics?
Don Bulens: The first point that’s important to make is that without Unidesk, because some of these limitations that we’ve described, VDI gets reduced in scope or fails outright because of use cases that cannot be supported, such as the hospital example that I gave you. Or because it requires senior IT staff in order to make the system work. With Unidesk, VDI is being operationalized by tier one IT staff members and desktop help desks. That’s the OPEX savings needed to justify VDI at scale and to help it expand. Unidesk overcomes the use case limitations, the stalled VDI, because every application can be delivered. Users get full personalization including user-installed apps, and makes VDI a more powerful fit for users, even the developers.
The ROI is simple. It takes a fraction of the time to deploy the Windows operating system and its patches and updates and applications using Unidesk versus all other approaches. If you have hundreds of apps and many organizations, even small organizations too, we have a customer that is a city in Arizona, and they have 186 applications for 800 users.
We have a law firm customer, a joint law firm customer, Bernstein Shur. Parenthetically, Sam may have shared it with you, they were highlighted in a tremendous article on Tech Target yesterday. In any case, they have 100 applications for 200 lawyers and staff members. One application for every two people, it is amazing.
So now, let’s think about this. So let’s think about Bernstein Shur. 100 apps, and with Unidesk you can deploy or update them in 15 minutes, versus 3 to 5 hours using other methods of application virtualization. That time adds up fast.
Really fast. Same thing with patching Windows on Patch Tuesday. One gold image, update once, test it, press a button and you’re done. Whereas most VDI deployments have dozens and dozens of gold image instances that are required to meet all use cases. It extends further to supporting end users and break fix at the help desk. With Unidesk, a repair of a desktop is done by a level one person with a couple of clicks, faster and with less expensive staff members.
Ramesh Chitor: Both the CAPEX and OPEX go down, right?
Don Bulens: On the CAPEX side, because we are sharing, one, across many desktops, one and only one copy of the operating system, one and only one copy of each IT-managed application layer, there’s a tremendous storage savings presented to the storage system. We also then, for CAPEX advantage, that’s where we find tremendous synergy in our partnership together. Again, the benefit of simplicity and cost-effectiveness. So typical Unidesk payback in ROI, CAPEX and OPEX, is less than five months.
Ramesh Chitor: Can you also share more on the roadmap? If I’m a customer, I’m a happy customer like you said, using Unidesk, what’s coming up, what’s in the pipeline from Unidesk that’s going to be related to cloud, how can I take advantage of more solutions from Unidesk?
Don Bulens: This is an exciting year for Unidesk and our customers when it comes to the hybrid cloud. With the delivery of Unidesk for Hyper-V we now support the two most popular private cloud VDI platforms for hosting desktops – vSphere and Hyper-V – with Hyper-V giving us access to new Microsoft RDS and Citrix and desktop customers. Hyper-V caused us to abstract our architecture to support multiple virtualization platforms. This is shortening our development cycles for follow-on solutions. This year, from Unidesk, you can expect support for Citrix XenApp, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft RDSH, all with the same platform in 2015. One solution, one set of images, provisioning VMs and delivering apps across private, public and hybrid clouds.
Ramesh Chitor: This is great, and with all this, how can we, especially the field at Cisco, leverage all that Unidesk does? One idea to, view the salesforce to log our opportunities. Maybe we could use Unidesk as deployment platform and cut down the search time and things like that. There must be more ways. I got the point on infrastructure, right? You can enable VDI and virtualization. That’s huge, just that right there. But what else do you have?
Don Bulens: First I’d say UCS is known for breakthrough levels of operational efficiency and has the most scalable architecture for workloads like VDI. That is the same value proposition as Unidesk – simplicity and scale. And it’s no wonder that the biggest Unidesk customers are running on UCS. The largest deployment in Ireland at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust runs on UCS and Unidesk. Mercer University in Georgia with over a thousand desktops for borderless classroom and a fantastic reference account for us both, running on UCS and Unidesk. University of South Florida Health System, a thousand desktops and growing. Bernstein Shur, which I mentioned earlier, a leading law firm here in New England. Unidesk makes VDI more successful, creating expansion and upsell opportunities for UCS and for the entire Cisco portfolio.
I think that the key message I would have for the sales team is that we have highly complementary value propositions.
We have some of the happiest customers doing desktop virtualization in the world. Let us together use our channel to help us identify opportunities where we can deliver solutions together. Because it is in the channel that the opportunities are known and that we can together then support those partners in serving their customers with solutions that are far superior to what our competitors are offering. And these customers become fantastic advocates for us. And we have a model, just as we’ve done many times over, having customers tell our story to other customers to excite them about the solutions that we can deliver to them together.
Don Bulens, CEO, Unidesk
Under Don’s leadership, Unidesk has become the leading management software for simplifying deployment and management of Windows desktops and applications in the cloud.
Before joining Unidesk, Don was President and CEO of EqualLogic, a disruptive, fast-growing data storage systems provider whose success led to its $1.4B acquisition by Dell. Earlier in his career, Don was an executive at Lotus Development, where he led the creation of the channel and developer community that contributed to the extraordinary growth of Lotus Notes.
Don is a director and advisor to several venture-backed companies. He has been named Ernst & Young’s Northeast Regional “Entrepreneur of the Year” and was awarded “CEO of the Year” by the Massachusetts Network Communications Council. He earned a BA at the University of Massachusetts and an MBA at Suffolk University.