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How much do VDI style solutions cost in 2020?

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If I had $1,000,000…

Not only is this the title of a fantastic song by the beloved band Barenaked Ladies from Ontario, Canada, it also happens to be the going rate for many app delivery solutions from leading providers. Can you be a higher ed IT hero by finding a better way?

Before the onset of COVID-19 and campus closures around the world, deploying software in the higher education market was already the most complex IT environment on the planet. Now the challenge is even harder and is forcing IT teams into a race to find more comprehensive solutions that not only address on-campus delivery but also online and remote learning scenarios.

Traditionally, VDI has been touted as the solution to this but with the first generations of VDI not quite measuring up to expectations in terms of affordability and scalability, application virtualization became the perfect technology to pair with. 2019-2020 has seen a turning point for VDI style solutions, with existing services receiving major optimizations and various major players joining the VDI game. Let’s compare the pros and cons and pricing of the solutions from each major on-premise and cloud provider.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

By fairly regular consensus, VMware’s Horizon solution is the market leader in this space and a percentage of higher education institutions made the jump to VDI over the past decade. While VDI solved the major problems of traditional imaging of physical computer labs, it didn’t solve them all and for most institutions, it introduced a host of additional unforeseen challenges.

Beyond just the expensive hardware stack required for optimal performance, higher ed quickly encountered a need for highly trained administrators, additional licensing for off-campus use, and for most, they still needed a better software delivery solution.

Pros

Cons

Central management plane of all Windows desktop computers

Cannot install all software on all desktops causing Gold Image sprawl

Rapid and complete compliance after patching

Additional VDA licensing needed for BYOD access

Access from any device

5-year hardware lock-in with declining performance over time

How much does VDI cost?

Higher ed price for 1,000 VDI desktops = $1,000,000 USD for 5 years


Amazon AppStream 2.0

A relative newcomer to the software delivery space, Amazon’s product solves some of the challenges presented by on-premise solutions such as VDI. By leveraging the computing and storage capacity of its cloud and introducing deployment automation, AppStream makes the overall day-to-day living with an app delivery solution just a bit easier. Nearly the entire stack is managed by AWS technicians leaving the customer IT team to manage just the master images and installation of software.

However, there are some unfortunate trade-offs. First, a true Windows desktop OS is not available, so any software that is incompatible with Server OS won’t be supported. Second, because it’s a cloud-hosted solution, an always-on Internet connection is required. Finally, apps are accessed and utilized through a web browser with limited access to local storage. Users need to be trained on a somewhat annoying upload and download process to open and safe work files. In addition, the same golden/master image sprawl applies as it does with VDI. You simply cannot install hundreds of software titles onto a single image and expect success.

Pros

Cons

No complex backend infrastructure to purchase and manage

Cannot install all software causing Gold Image sprawl

Automatic scaling

Cumbersome browser-based access

 

Lack of access to full desktop environment

How much does Amazon AppStream cost?

Amazon price for 1,000 concurrent users = $1,006,240 USD per year. Click the button below the visit the Amazon AppStream pricing model page, or download the excel cost calculator below.


Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure (WVD)

Possibly one of the most exciting new releases from Microsoft in many years, WVD has caught the attention of IT professionals around the world. Even though the service has only been generally available for less than 1 year, the month-on-month increase in use is staggering with an estimated triple-digit growth. WVD is Microsoft’s answer to default on-premise VDI solutions from VMware and Citrix. All infrastructure is cloud-hosted and Microsoft managed. The desktop images are true Windows 7/10 desktop OS, and for the first time in history, include a multi-session capability. This means fewer Azure VMs running to support your users.

However, while everything may seem “rosy in the garden” there are some familiar drawbacks. Probably the most glaring is the lack of an administrator-friendly setup and management portal. Most of the image setup and pool configuration is done through Powershell. Also, auto-scaling rules and cost-control policies are only basic at the moment. Finally, you still will not be able to deploy hundreds of software titles without image sprawl and a less than awesome user experience.

Pros

Cons

No complex backend infrastructure to purchase and manage

Cannot install all software causing Gold Image sprawl

Windows desktop OS environments

Lack of easy-to-use management portal

Choice of publishing full desktops or just software applications

Lack of fully developed auto-scaling and cost controls

How much does Windows Virtual Desktop cost?

Microsoft pricing for 1,000 concurrent users = $154,296 USD per year (Assumes pay-as-you-go cost model). Take a look at the official Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop cost calculator below to get an idea of what it may cost to implement in your university.


No silver bullet

After more than 10 years in business and a 100% focus on the higher education market, we at Software2 have come to understand that there is no silver bullet solution for software delivery within colleges and universities. Sure, you can buy a sledgehammer to hang a picture frame, but you’ll be overpaying and most likely dissatisfied with the result (and resulting plaster repair bill!).

Our vision is different from all other software delivery providers: match the best technology to each use case and only buy what you need. By leveraging the built-in intelligence of the AppsAnywhere app store, you can automatically direct each user to the best performing delivery technology for their session. If a student is running a nicely equipped Windows laptop or desktop, take advantage of that free hardware and horsepower and deploy the app locally through direct download or application virtualization to keep expensive VDI licenses at a minimum. If they need to run a Windows app on a non-Windows device, invoke a server-based delivery solution. If your institution has a cloud-first strategy, let’s go to the cloud! The entire AppsAnywhere solution is cloud-ready.

Conclusion

Evaluating the entire computing landscape in higher ed and endless offerings can be a daunting task, even for the most seasoned and experienced IT team. Designing a future-proof and cost-effective strategy may even seem impossible, but take heart, we’re here to say it’s not. By utilizing available technologies, right-sizing new offerings, and matching tech to use-case, Software2 can help you decide on the best path forward for the next 3 months, 3 years, and beyond. Let us help you become an IT hero and see what you can do when you save your school $1,000,000!


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