The emergence of today’s hottest trends such as cloud, consumerization and mobile IT has increased the importance and necessity of virtualization. According to the leading industry analysts, “The Virtualization Solutions market is expected to grow 12.3 percent year-over-year in 2013 and maintain this pace as it moves from 14 percent overall market share in 2011 to more than 20 percent in 2016”. With its increasing adoption at scale across industries and becoming the next logical step for today’s corporate IT Infrastructure, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI has now become mainstream.
It is known that many VDI projects fail or under-perform typically due to user experience issues, performance issues and escalating costs as businesses move from PoC and pilot stages to production. While the new generation VDI technologies have matured over the past few years and address many of these challenges, lack of right initial planning and understanding what doesn’t work well or hasn’t worked for other businesses (use cases) may become a bottleneck. Some of the key mistakes done by enterprises undertaking VDI transformation journey are:
No consideration to User Profiling: It is not only important to determine the end-user environment – local vs. remote, knowledge users vs. task users, percentage of non-employee users (contractors, partners etc.) but also important to understand the end-user experience requirements, such as user profile persistence, single vs. multiple desktop needs, printing requirements, audio profile, monitor support etc. to avoid user experience issues and performance inefficiency.
No consideration to Application Virtualization: Application Virtualization strategy is critical to successful VDI implementation. Enterprises typically have to face issues such as installing every application into a standard desktop image, creating multiple images based on different user groups etc., therefore an assessment to analyze important details like total number of application users, average load time etc. needs to be captured. Application Virtualization also enables you to manage any endpoint as a generic device, making complex OS upgrades much easier.
Improper Design: VDI consists of three key components – Server, Storage and Network. VDI design should be done keeping in mind the maximum scalable limit and minimal downtime of these three components.
Improper Resource Allocation/Sizing: As the resources are shared between multiple users, it must be considered that there is no over-commitment of number of users on a single resource. Effective sizing of the servers, network, and storage must be done to give a good virtual desktop computing experience to the end-users.
VDI is a complex and a long-term project. In addition to the above mentioned considerations, VDI adoption must be coordinated across business units, divisions, personnel, workloads, security etc. for an enterprise wide success.
Enterprises undertaking the journey must be absolutely certain that VDI is the right solution for them and it will address their current infrastructure complexities. The use cases, benefits, TCO, and infrastructure requirements must be evaluated to make sure VDI is for the right reasons.
Successful VDI Implementation is directly connected to working with the right approach and following the best practices. Assessing customer’s core applications, operating environment, user profiles and user experience is the key of planning for any VDI rollout.
Below is a recommended seven-phased approach for a successful VDI Implementation:
Step 1: Assess
A top down approach should be adopted during VDI Assessment phase that primarily focuses on customer requirements and aligns those requirements with the set of users and assess those users to capture the resource metrics. Defined metrics should be used to capture information on utilization of CPU, memory, network, storage and other compute resources. These metrics are important for proper design and sizing of infrastructure resources and virtual desktop images needed for each group of users. A proper assessment will prevent design errors that cost both time and money. It will also help speed up the pilot and production phases.
Step 2: Plan
The planning phase is critical as it requires developing high level design documents including specifications of VDI components such as hardware, hypervisor, connection broker, gateway etc. While detailed planning for pilot and migration is important, operational readiness for implementation should also be planned.
Step 3: Design
The Design phase is divided into steps that deal with the most impactful design decisions first. Understanding how customer use cases are mapped to VDI and its desktop pools and desktop resource requirements, helps determine the underlying hypervisor design and subsequent components that sit on top. The Design phase should also consider user’s functional requirements at each step. For example, if the user requires a USB device to be plugged into the client device, the device and operating system must support USB redirection or if the user requires a multimedia application the client device must support a protocol that can provide adequate user experience. Capturing this information helps the architect to understand the interdependent relationships at each layer. Design validation is also highly important to ensure high degree assurance.
Step 4: Pilot
VDI Pilot phase is intended to help conduct an end-user pilot of a VDI prototype that is engineered from the start to alleviate any concerns end-users may have about transitioning to a virtual desktop for full-time use, and to justify a widespread production deployment to senior management. This is accomplished by helping the organization teams clearly define the goals and objectives of the pilot, which entails understanding the requirements and needs of end users.
Step 5: Implement
Successful Implementation is directly linked to the Design. The Implementation phase falls into two places one is in Pilot and another is in Production Environment. Though the implementation phase takes considerably less time compared to design it is one of the core activities of the VDI projects.
Step 6: User Migration
User profile migration is one of the most critical and sensitive activities in VDI projects. Migrations Plans must be strategized for seamless user data migrations and profile migrations from existing physical desktops to virtual desktops using third-party tools or manual methods.
Step 7: Manage & Support
After successful implementation and user migration, monitoring and management of the VDI environment is important to maximize user satisfaction and enhance their productivity. Operational performance must also be monitored and maintained to ensure higher service uptime and control costs. This is an on-going phase and involves time-to-time user profile management, desktop pool management, access control & identity management etc. Enterprises must identify appropriate skills, efficient processes and automated tools for an efficient management of their VDI environment.
Most VDI projects perform well till the Pilot phase and start to throw up unexpected performance issues while being rolled out in the production environments with thousands of users. VDI performance assessment must be done at each phase of the project to identify bottlenecks, restore performance and deliver the benefits of flexibility, scalability and end-user satisfaction.
Identifying performance slowness in early phases of PoC & pilot can help avoid cost overrun and remediation downstream, thus mitigating the risk of VDI failure during production deployment. Monitoring and capturing performance metrics is the key to VDI success as it sends problem alerts in advance, assuring peak performance.