IT Focus Area: Infrastructure Optimization
May 2, 2011
VDI: 7 Steps for a Successful Implementation
One of the reasons for the buzz surrounding virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is the fact that it is garnering positive results for most companies across the board. According to a recent report by Zona Research, the total cost of ownership for most organizations with VDI has been greatly reduced. Not only have these companies realized an 80 percent savings in maintenance, but they also realized lower capital and operational expenses, and significant increases in productivity.
With so much information available, it can be challenging for organizations to figure out what the business really needs. To help simplify this daunting task, consider using a seven step process and thinking about VDI in two parts: what is it and how can companies best implement it.
What is VDI?
VDI enables the technology staff to manage a company’s desktops and desktop application environment as a dynamic service offering.
This allows the information technology (IT) organization to move the components of the desktop environment inside the data center and deliver, on demand, the applications, the user personality and even the operating system.
The technology is a server-hosted virtual desktop computing platform that centralizes endpoint images as virtual machines, rendering the type of endpoint device irrelevant. When needed, the IT staff can quickly add or patch applications from the data center. The next time the client accesses their image, the applications and operating systems will be in full corporate compliance without the need to push an update. Upgrading to Windows 7 is easier in combination with application virtualization. Disaster recovery can now be more easily aligned with end-user data, which has been historically stranded on the endpoint. Aside from giving the technical customized desktop setup from either their desk or a remote location.
After clarifying what VDI is and how it can work for an organization, consider the following seven-step process for a successful implementation.
Step 1: Develop a Business Case
Start by providing stakeholders with the documentation necessary to support the project. This information should include understanding the current mechanisms and challenges around physical desktop management, including refresh durations and complexity, Windows 7 deployment, operating system (OS) and application patching and maintenance procedures, offshore and non-employee access, and finally, regulatory compliance.
Also, identify the organizational costs associated with physical desktop management in order to justify the migration to the virtual landscape. It’s important to break down the costs of the staging and deployment of new desktops. And, don’t forget to break out fixed activities and calculate the cost of downtime and a hardware refresh.
Step 2: Understand the Existing Infrastructure
To understand a company’s existing infrastructure, assess the virtual, remote and storage environments. Examine the current state of virtualization penetration within the organization. The goal is to find out the percentage of the server environment that is virtualized and the hypervisor vendor mix and their distribution.
Finally, review the storage environment. Determine if utilizing green-field storage is an option or whether the company should leverage existing infrastructure. Also, think about evaluating current technology, including fibre channel (FC), Internet small computer system interface (iSCSI), network attached storage (NAS), and direct attached storage (DAS), in addition to reviewing the capacity and performance of the current evaluation tools.
Step 3: Determine the Desktop User Environment
Break out the percentage of non-employee users (contractors, off-shore, partners) that also have to be included in the planning. Are they knowledge users or task users? Next, determine the user experience requirements. Consider important details like user profile persistence, single versus multiple desktop needs, granular universal serial bus (USB) redirection, printing requirements, audio profile (one-way or two-way), and monitor support. Also, conduct an application virtualization assessment to analyze and capture important metrics such as executable size, device drivers installed per application, total number of application users, and average load time. Application virtualization is a way to accelerate application deployment and simplify application migration. By de-coupling applications and settings from the OS, managing any endpoint as a generic device and making complex OS upgrades, a non-event can occur.
Step 4: Access the Physical Desktop Environment
Analyze the current desktop environmental metrics, including considerations such as network, central processing unit (CPU), storage, and memory. Assess the user personality and profile location, including mobile users, offline needs, and stationary task workers. Finally, develop a playbook or roadmap for the implementation priorities. Prioritize users based on complexity factors derived from the assessment. Determine sizing factors within the virtual infrastructure based on the assessment. These should include peak time analysis, storage implications for monolithic versus linked clone approaches for virtual desktops, and performance evaluations from desktop to storage. Look toward the optimal operating expense (OPEX) savings available in the market today.
Step 5: Map the Solution Options
Examine the major architectural options available. Typically, a vendor-independent approach provides the necessary freedom and flexibility to pull together the best mix of technologies for a specific set of requirements. This solution can include a combination of technologies such as VMware, Citrix, Microsoft or Oracle—whatever best-of-breed technology blend will best meet the business and IT needs. Consider all of the major architectural options, and mapdesktop delivery options to the previously captured end-user experience. Look at the remote protocol choices and their impact across network, security and performance. Next, map out application virtualization, including the pros and cons of rolling into a larger VDI scope or setting it apart for separate consideration. Include the delivery mechanism and packaging options—all of the necessary requirements for successful VDI implementation.
Step 6: Pilot the Solution
Create a framework for pilot implementation on a subset of users. Define various test metrics and scenarios as well as success criteria for the pilot. It helps to also conduct a proof of concept. It may help to create an environment to test VDI solutions prior to investment, which could mean involving a partner. Based on the findings, develop a plan and design a VDI framework that includes best practices, deployment reference architectures, milestones, and project management resources.
Step 7: Implement and Manage VDI
Once you’re ready to implement VDI, determine project management resources, schedule a rollout date, develop project timelines, and select the ideal resources to meet the needs of both the business and IT. Also create a feedback loop for continual process improvement and capture performance metrics so optimal performance is achieved.
VDI is a logical solution for many organizations that want to improve management and user productivity, control costs, and increase information security. Instead of letting the idea overwhelm the IT staff, think about it as a positive move toward the future. Simply ensure that the move is made in a deliberate and measured way in order to bring success to the entire organization.