The year of the virtualized desktop and beyond

Main visual : The year of the virtualized desktop and beyond

One of the few unintended consequences of the pandemic has been the rapid acceleration of remote working. However, this move to distributed working models has not gone unnoticed by cybercriminals, who’ve since shifted the focus of their scams to take advantage of the newly minted remote workers.

“Now over 95 percent of the world’s largest companies are running their businesses on Microsoft Cloud”, according to Microsoft, dated May 26, 2021

That’s because it’s one thing to secure a finite set of devices within a single building or corporate network, but it’s a different challenge altogether to try and secure a perimeter that extends as far as every employees’ home or any location they choose to work. Doing so usually requires business to set up new security protocols to authenticate the multitude of devices trying to access the enterprise network from numerous locations, and that’s no small task.

Furthermore, each individual plays an essential role in reducing the risks of cyberattacks while working remotely.

“It is undeniable that businesses have always been a key stakeholder in the health and wellbeing of their employees and in many cases their consumers. I would actually flip it a little bit. I don’t think the question should be if businesses are stakeholders here. This is undeniably the case. But the question of whether or not the businesses see their employees and consumers as stakeholders as well in the company”, says John E. McDonough, DrPH, MPA Professor of Public Health Practice in the Harvard University.

“One of the big trends we are seeing is that a lot of organizations are hiring Chief Medical Officers to not just look at not just their own employees but also the health and safety of the customers that they serve. Because of the fact that we know that the pandemic is not going away any time soon with all the variants coming and the need for re-vaccinations and massive amount of testing on a continual basis, all of that is going to require that these organizations have a solid infrastructure in place”, says Dr. David Rhew, Chief Medical Officer, Microsoft.

Due to these complexities, many organizations have instead opted for a simpler solution – virtual desktops including Teams, as key tools to consciously organize Work, Life, Learning and Productivity/Wellbeing in balance.

This shift in tactics underneath the shadow of this great remote working experiment has led many to view 2020 as the year of the virtual desktop. In a Tweet from April last year, Simon Binder, endpoint manager at Microsoft said that six times more people were using Windows Virtual Desktop (now called Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) than they’d anticipated all year. (note: Windows Virtual Desk has been just renamed to Azure Virtual Desktop)

There are several very good reasons why businesses have gravitated towards virtual desktops over this crisis. In this blog, I’ll share some of the ways this approach is helping ensure the secure and satisfying work-life balance that every organization should be striving for now and in the near, post-pandemic future.

A traditional solution to a new problem

Part of the reason virtual desktop adoption has grown so rapidly over the last year is largely down to the reactive position the crisis forced businesses into.

With leaders having to quickly figure out an efficient, effective, and secure way to cater to the various software needs of their remote workforces – all at once – virtualized desktops became the ideal choice, especially for larger organizations, even when we decide to be all back in the same physical space.

“On a more personal level, 2020 forced us to be open to new ways to live, work and play, simply because traditional ways of carrying out our daily activities were not feasible or possible. In the year and years ahead, we will have a choice. And I hope that we will continue having this level of open mindedness, which is required for us to innovate, adopt new technologies and move society forward”, says Ricky Kapur, Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Operations, Microsoft Asia Pacific. [What's Next For Asia Pacific: Digital, Resilience, Cloud and Innovation - Microsoft Stories Asia]

Virtual desktops have already been around for years and traditionally helped businesses circumnavigate the restrictions placed on them by their technical debt. Technical debt accrues when an organization goes for short-term solutions but fails to incorporate them into larger, long-term plans.

An international Energy Services and Solutions Company, in cooperation with the partner triangle Fujitsu – Microsoft - Citrix “used agile methodology to deploy a secure Global Virtual Workspace platform, which was available to early users in just three months and complete within five months. The seamless migration of 10,000 users then followed, with up to 18,000 users supported globally.”

Microsoft’s solutions with Fujitsu Services are now part of this company’s daily business operations. AVD is being utilized to support clients worldwide by simplifying IT complexity, optionally including as well Microsoft Teams as the primary communications platform, which can be the key tool to improve our employees and customers wellbeing as well as to set the basis for efficient diversity/inclusion and life-long learning processes.

Simplifying complexity? Generally, complexity cannot be simplified, but the heaviness can be removed. What makes virtual desktops so useful to businesses dealing with technical debt is the fact that they are a quick and easy way to enable businesses to separate their operating systems, apps and data from local hardware and run them on a remote server, rather than the device itself, instead of necessitating the costly and time-consuming removal of legacy systems. Therefore, it is not only improving processes in internal IT departments, but also improving customer experience as a whole.

This function is what has also led to virtual desktops becoming so valuable in recent months. IT departments are now using them to draw a clear line between the enterprise environment and workers’ personal devices, lessening the risk of sensitive information being left on that device or a data breach.  

“Together, Citrix, Microsoft and Fujitsu can deliver a powerful digital workspace in a trusted and secure public cloud where employees can access everything they need to engage and be productive as we enter this new era of hybrid work”, says Calvin Hsu, VP Product Management, Citrix.

Benefits of a virtual desktop

Virtual desktops have opened a whole realm of possibilities for businesses trying to operate securely, collaboratively, with agility, and at the cutting edge in this pandemic. One such way is by allowing businesses to safely open their enterprise network to contractors, part-time employees, and other temporary workers.

This is especially relevant when considering how big a chunk of the labor force the gig economy is becoming – in 2018, there were 57 million workers in the US gig economy, accounting for 36% of all workers. Today, with all the closures and terminations due to the crisis, this percentage will only grow.

Since nothing is saved on the individual device, businesses can quickly and securely bring people into the enterprise network without needing to deal with the cost and logistical challenges of having to also provide them with hardware. So, temporary workers can benefit from a seamless, integrated employee experience without costing employers’ extra resources.

“Yet, we also saw the best of ourselves – our frontline workers stepped up and we as a community responded in kind. In Thailand – for example - , more than 1 million people volunteered to help with contact tracing across the country”, says Ricky Kapur, Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Operations, Microsoft Asia Pacific. [What's Next For Asia Pacific: Digital, Resilience, Cloud and Innovation - Microsoft Stories Asia]

This opens the whole world up to businesses as they can now tap into a deep pool of talent with both agility and security, something that will be increasingly more impactful for businesses, paving the way for more diversity and inclusion in a natural way.

And as well as extending a sense of trust and support towards temporary workers, they can give their own employees more choice for through BYOD/CYOD (Bring/Choose your own devices) programs.

 “Adapting to this new hybrid model will require rethinking of long-held assumptions. The choices you make today will impact your organization for years to come. It’s a moment that requires clear vision and a growth mindset. These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation”, says Rosalind Quek, General Manager, Modern Workplace, Microsoft Asia.

Globally, Microsoft has announced its commitment to help 25 million people worldwide reskill for jobs in today’s and tomorrow’s economy,” says K. Raman, Managing Director, Microsoft Malaysia.

Fujitsu together with Microsoft is jointly responsible within the world, we see our role as a corporate citizen as vital in all the services we are providing. We support millions of workers globally, underpinned by our heritage, proven technological credentials and human-centric approach to delivering real change.

Windows Virtual Desktop: A product of a fruitful partnership

We’ve closed the door on the era of 9-to-5, office-based working for all and are entering a new one.

Between all the workers who’ve spent the last year growing used to the realities of remote working, and newer generations of digitally native employees joining the workforce, digital expectations of businesses have irreversibly risen.

“Let’s go a little bit beyond; the millennial generation is actually now larger than the baby-boom generation just within the past year. Millennials look at their role in society, their role in organizations differently. Increasingly they don’t want to work for companies that they feel are not helping to advance the interests of a better and humane society, a more sustainable society. They are judging their employers, making choices where they are working, what they do, and this is having an impact and bringing this behaviour into their buying practices. They don’t want to buy from organizations that they believe are going against the changing norms in society in terms of gender, race and other important concern such as climate change. Cooperations know this and understand this and probably better than society as large does”, says John E. McDonough, DrPH, MPA Professor of Public Health Practice in the Harvard University.

Soon, workers will come to expect hybrid-working options as standard and look for employers who have gone further – such as those with dynamic automation capabilities that spare them from mundane tasks and allow them to use that time in more creative and innovative ways.

On this front, the power and experience of Microsoft, Citrix and Fujitsu comes to bear as Windows Virtual AVD has enhanced the efficiency of these hybrid features.

Fujitsu is one of the first organizations to achieve the Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop Advanced Specialization.

Other than guaranteeing a supremely secure and scalable environment that can be flexed at pace, it’s the perfect way for remote colleagues to effectively collaborate with each other.

It also helps organizations to minimize their data loss risk, because none of the services, apps or data that’s accessed via WVD / AVD can be taken out of the environment. And as no data can be saved to a device, there’s less risk to the business if the device is lost or stolen.

So, as society becomes increasingly more digitalized, it’s important we’re doing everything we can to transform with it. And virtualized desktops and applications are a strong step in the right direction.

“There are big challenges ahead, but there is also enormous opportunities, and we can look at them differently today than we would have imagined being able to look at it just a short year ago. A lot of challenges ahead and it will be a job for government, for the Business Community and for all levels of Society to come together to really figure out what are the top priorities, says John E. McDonough, DrPH, MPA Professor of Public Health Practice in the Harvard University.

“We will continue to work in collaboration with our stakeholders and partners like Fujitsu, to empower people, communities, and organizations worldwide. Skilling will continue to be one of the core priorities for us at Microsoft, to drive societal progress and advance the digital capabilities for the future,” says K. Raman, Managing Director, Microsoft Malaysia.

While Fujitsu in the triangle cooperation with Microsoft and Citrix continues to work with partners across the private and public sector to provide more digital skilling opportunities, we are increasing the awareness about the importance of our people. Each individual can make a difference. Actively seeking out opportunities, actively embracing digital tools and new technologies as a key pillar in the future-workplace co-creation process.

 “Skilling today to thrive tomorrow”, says Fiona Carney, Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Microsoft Asia Pacific.

Fujitsu is recognized as a Leader in the execution and vision of Managed Workplace Services.
With global reach to 180 countries worldwide, capabilities in 40+ languages, and a portfolio of globally standardized services, we can cost-effectively provide local delivery on a worldwide scale, 24/7, 365. We can support your people in a way that suits them, wherever they are, whenever they need it.

A diverse partner ecosystem augments our extensive proprietary services. Fujitsu has deep expertise in crucial partner technologies with Microsoft and Citrix. We can rapidly deliver and deploy best-of-breed solutions, optimized for your business, that will help you overcome challenges and stay ahead of the competition, providing an unparalleled user experience in record time.

Get in touch today to find out how Fujitsu enabled by Microsoft’s WVD, now called Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), and maximized by Citrix can help you take your organization into the new era of flexible working.

Want to learn more? Read our blog on the latest digital trends taking the industry by storm here. Or listen to our latest podcast with Microsoft and Harvard University on health and wellbeing at work in 2021 here.