Be wise if you virtualize

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Here’s a common question lately:  “should my company implement virtual desktops?”

The short answer is, yes.  But the devil is in the details.  To virtualize your desktops right, the technology must be carefully designed and rigorously tested. We’ve seen many ad hoc, ‘thrown in’ virtual desktop implementations done by others where ITW ended up coming in to fix it after the users and admins started to complain.  While we do love being the hero; swooping in to save the day, we also love helping our clients make the right choices the first time around.  In the IT industry, as in carpentry … measure twice … cut once.

The most common issue with these troublesome VDI deployments has been disk and network I/O.  More often than not, the VDI was dropped on top of a functional virtual server environment.  The problem is that desktop infrastructure has a much higher demand on disk and network sub systems.  Why?  The aggregated nature of the centralized resources;  you end up with many desktops running on just a few physical nodes.  If you’re considering virtual desktops, your existing infrastructure needs to be examined very carefully and tested for bottlenecks and overall performance capacity before you start making high-octane demands.

Another common issue is ownership and responsibility. The success criteria for a VDI rollout must be set by the lines of business and you must accept that desktop performance is ultimately measured by client experience at the workstation.   Yet, the system administration for virtual desktop environments is often given to server teams at the data centre.  At first blush, this strategy makes sense; if the desktops are running in the data centre, why not have your server team take ownership over them?   The problem is that server-centric tech folks typically refer to system logs, graphs and reports to analyze system performance.  They don’t spend their time deskside.

Either your data centre folks needs to run double duty, or you need two points of system administration.  If your organization is big enough to warrant seperate back-end and deskside teams, the odds are that the transparent flow of information between them is an ongoing challenge.  A sad result is often that client experience suffers because the wrong team is responsible for desktop performance.

If you’re considering virtual desktops, you need a partner that understands the technology “end-to-end”.  You need to consult a partner who can demonstrate experience with server-centric computing and application delivery.   To deliver the proper ROI, a full understanding of licensing and client experience to hardware ratios must be part of the strategy as well.  These are often overlooked.

A properly designed virtual desktop infrastructure will deliver a powerful, scalable, agile, and lowered TCO system … but as with most things, it can be harder than it looks.

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