Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

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1 Virtual Desktop Infrastructure A 2e2 Opinion Piece This article will address some of the benefits and pitfalls associated with adopting a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in the context of the Windows XP/ Windows 7 lifecycle. Of 343 companies surveyed by IDC, 64.7% have either already migrated to Windows 7, or expect to in the next 6 months. The new operating system is host to a range of tools and capabilities that support client virtualisation, cementing it as a key component in future ICT landscapes. Indeed, IDC s paper Windows 7 Done Right, suggests that client virtualisation technologies should be an integral part of any Windows 7 deployment plan. Many companies are already investing in virtualisation solutions, and Gartner predicts that by % of server workloads and 15% of enterprise desktops will be virtualised, and continue to rise. Nevertheless, huge numbers of VDI projects fail to ever get off the ground, largely due to rushed design documents or a misunderstanding of the technology itself. Potential buyers should know their IT landscape intimately, and accurately assess their needs and expectations from VDI solutions to ensure the move is beneficial. Virtually Identical? Although server virtualisation and desktop virtualisation technologies are often regarded as similar processes, their business drivers, technological prerequisites and subsequent benefits could scarcely be more different. Simply put, this is down to scale. Where server virtualisation might involve a few hundred machines, desktop virtualisation could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of individually configured end-user interfaces. The challenge CIOs face when considering

2 desktop virtualisation is maintaining the balance between uniformity and individual functionality. As companies reach the end of the XP lifecycle, their system diversity will likely have reached paralysing levels of complexity. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for this. The only remedy is a considered approach to virtualisation that takes into account the realistic needs of each user group (and perhaps even individual users) in order to prevent serious interruption to business critical processes. The differing tasks performed by legal, financial and HR teams for instance, and the specific applications they require to perform those tasks even down to individual users within those departments all demand a hosted desktop carefully tailored to meet unique user requirements. Without these specific configurations, the benefits of VDI evaporate and any potential reduction in expenditure comes at a great cost to functionality. Further to this, the management of hundreds of virtual servers involves a very different set of skills to running tens or hundreds of thousands of individual end-user desktops, and it is likely that most organisations will require separate teams to run the two. Consequently, for large organisations migration to VDI needs to be incremental rather than in one single technology refresh. Knowing the limitations and benefits A robust knowledge of the variations in end-user requirements within an IT estate is then one of the key prerequisites for the planning of any virtualisation solution. More than anything else, virtualisation projects can be prohibitively expensive to ever get off the ground, and the slower ROI might further weaken their appeal to key decision makers. The cost cutting benefits, for instance, do not manifest as an immediate drop in operational costs. Rather, they fundamentally change the role of client-side machines - they no longer need to run the applications and software used by employees, they just need to display an image of it. As such, organisations

3 should broaden their scope for benefits realisation to recognise the indirect improvements to other services. With the employment of thin-clients for instance, IT service desks can see a dramatic drop off in the number of technical complaints they receive. Hardware failures or problems with incompatibility are practically non-existent once a standardised desktop configuration is established to meet the needs of a specific user group, and a client chosen to display it, there s not a lot left on the user-side to go wrong. This also predicates a vastly extended technology refresh cycle thin client hardware is not subject to the same demands as local machines, and can be used comfortably for five or six years (compared with the standard three year refresh cycle). In short, organisations can run less hardware, for longer. Of course, defining exactly what the demands and necessities are for each user is a complicated process, and will require a careful evaluation of business practices to accurately provision for a user group. Even if a standard can be agreed upon, desktop virtualisation is not suitable for all types of work. Thin clients are not able to effectively run hardware intensive applications, such as multimedia streaming and graphics software, and users requiring specific functions such as these are unsuitable candidates for virtualisation. In short, organisations can run less hardware, for longer. Furthermore, back-end improvements will likely need to be made at the data centre, as this is effectively now the shared hard drive for every hosted desktop. Whilst this will make processes such as data deduplication much easier to effect, the network capacity of the servers will need to be able to handle traffic from hundreds of desktops all accessing one location in the data centre. Furthermore, periods of high intensity access, such as the boot-storm at beginning of the working day will place unprecedented strain on resources that without adequate bandwidth could bring data transfer to a grinding halt.

4 Making the Choice Selecting the appropriate user desktops to virtualise, adequately provisioning for their needs and securing the back end infrastructure to support the move are the cornerstones of any good plan. Any hopes of implementing a VDI without first outlining a robust and specific virtualisation strategy will be doomed to fail. Selecting the appropriate user desktops to virtualise, adequately provisioning for their needs and securing the back end infrastructure to support the move are the cornerstones of any good plan. On top of this should be a clear statement of the expected benefits in order to justify the potentially high initial costs. All of this, however, is to say nothing of traversing the dense vendor-landscape. Microsoft, Citrix and VMware all offer various VDI solutions constituted by a diverse range of individual components and vendor-specific terminology that can be daunting to negotiate. 2e2 have developed a comprehensive 30-day VDI feasibility study, that provides a detailed analysis of the suitability of VDI within various parts of a given organisation, and key metrics to assess both overall readiness and a uniquely tailored vendor-offering. 2e2 is vendor agnostic and dedicated first and foremost to the needs of our clients. If a vendor-offering isn t suitable, we won t recommend it. Indeed, maybe your organisation isn t suited to a VDI solution at all! In either case, our 30-day VDI feasibility study will clearly demonstrate why, based on the following: Studying user use of how they work in the environment, which applications are used, for how long, log in times, idle times Application usage, the most overlooked element of VDI, understanding which users are using which application for how long and studying whether over licensing is prevalent Analyse user sessions, devices, users and applications Provided detailed study report (sample attached) to determine how which parts of VDI will suit your needs set out with comparison to success criteria Financial analysis aligned to a business case addressing needs Agnostic validation of which parts will be applicable within given environment Transition plan moving from physical to virtual world.

5 In addition to a feasibility study 2e2 can also carry out an Office Readiness Assessment. As we have discussed above, upgrading to Windows 7 and Office 2010 requires significant technical change, detailed user engagement and careful deployment. The cost and timing of an upgrade can vary significantly, depending on factors such as: Immediate business operational drivers What changes are required in the current IT infrastructure The scale of applications deployed and the potential for rationalisation Choices regarding file conversion policies; document management interfaces How templates are currently managed and supported The training objective and deployment approach to minimise business risk This readiness assessment is designed to identify a range of different options for the upgrade through a detailed high level analysis of the technical situation and potential business objectives and choices. Our approach is designed to enable clients to make decisions on the scope and structure of a programme to deliver a business-focussed outcome, at the right price point. Contact 2e2 for more information: a. t. e. w. The Mansion House Benham Valence Speen Newbury Berks RG20 8LU +44 (0)

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