The growing trend for cloud workspaces and virtual desktops, with tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft getting in on the act, strengthens the case for a VDI infrastructure and thin clients, especially now that organisations face increased Windows 7 support costs. James Goulding finds out more from Simon Townsend, CMO for EMEA at IGEL, developer of a next generation OS for cloud workspaces
Simon Townsend, IGEL CMO for EMEA, describes IGEL as an 18-yearold start-up. This is not as fanciful as it sounds, as three years ago the company reviewed its product offering, which at the time was based on thin client hardware, and resolved to focus its efforts on selling its next generation Operating System as a distinct solution.
This decision, says Townsend, has transformed the company’s fortunes, driving “fairly outrageous” EMEA software sales growth of 76% and helping IGEL to crack the US market for the first time.
“The unique selling point of our thin client hardware had always been the IGEL operating system and its ease of management. Then, a few years ago, we said ‘Hang on; if people are buying our thin clients because of the operating system and its ease of management, why should it matter what hardware people acquire? Why can’t they reuse existing hardware and still get the benefits of using our operating system?’,” he explained.
“Initially, we introduced the Universal Desktop Converter to enable customers to transform old PCs and laptops to run like a secure thin client. This was quickly adopted by the market. So, the next step was to completely decouple the hardware from the software and allow our customers to purchase and deploy the operating system and the management of that operating system completely independently from the hardware.”
IGEL is now an Operating System in its own right; it converts any endpoint (PC, laptop, handheld, thin client) into a secure IGEL-managed endpoint that enables the user to access applications in the cloud (public, private or hybrid), from their corporate desktop or from their home office.
“If you read our case studies, you see that what customers like about IGEL is that it’s fully manageable across the estate, with a fraction of the management overhead resources and costs associated with other solutions. Using our Universal Management Suite (UMS) transforms the expectations of what can be done from a modern OS for the Cloud,” explained Townsend.
In the past, the financial case for switching to a VDI infrastructure was compelling due its security benefits, its support for flexible and mobile working practices (see case study), its easy management and its lower environmental footprint.
Townsend adds that today there are other reasons why the IGEL cloudready OS is so attractive, from growing concerns around security and the cost of managing fat client PCs to the suitability of IGEL endpoints for the new generation of cloud workspaces.
“First and foremost, Windows endpoints cause organisations a lot of challenges around management costs and security. Statistics show that 85% of the IT budget is still spent keeping the lights on. Our belief, and Microsoft almost said as much when it announced Windows Virtual Desktops towards the end of last year, is that Windows can run in the data centre or in the cloud. So put Windows on top of Citrix or VMWare or Azure or Amazon; run it in the data centre, where the applications and data are; and, on the endpoints, simplify what you are doing by putting in a secure, Linux-based operating system,” he said.
“Then, there is the fact that people on Windows 7 will have to migrate to something else before January 2020 or face nasty support costs. A lot of organisations are struggling not so much with how they migrate to Windows 10, but how they are going to manage Windows 10 when they get there. Is there another way? Should we listen to what Citrix and VMWare are saying? Should we put our desktops into the cloud? And if we are going to do that, why have Windows desktops on the endpoint? That would just mean managing them twice.”
Townsend points out that the IGEL OS helps organisations address these challenges: it is Linux-based; it is read-only, so users can’t introduce security vulnerabilities; it has a very low specification – it needs just 2GB of RAM and a small amount of space to run – so fairly old devices can be repurposed to run it; and its Universal Management Suite (UMS) allows all endpoints to be controlled and configured centrally.
Equally important is the operating system’s already comprehensive ecosystem of technology integrations, which IGEL’s 100-strong team of developers is constantly expanding so that users have quick, easy access to the applications, data and peripherals they need.
“People don’t just connect to Citrix any more; they connect to VMWare; Amazon has got WorkSpaces; Microsoft is coming out with Windows Virtual Desktop; Nutanix has a technology called Frame. Windows succeeded back in the ‘90s because it was compatible with so many types of hardware, peripherals, drivers and applications, and that’s our focus too. A recent customer survey shows that customers are buying into our ecosystem of technology partners, not just our OS,” explained Townsend.
“We know people want to make calls on Skype; we know people want Jabra and Sennheiser headsets; we know they want to use Imprivata for secure log-on; we know they might want to connect to Citrix today and Amazon tomorrow. Because of the way it is architected, we can embed other vendors’ technology within our operating system fairly quickly and easily. Out-of-the-box, it is future-proof, it is embedded, it is simple to use and, most importantly, you can connect to the latest version of whatever desktop you are employing.”
This argument is having significant traction with the growing number of end user customers that require a hardware-agnostic endpoint management platform that works across all devices and gives secure access to virtual desktops and cloud workspaces. Software already makes up 65% of IGEL’s UK sales and Townsend believes that is where future opportunities lie.
“The UK still has a huge amount of potential for us. We are doing very well in the UK, but if I compare that to what we have achieved in Germany and the US over the last 12-18 months, there is a whole host of opportunities for us, particularly in healthcare, finance and central government,” he said.