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US intelligence unit to advance management of virtual desktop security, systems

Getting a handle on cloud-based virtual operations is no easy task. Next month researchers from the Intelligence Advance Research Projects Activity (IARPA) will introduce a new program that looks to address that management concern by developing better technology to manage and secure Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments.

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IARPA, the radical research arm of the of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will introduce the Virtuous User Environment (VirtUE) which it says aims to “creatively define and develop user environments that are more dynamic, secure, auditable, transferrable, and efficient than the current offerings provided by traditional physical workstations and commercial VDI; develop innovative, dynamic analytics and infrastructures that can leverage these newly developed user environments to both automatically detect and deter security threats that IC user environments will be subject to in the new cloud infrastructure.”

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“Several US government organizations are moving or considering moving their IT operations to a cloud-based model. Research is already under way to creatively address the security and performance challenges of compute nodes in this environment, but less attention has been paid to IC user environments that are being migrated to the cloud using technologies referred to as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI),” IARPA stated in its Proposers’ Day announcement .

In a recent report on the desktop virtualization market Gartner wrote about some of the challenges ion the VDI arena:

  • Hardware still requires greater investment than many organizations would like — significantly higher than the capital required in a distributed PC computing model.
  • Hyperconverged hardware is a viable solution, but the entry cost is high.
  • The requirement to add GPUs and additional software (such as layering or user personalization management [UPM] software) brings desktop virtualization architectures closer to the fidelity of high-performance local client computing, but again can add significant cost to the solution.
  • Microsoft licensing is still difficult and expensive, and many organizations have not yet taken advantage of Windows per-user licensing, which can significantly reduce these burdens.
  • The lack of a Service Provider Licensing Agreement (except for recent changes on Azure) increases complexity for organizations looking to outsource VDI.
  • Citrix and VMware [the leaders in the VDI arena] licensing are still relatively expensive, which is at least partially explained by product bundling that provides a more comprehensive set of capabilities. Organizations should decide carefully which SKU is required to meet their needs and avoid overlicensing.

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