Death By VDI Desktop Virtualization.

  • 5
    min read
  • Anunta Tech
  • April 14, 2016

It is often said that even if you are successful at server virtualization, it does not mean you can succeed at desktop virtualization. Being an End User Computing specialist that uses desktop virtualization as the underlying technology, we come across at least an enterprise a week that thinks adopting desktop virtualization is just a matter of buying a VDI license and getting an SI to do the job. Another couple of enterprises who are mystified why their POC failed to scale and the worst are the cases where having failed to make it work the IT team has now written off the technology as one “that does not suit us”.

At a practical level, what organizations don’t realize when it comes to static v/s dynamic workloads is that servers are concentrated within the datacentre and IT controls it completely. On the other hand, desktops are distributed and non-standardized. Let’s not forget that as you move users from a personal machine into the perimeter of the datacentre, you leave them with a dumb terminal and effectively less control over their computing environment. Hence, unless you have factored in the overall change management process for users you will encounter problems.

It is absolutely important to know why you’re virtualizing or what is the solution best suited to your requirements. Technology for the sake of simplifying the IT function or even reducing cost is rarely as powerful as directly giving business increased productivity and this is where the end-user becomes critical. Virtualization, for the sake of being cooler only goes to prove that IT is not aligned with business.

A fundamental transformation is needed in VDI management. Organizations need to realize that it’s not desktop management anymore but a cluster of high performing servers with storage systems and this requires a skilled team to manage.

In our experience, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to manage multiple roll outs, as long as you’ve chosen the right partner to help you implement it. In fact, we’ve had the opportunity to implement exactly such a concurrent roll out at Ratnakar Bank and found that we are able to minimize the upheaval and maximize the end-result in terms of increased productivity.

Scaling is critical when it comes to planning your VDI deployment. VDI planning involves right compute, storage, memory, network and application integrations for the right application performance. The sizing for a batch of 150 – 200 users vs 1000 – 2000 users will be dramatically different. The server enclosures, storage models, etc., vary for different scale of requirements and a clearly thought through modular approach has to be adopted. This is also by far one of the most critical junctures at which IT needs to align with business; in being able to map on to business growth projections to plan future ramp ups.

It’s not just the hardware that you’re testing VDI on. It’s your actual application and user environment with diverse possible business scenarios, so you know for sure what the exact sizing (including users/core, IOPs for storage, etc.) is. Many industry benchmarks won’t fit the actual environment. A detailed analysis of the current workload, capacity changes over the weeks, peak volume hours, days, month etc should be considered during this planning.

All things considered, what we can say for sure based on our experience of implementing VDI over the last decade for various corporates is that implementing VDI requires a partner with specific and proven track records. Before selecting a partner, check that and remember having done server virtualization does not count as sufficient track record. We believe that the skills required to manage VDI involve domain experience of virtualization technology & products. Many VDI implementations fail because of a gross underestimation of the skills needed in this domain. It’s probably not a bad idea to bring in an expert.

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  • License investment: If you’ve spent thousands of dollars purchasing Microsoft Office licenses for your local PCs, you may not want to abandon that investment by switching to G Suite or Microsoft 365 instead, where you will need to pay new subscription fees.
  • Cost: Putting aside the issue of prior investment in licensing, Web-based office software usually requires subscription fees that, in the long run, may exceed the total cost of ownership of on-premises alternatives.
  • Learning curve: Your employees are probably experts in using on-premises applications like Microsoft Word. Moving them to Web-based alternatives will require teaching them new applications and new paradigms for storing and accessing data. You may not have time to teach all of your workers these new skills without disrupting business operations. Your IT team, too, may not be as well-equipped to support a new type of office platform.
  • Security: When you use Web-based office platforms, it becomes harder to isolate sensitive data or choose to keep it offline. Files that your employees create in a Web-based office environment are typically stored on shared virtual drives that, depending on how you configure security settings, may allow users to access each others’ documents, or even expose data to anyone on the Internet.
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