Coronavirus is causing a sweeping new work-at-home culture around the globe with far-reaching global technology implications, including a stepped-up demand for solutions like virtual desktop infrastructure and Desktop as a Service, according to industry executives and solution providers.
“Work-from-home and business continuity with VDI and DaaS is becoming priority one for every company around the world,” said IGEL CEO Jed Ayres, who is now conducting business from his Marin County, Calif., home as part of a work-at-home mandate that has impacted nearly 7 million Californians and 265 million Americans. “Before coronavirus, work-at-home was not on the to-do list for CIOs. Now boards of directors and CEOs are demanding a work-at-home plan. Every company needs a well-thought-out work-at-home and business continuity plan.”
As a result of the work-at-home onslaught, IGEL is seeing stepped-up sales, providing tens of thousands of seats in the past several weeks for IGEL’s Linux OS connected to Citrix Systems, VMware, Microsoft and Amazon along with unprecedented demand for its UD Pocket offering, said Ayres. “Companies are scrambling right now,” he said. “Any entity that values the health and safety of its employees, not to mention obeying the law, is embracing VDI solutions to keep the business going. Every company has a unique set of critical Windows applications; now they need to access those applications remotely. VDI is going to become pervasive.”
IGEL and one of its top partners recently moved to deliver 600 work-at-home licenses to a Midwest health-care provider in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, said Ayres. IGEL’s rapid response helped the health-care provider’s back-office workers move to an at-home work model in the wake of the shutdown of schools. “Typically, this sort of implementation would take months, now we are turning on the solution in days,” said Ayres. “You are going to see a big spike in work-at-home around the world with infrastructure that can flex. That means more flexible software licensing from companies like IGEL to cover both work and work-at-home, said Ayres.
“We are looking at changing how we license, so when we sell a license for a call center they also get a corresponding license at home,” he said. “Companies are rethinking how they package and assist customers to facilitate work-at-home.”
Europe is feeling the cultural shock of moving to work-at-home more than the U.S. because six out of 10 people in Europe have never worked from home, said Ayres. “This is an earth-shattering moment that has broken a cultural norm in Europe,” he said.
IGEL, for its part, has pushed forward with a new work-at-home culture in Europe where previously there was a hard line in the sand that made working at home off-limits for many employees, said Ayres.
IGEL, leveraging its own software and its UD Pocket offering, has even moved its 100-member software development team in Augsburg, Germany, to work at home. That move would have been unthinkable before the coronavirus crisis, said Ayres.
“You are going to see governments start to require companies to provide business continuity and working at home,” Ayres predicted. “This isn’t going to be the last coronavirus in our lifetime. This is a pilot run of how globally interconnected we all are and how fragile the global health-care system is.”
Pete Downing, chief marketing technology officer of XenTegra, Huntersville, N.C., a top IGEL partner that recently won Citrix’s U.S. Partner of the Year award, said he is working 16-hour days to meet the unprecedented demand for work-at-home solutions in the wake of the “global workforce disruption” caused by the coronavirus crisis.
“We’ve had a record spell of sales and services implementations, helping enterprises work remotely,” he said. “It’s amazing how many enterprises were not future-proofed for a black swan event like this coronavirus scenario. They didn’t expect it and now they are scrambling to get employees to be able to work remotely.”
The coronavirus has caused all companies from small businesses to Fortune 100 behemoths to “rethink their strategies” and invest in technologies like IGEL, Citrix and Microsoft to enable remote work-from-anywhere solutions.
“Many companies have just been too comfortable with antiquated architectures,” he said. “The mentality of a lot of companies has been ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ The other problem is DR [disaster recovery] always gets put on the backburner because it costs too much money. Now those companies that put it off are getting bitten in the backside by the coronavirus. It’s only when a catastrophic event happens that things change.”
Downing is even helping some of his neighbors adopt modern work-at-home solutions like Microsoft OneDrive, Teams and Citrix ShareFile to access files rather than antiquated VPN technology. “I’m surprised at how bad some of the work-at-home technology is,” he said. “It’s one thing to check email. It’s another to be able to do your job end to end working at home. You need to be able to share and collaborate with files.”
Downing predicts far-reaching technology changes from the crisis, including a rush for solution providers to build improved online education services for school districts. He called on the country’s governors to make online education a mandate so students can be productive in a crisis scenario like the coronavirus.
“It is mind-boggling that we don’t have online education,” he said. “The town I am in has no ability to do online education. My wife is home-schooling my daughter to keep her up to speed while the schools are closed,” he said. “We have kids that are going to be out of school for two months and they are not going to have a single day of instruction. That is the lesson here. Our kids are feeling the pain, and we are all going to suffer.”
Ron Dupler, CEO of GreenPages, Kittery, Maine, said remote workforce solutions like VMware, Citrix, IGEL, Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop and Amazon Web Services Workspaces are soaring in the wake of the coronavirus.
“Remote workforce solutions like telemedicine and remote learning have been thrown to the forefront right now,” he said. “Like it or not, we have had to rapidly provide a large-scale test for these solutions. We are proving we can do this. This is going to have profound, long-term effects on commercial business and all of our lives. By and large, we can be proud of how we are rising to the occasion in our industry and the U.S. We are all learning a lot about each other and rebalancing our priorities.”
Entisys360, No. 132 on the 2019 CRN Solution Provider 500, one of top VDI solution providers in the country, has seen a robust uptick in VDI demand in the wake of the coronavirus, said Al Solorzano, vice president of end-user computing for Entisys360, a five-time Citrix Partner of the Year winner. “Every meeting we have had in the last two weeks has been related to COVID-19,” he said. “We’ve seen a significant increase in business for end-user computing. There was a scramble among customers to get additional capacity, find resources and deploy cloud. We did all of it.”
Entisys360 also saw a surge in net-new business leads, said Solorzano. “The amount of net- new leads we got for business continuity was comparable to what we would have seen in a full year under normal circumstances,” he said.
Among the technologies that came to the fore were Citrix’s Remote PC technology and VMware Horizon, said Solorzano. “Those technologies were more easily adapted very quickly by our customers,” he said.
Solorzano said he expects organizations that have not put in place business continuity plans to move forward with more work-at-home technology plans. “I think most organizations will look at this as something they need to plan for potentially happening more often—whether it is global incidents like the coronavirus or more local incidents. I think organizations are going to start looking at more business continuity/work-at-home initiatives with a better plan on how they are going to deal with it.”
IGEL, for its part, has moved quickly to support a “virtual” work-at-home environment with many processes changed to accommodate the new reality,” said Ayres. “We are all adjusting to a new world order,” he said. “We are now under a direct government order to not leave our houses. It is affecting everybody in the United States. Employees can’t go see customers and they can’t go to their offices.”
Ayres is holding daily calls with his leadership team, weekly calls with his extended leadership team and has created a SharePoint site for employees. “Our employees’ health and safety is the most important thing for us right now,” he said. “We are being flexible. We have people working shift when their kids are asleep and production personnel that have figured out how to build UD Pockets at their homes.”
The strong IGEL employee response to the crisis is allowing the company to “be there” for customers. “We have sales teams working through nights and weekends to help customers set up work-at-home solutions,” he said.
Ultimately, the coronavirus has set up warlike conditions that are affecting everyone around the globe, said Ayres. “We are fighting a war against this virus and, as a result, you are seeing warlike conditions like shelter in place. We are living in an amazing time where we are seeing if humans can come together on a global scale and cooperate to stalk something that is out to get all of us. This is going to change forever how people think about working and business continuity,” Ayres said.
“Not to put it too bluntly, but one has to ask the question: Do we have the infrastructure—the network bandwidth and raw compute power to pull this off?” he said. “Amazon and Microsoft are already feeling the heat of quite so many users and enterprises trying to access their cloud infrastructure. Let’s hope we don’t all have to start turning off Netflix and HBO just so there’s enough bandwidth for the essential tasks. Everyone in IT across the planet is working weekends and nights to enable this massive shift to working at home. When the dust settles, we’ll all be in a very different world.”