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End-user performance management is very critical to making VDI a successful initiative. From an end-user standpoint, the user is looking for maximum efficiency and is not concerned about HOW that is achieved or WHAT technology is used. Just like how a mobile phone user does not care about whether his phone uses GSM or CDMA technology as long as it solves its intended purpose.

Frequently, business heads and teams resist VDI based on the fact that the familiar box near them has been taken away. We saw a lot of resistance when we rolled out VDI couple of years ago, but we found out a solution to prove and measure its performance. Eventually, we made these performance metrics available for all to see so that new users who challenge VDI have reliable data to refer to.

The approach we have adopted is a combination of technology and processes. Our monitoring architecture started from the end-user application metrics and moved up the layer to the actual VDI in the data center (contrary to the traditional approach of just looking at performance counters). With this approach we were able to easily relate the application performance at the end-user level to the dependent parameters of central infrastructure. We created business views which brought in all the dependent infrastructure together but still faced a challenge of simulating actual end-user experience.

We then developed application simulators which could schedule the application access at certain periods of the hour and feed the performance numbers (equivalent to typical use case scenarios and key strokes of the users). This was again interlinked to the various system thresholds like Network, WAN, SAN IO, Virtual platform and ended up with the final VDI session performance tracking. Any deviation in the threshold would highlight the possible causes which are being monitored 24/7 by the NOC team. With this we have been able to consistently achieve user satisfaction as well as start delivering application performance guarantees to our customers – and free business heads and end-users of their VDI-related fears in the process.

Visit www.anuntatech.com to know more about our latest End-User Computing offerings.

According to Brian Madden, VDI is not the silver bullet folks expect it to be. The two major misconceptions highlighted being:

  • With desktop virtualization one can avoid managing windows desktops
  • With desktop virtualization, you virtualize the apps and virtualize the user environment, and then there’s nothing left to manage

Brian further explains how desktop virtualization is inextricably linked to Windows 7.

A lot has been said about the challenges or myths about VDI and conclusions are being made basis these. While these discussions kindle a constructive thought, they also scare away new users by detailing one complexity after another. Here’s our take on them:

First of all, the organization should be ready for a real transformation if VDI has to be adopted. If the intention is to manage everything as it’s being managed currently then most of the challenges being talked about on blogs and online forums will be true. The fundamental change is that VDI is moving control from the end-point to the datacenter.

Traditionally, a lot of discipline has been adopted in datacenter management as most of the control lies with the IT team. Few years ago several blogs spoke about how the virtual server concept would fail and never take off. Questions were raised about hardware being shared, driver issues, memory allocation, storage, etc. Today, nobody questions server virtualization capabilities; almost every organization has attempted it or is using it on a large scale. Also, comparing speed of adoption of server virtualization to that of desktop virtualization is incorrect. Desktops are tightly integrated with end-users. More than technology, it’s a perception play and organizations should be ready to embrace it.

When we adopted this solution earlier, we faced questions about the cost effectiveness of VDI (which was not seen as optimal), ease of management, etc., but realized that we were trying to compare VDI to the bottom most layer of the desktop and not looking at it as a broader solution which can deliver much more than the existing desktop back then. Speaking of compliance and security, many Desktop IT teams are struggling to manage tough compliance requirements, facing audit after audit forcing them to streamline the end-point solution, protect critical data on desktops, complicated policies and scripts. The way out for these are stop-gap solutions or deploying enterprise-wide complex applications which would be used only for addressing about 5 – 10% of the issues they were supposed to take care of.

The effort and investment needed for these are not attributed to desktop costs, rather they all become part of the information security budget. Isn’t it logical to say that the current desktop is not capable of protecting itself and hence we need to look out for solutions? If yes, then why are these costs not attributed to desktop costs? On the contrary, migrating to VDI brings about 70-80% of compliance without intervention of any additional application or technology. Are we consciously crediting VDI for this? Great desktop management tools and solutions do exist today. But even then, the need to manage each end-points still persists. The accuracy of patching, achieving standardization in the hardware/software configuration, application rollout is not an easy task for desktop engineers. VDI brings down this complexity and masks the hardware variation and provides a wonderful application layer that is completely standardized. While patching is still needed in VDI, it does reduce the volume of patching by using the right templates.

VDI management is about managing 1 desktop vis-à-vis 500 desktops. If enough time is spent in designing and planning then the manageability of VDI can be lot simpler than actual desktops. At times, IT teams are challenged about their so called obsession with “VDI” and trying to make it work in whatever form. The answer is ‘No’ , because the audience you’re going to face is end-users and they are smart enough to know what works best for them. The concept of VDI is not new, the logic behind sharing a common infrastructure platform has been around for many years. The evolution of many such technologies like client server architecture, terminal services, application virtualization, etc., are driving the single point agenda of how effectively one can deliver application to the end-users.

We should continue to look at solutions that deliver application to end-users using various methods and tools. Also, VDI shouldn’t be compared to replacing a desktop but the complete chain of things which contribute towards end-user experience management (EUEM).

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.