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A customer recently approached us with a question: How can we optimize our developers work experience while maintaining security and compliance? To answer this question, we explored many virtual desktop options. Here are some of the key lessons learned!

Overview: The Challenge

The challenge was to create a new workstation solution that enhances the developers’ experience, modernizes how work is done by using a cloud-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE), and increases sustainable workloads while adhering to the highest security standards compared to developing locally.

We evaluated if the current Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDIs) can be replaced with a secure and flexible solution built using BeyondCorp with ChromeOS and Chromebooks. The customer requested BeyondCorp to be evaluated, however, they were open to exploring other solutions. Among the other options are Google Workspace, which includes Google Cloud BeyondCorp running on Acer Chromebooks, Cameyo, and Google Cloud Workstations

Although this proof of concept focused on one customer, the general lessons learned are helpful for any company considering a similar approach for their developers. Here are the five key benefits of using remote developer workstations in the Cloud. 

Five Benefits of Developer Workstations in the Cloud

1) User Experience

The benefits of virtual desktops include higher performance, a compute experience that is always available, fewer maintenance requirements, and lower hardware and license costs. But, what really makes a virtual desktop stand out is that it’s available when you want it, where you want it and with the right performance. The convenience is simply unbeatable.

2) Performance

Cloud desktops perform better than physical desktops. Doing your development work on a Virtual Machine (Compute Engine) gives you more flexibility and makes it easier to spin-up on-demand additional capacity for better performance. With virtual desktops, IT teams no longer have to worry and wait for machine upgrades to improve performance. An entire fleet of virtual desktops can be upgraded to new standards within minutes through a single configuration change and a simple reboot. 

3) Sustainability

Transitioning from physical to virtual desktops with a Compute Engine, using datacenter(s) with low CO2 emissions, has the added benefit of supporting the sustainability goal of a net-neutral IT landscape and becoming carbon-free by 2030. Fewer physical workstations reduces physical e-waste and carbon emissions caused by transporting equipment from the factory to offices. 

4) Security

Running virtual desktops on Google Cloud increases security capabilities by encrypting data in-memory, at rest, and in transit with Confidential Computing and vTPM. To further enhance security, users can leverage External Key Management (EKM) for encryption keys and/or Assured Workloads (when required for compliance). A virtual desktop also eliminates some of the security concerns companies with physical desktops face. Without physical desktop hardware, bad actors are unable to exfiltrate data or compromise hardware in any way. Additionally, attacks that require direct hardware access, such as USB attacks, evil maid attacks, and other similar techniques, are no longer a concern.

5) Efficiency

Cloud-based desktops can be created and resized on-demand. They are always accessible and essentially immune from maintenance-related issues. IT no longer needs to worry about warranty claims, break-fix issues, or recycling. Eliminating these issues decreases the IT team’s workload, freeing them up to focus on higher priority initiatives. Developer workstations in the Cloud improve the user experience and decrease maintenance and hardware costs, offering significant benefits for both the employee and the company. There are a variety of solutions that can be configured according to a company’s specific security and compliance needs.

Contact us to learn more about how your organization could implement virtual desktops to improve workflow and save on equipment costs. 

Jorge Liauw Calo
I’m a Cloud Security Architect with experience and a focus on Google Cloud. With topics such as security reviews, infrastructure security, network security, vulnerability management and security monitoring are things I help to introduce and/or improve at our customers. I like to learn new skills and improve my capabilities in Google Cloud and Cloud Security. For Xebia Cloud I am the Practise Lead for Cloud Security. Besides working with Cloud and Security, I spend a lot of time staying in shape by training for and participating in marathons.

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