There are two IT trends that are on a collision course. The familiar one is UC adoption, which needs no explanation in a Mitel blog. The second, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), is less understood. It moves the desktop experience to hosted sessions on remote servers. The physical desktop is simplified to keyboard, monitor and mouse—which could be a variety of devices including low-cost, thin client hardware with no moving parts.

“It’s only a matter of time before the two groups intersect in any given company doing both,” writes John Burke, a principal research analyst at Nemertes. As a research leader in virtualization, Burke reports that more than half of the companies that Nemertes benchmarks are implementing VDI solutions.

“The growing integration of UC and [desktop] virtualization,” says Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes, reduces TCO “in the data center, but also at the desktop.” He adds that it is also foundational for “supporting mobile and distributed workers.”

VDI implementations deliver operational benefits with an impressive ROI by reducing the total cost of ownership when compared to traditional distributed desktops. Benefits of VDI include:

  • Management: VDI provides for centralized management of desktops. Deployment goes quickly as there is no need to push software.
  • Upgrades:  When it is time for an OS upgrade the old way, first check the desktops for hardware compliance; then upgrade them; and, finally, begin phased rollouts. Or, simply push out the upgraded image with VDI.
  • Mobility: Since the desktop is on the server, it can be accessed from any location from any connected desktop—at the office or not. Just log in from a networked PC or terminal. VDI solutions make the personal desktop experience a commodity item and in additional to thin client hardware can run on Windows, Mac OS, Linux and even selected tablets.
  • Green: Not only are the desktop thin clients physically smaller than PCs, but they use less power too.

VDI and UC are both rising in popularity. There is just one problem: Most UC solutions are not VDI compatible. The problem is with the encoding of speech. Most VDI solutions move all of the processing to the server, which for UC hinders both latency and scalability. This is causing many VDI customers to put an independent phone next to the VDI desktop. That harms both the TCO and the benefit of mobility that VDI could offer.

Burke recommends solutions like those from Mitel that “can split processing of audio and video off from the rest of the virtual desktop session.” In this scenario, the Mitel softphone within the session uses the local hardware for the encoding and decoding of the audio. Effectively, the audio path becomes a separate session, potentially even over a separate route.

As the leader in UC virtualization, Mitel was the first vendor to announce this split processing approach with VMware View. With MiVoice and VMware View, the solution also supports Single Sign On. With one login into VMware View, Mitel dynamically configures the user’s phone (hard or softphone) – their extension, their speed dials, their preferences and their voice mail.

This solution is ideal for contact centers as agents frequently get assigned different workstations. Combined with Mitel’s remote worker technology, the agent can even be remote using an inexpensive thin client desktop. That means one inexpensive and simple-to-manage device for business applications, contact center applications, and UC.

Integrating communications and contact center capabilities into the virtual desktop offers simplicity and flexibility. It can be part of a business continuity plan, a remote workforce plan or a cost-reduction initiative. 

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