F5 ... Wednesday: Bye Bye Branch Office Blues
#virtualization #VDI Unifying desktop management across multiple branch offices is good for performance – and operational sanity.
When you walk into your local bank, or local retail outlet, or one of the Starbucks in Chicago O'Hare, it's easy to forget that these are more than your "local" outlets for that triple grande dry cappuccino or the latest in leg-warmer fashion (either I just dated myself or I'm incredibly aware of current fashion trends, you decide which). For IT, these branch offices are one of many end nodes on a corporate network diagram located at HQ (or the mother-ship, as some of us known as 'remote workers' like to call it) that require care and feeding – remotely.
The number of branch offices continues to expand and, regardless of how they're counted, number in the millions. In a 2010 report, the Internet Research Group (IRG) noted:
Over the past ten years the number of branch office locations in the US has increased by over 21% from a base of about 1.4M branch locations to about 1.7M at the end of 2009.
While back in 2004, IDC research showed four million branch offices, as cited by Jim Metzler:
The fact that there are now roughly four million branch offices supported by US businesses gives evidence to the fact that branch offices are not going away. However, while many business leaders, including those in the banking industry, were wrong in their belief that branch offices were unnecessary, they were clearly right in their belief that branch offices are expensive.
One of the reasons that branch offices are expensive is the sheer number of branch offices that need
to be supported. For example, while a typical company may have only one or two central sites, they
may well have tens, hundreds or even thousands of branch offices.
Discrepancies appear to derive from the definition of "branch office" – is it geographic or regional location that counts? Do all five Starbucks at O'Hare count as five separate branch offices or one? Regardless how they're counted, the numbers are big and growth rates say it's just going to get bigger.
From an IT perspective, which has trouble scaling to keep up with corporate data center growth let alone branch office growth, this spells trouble. Compliance, data protection, patches, upgrades, performance, even routine troubleshooting are all complicated enough without the added burden of accomplishing it all remotely. Maintaining data security, too, is a challenge when remote offices are involved.
It is just these challenges that VMware seeks to address with its latest Branch Office Desktop solution set, which lays out two models for distributing and managing virtual desktops (based on VMware View, of course) to help IT mitigate if not all then most of the obstacles IT finds most troubling when it comes to branch office anything.
But as with any distributed architecture constrained by bandwidth and technological limitations, there are areas that benefit from a boost from VMware partners. As long-time strategic and technology partners, F5 brings its expertise in improving performance and solving unique architectural challenges to the VMware Branch Office Desktop (BOD) solution, resulting in LAN-like convenience and a unified namespace with consistent access policy enforcement from HQ to wherever branch offices might be located.
F5 Streamlines Deployments of Branch Office Desktops
· Local and global intelligent traffic management with single namespace and username persistence support
· Architectural freedom of combining Virtual Editions with Physical Appliances
· Optimized WAN connectivity between branches and primary data centers
Using BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager (GTM), a single namespace (for example, https://desktop.example.com) can be provided to all end users. BIG-IP GTM and BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) work together to ensure that requests are sent to a user’s preferred data center, regardless of the user’s current location.
BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) validates the login information against the existing authentication and authorization mechanisms such as Active Directory, RADIUS, HTTP, or LDAP.
In addition, BIG-IP LTM works with the F5 iRules scripting language, which allows administrators to configure custom traffic rules. F5 Networks has tested and published an innovative iRule that maintains connection persistence based on the username, irrespective of the device or location. This means that a user can change devices or locations and log back in to be reconnected to a desktop identical to the one last used.
By taking advantage of BIG-IP LTM to securely connect branch offices with corporate headquarters, users benefit from optimized WAN services that dramatically reduce transfer times and performance of applications relying on data center-hosted resources.
Together, F5 and VMware can provide more efficient delivery of virtual desktops to the branch office without sacrificing performance or security or the end-user experience.