Desktop virtualization can deliver transformative benefits for your organization. People can access a great user experience on any device, anywhere. IT can make a quantum leap in agility, manageability and security. For the business, desktop virtualization provides a whole new way to empower workers and respond to change. But these benefits won’t happen automatically—this is a major project that needs to be handled the right way. Make sure you know what’s involved, and what you need to do to deliver the successful implementation your organization deserves.
1. Get your apps in order
Don’t assume you can treat all your applications the same way and virtualize them using the same model. You’ll need to understand where each app writes its data, whether its compliant with terminal services or RDS, and whether your homegrown apps can run in a shared environment. Understanding your apps is a critical first step—don’t skip it!
2. Rationalize your apps
Why do all this work just to replicate the sprawl of your existing environment within your datacenter? Take the opportunity to figure out what people are actually using, what you can consolidate and what you don’t really need to bring forward. It’ll save you time and effort, and you’ll begin your new life on a clear, rational footing.
3. Know your users
One of the biggest reasons desktop virtualization initiatives fail is that they’re disconnected from what the business really does and what it needs to improve. To make sure users are getting what they really need, spend some time with a few managers and power users in each department and have them walk you through their environment. What apps are they using? How are their desktops configured? How are their drives mapped? As you move ahead, return to the same users to demo the new environment for them. They can become key advocates.
4. Segment your user base
Identify the use cases you’ll need to support to make sure you’re meeting their needs effectively. The key is not to over-segment. You can usually find commonalities across use cases and departments that let you consolidate down to just a few groups that share key dimensions. Once you know the lay of the land, you can start with the low-hanging fruit—the easiest cases—to deliver a quick win and generate buzz.
5. Proactively manage change
User buy-in is critical for full acceptance. Make sure people feel heard throughout the process, and give them a stake in it. Create excitement by marketing the coming benefits, like the freedom of flexwork and the cool factor of BYOD. Provide high-profile education and support. A catchy internal brand name can help make your new environment a rallying force for your organization.
6. Pick the right deployment models
Adapting your delivery model to the needs of specific groups will help you balance cost, performance, scalability and other priorities. Many users will do fine with session virtualization, saving you the memory, disk footprint and IOPS of full VDI. Others probably do need a dedicated, persistent desktop. You’ve got plenty of flexibility to work with—take advantage of it.
7. Maintain separation
Decoupling your OS, apps and personalization layer will make your system more predictable and easy to administer, and it’ll lower your ongoing operational costs significantly. If you install apps inside your images, you’ll have to break them open again to modify the OS every time you do an app upgrade—and who needs that? App virtualization lets you minimize the number of images you need to maintain and lowers your storage costs.
8. Centralize your data
Centralized data is easier to manage, more secure and a lot less expensive than trying to maintain small datacenters in every office. It also spares you the need to pull data over the WAN all the time, which can kill your performance and user experience. Needless to say, you’ll want to replicate that centralized data offsite for disaster recovery.
9. Get the whole team involved
Desktop virtualization touches every part of IT—OS, desktops, applications, networks, security and storage—and if one of those systems goes wrong, it can take the whole environment with it. Make sure your project team includes representation from all those areas, and get all those admins working together to keep things running smoothly.
10. Test, test, test
Having an IT guy click around a bit does not constitute an adequate testing plan. Get a few business users involved early so you can eliminate most issues before you get into general testing. Run live tests in branch office locations to check out your user experience across the WAN. Beyond user acceptance, and making sure people can do every part of their jobs, you’ll also need to test for performance and scalability. Try to break the system by overloading it with users or desktops so you can find points of failure now—before you go live enterprise-wide.
To get more guidance to ensure the success of your desktop virtualization initiative, check out the Citrix App and Desktop Virtualization Solutions.