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How Scale Computing Rapidly Delivered A Remote Desktop Solution To Customers Grappling With Coronavirus Crisis

The hyper-converged infrastructure vendor wanted to help businesses quickly transition to remote work environments. It realized it had a solution on-hand through its partnerships with Leostream that just needed a little ingenuity to make easily accessible

The global coronavirus pandemic has motivated IT vendors to get creative in enabling remote work environments, and Scale Computing did just that for many of its customers in a way that prepares them for a future beyond the current crisis.

After Scale Computing was inundated with calls from small businesses desperate to suddenly transition their staff to working from home, the hyper-converged infrastructure provider realized it already had a solution on-hand through a partnership it forged almost two years ago with Leostream—well before anyone thought remote work would become a government-mandated affair.

While its alliance with Leostream had previously only focused on a full VDI implementation, some clever Scale Computing engineers realized they just needed to package and support a built-in companion product to enable workers to log directly into the desktops they abandoned in their offices as the crisis forced social distancing measures.

“It was always there, but that’s not why we were using it, not why we partnered with Leostream,” Scale Computing CEO Jeff Ready told CRN.

[Related: In Coronavirus Crisis, Public Cloud Computing Is ‘An Unsung Hero’]

Scale Computing, based in Indianapolis, quickly packaged two virtual machine images that customers could download for free, and put together a how-to video and trained technical support staff to assist them in deploying the technology, Ready said.

“This whole thing is to help those people anyway we can right now,” Ready, one of Scale Computing’s founders, said.

It takes less than an hour to deploy the solution, which consists of a connection broker and remote access gateway. Then people can log in from any web-enabled device into their work desktop, all using “VDI plumbing” without needing actually needing a VDI server, said Alan Conboy, who serves as the company’s office of the CTO and drove the effort to quickly deploy that solution.

The remote desktop solution accepts Active Directory or LDAP credentials from any machine, said Conboy.

When Scale Computing first partnered with Leostream, Conboy got to thinking through disaster scenarios that would require setting staff up to work remotely, though he never imagined the scale at which Scale Computing would actually have to confront such a scenario.

What Conboy realized back then, he said, is “the exact wrong way to do that” is to buy laptops, install VPN and security software on them, and then push the corporate network to the edge, being an employee’s home.

“From a security perspective, that’s terrifying,” Conboy said. And “from a logistical perspective, it’s almost impossible.”

Personal computers “get subjected to everything, constantly. They are the least secure devices on planet Earth,” he told CRN. And the VPN approach allows every piece of malware to merge with the corporate network, while also constituting a massive violation of Europe’s GDPR regulations and California’s new data privacy law.

The right way to enable remote access is to “virtually pull your workforce back to their desktops by using a browser window. Then it doesn’t matter what’s on your PC,” Conboy said.

The best part, he added, is nobody needs to try to buy new laptops—in the current crisis as difficult to procure as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Businesses can use the solution for months at no cost, as Scale Computing has amassed Leostream demonstration licenses that it’s now distributing on 30-day licenses.

Scale Computing is providing the configuration, architecture, and virtual machines free of charge, and is offering trial licenses of Leostream for a month or more during the crisis.

And once they get past the “hair-on-fire panic moment that I got to get my company operational,” Ready said, the solution prepares those companies for future IT transformation. That means a true VDI solution that doesn’t rely on a bunch of desktops sitting on empty desks.

The emergency remote solution gives customers a framework to adopt VDI technology later on as part of a more-permanent disaster recovery plan, with the same licensing, while working hand-in-hand with existing VDI environments, Ready said.

“When all the virus stuff settles out, you’re going to find a whole lot of people are going to start adopting this because they’re going to want to work from home for an extended period of time,” Ready said. “The customers can rest assured—they buy those licenses, when they are through with the crisis, they don’t have to buy anything else again.”

That approach allows time to do a VDI rollout the right way, Ready said. The conversion from a remote desktop to true VDI is made so seamlessly, a user can log in to their system in the morning and not even notice they went from one to another.

Scale Computing, which relies on its channel heavily in going to market, is working with partners now to train them in deploying the remote desktop solution.

“For channel partners trying to solve this, let them know, we’ve got a solution. It’s easy, it’s fast, it works,” Conboy told CRN.

Scale Computing believes the solution is so important to companies struggling to remain operational in the current crisis that it’s making it available to all solution providers, even those not in its partner program.

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