Mario Andretti, the great race car driver, was once asked by a reporter if he was ever afraid when driving a formula one car and pushing the envelope through the duration of a race. Andretti answered: “If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not going fast enough.”
How quickly can you move your organization to a virtual desktop computing paradigm? At what speed are you comfortable and can you afford to do it slowly and gradually?
A little while ago, I read Brian Madden’s piece on why customers DON’T want to implement VDI (http://bit.ly/8lE8YF), which made me think about these questions. After skimming through some of the comments, a pattern appears to emerge. Apart from the (perceived) technical complexities of a VDI solution, there is a lot of angst and politics involved, according to the commentators.
Today’s IT departments are often organized along technical silos that reflect the departmentalized technical responsibilities of the client-server computing model.
Adding virtual desktops to a “classic” IT environment requires touching multiple silos. Technical architectures are spanning client and server operating systems, server virtualization, storage, application integration (or virtualization), thin client computing etc.
This is where the perception of complexity is coming from. In reality, building and running a virtual desktop solution is easier than the traditional model in many respects, but requires broadening one’s knowledge to cover the areas unknown today. IT professionals are encouraged to embrace the relevant new areas as it positions them to assume leadership roles once the organization moves towards virtual desktops.
CIOs face a slightly different challenge. They must get the right skill set together in order to design and build a virtual desktop solution and then change the organization to align with the new computing model. This will inevitably involve retraining or replacing current employees and restructuring of the org chart. These are sometimes painful changes to make and should not be taken lightly. However, most CIOs and their C-level colleagues in an organization look at the promise of cost reductions associated with moving to virtual desktops. The ROI benefits of such a solution are based largely on reduced operating costs and cheaper hardware at the end point.
I stipulate that the most effective (from a cost / ROI point of view) way to implement virtual desktops is to go all out and shoot for a big-bang , wall to wall transition into virtual desktops. Instead of thinking about a small IT “project”, think about “Phase 1” of the virtual desktop adoption. This approach has several distinct advantages over the often practiced, tippy-toe approach to a few users here and there:

  1. If you are a CIO, it requires you to get your leadership together and plan a project carefully. Discipline in clear thinking at this stage makes all the difference – just like a smooth landing is preceded by a well executed approach. Enlist the help of outside consultants who have done this a couple of times to avoid re-inventing the wheel . This planning phase also allows for the identification of key people in the organization who have acquired some knowledge in the field and are positioned to run the operational aspects after the initial go-live.
  2. While the actual go-live and the associated cultural transition is bigger, the big-bang approach limits the time of pain and suffering (lots of initial user questions, 24/7 user support, working the bugs out of the system and processes) to a relatively short period of time, compared to years of singing the roll-out blues.
  3. Cost savings: If ROI is a major driver towards desktop virtualization, here’s where the gravy will be. The faster the transition to a new organizational model, the faster the old silos can be broken down and support personnel can be reduced in number or retrained. Otherwise, the organization would need to keep most PC support technicians on staff for the large number of physical desktops and hire ADDITIONAL resources to support the virtual desktops.

In this context it is important to state that ROI benefits must be based on the actual CAPEX and OPEX reality, which is different in each company. Generic ROI calculators often assume industry-standard values for server and desktop support costs per unit and can vary significantly between organizations. Examining those operational costs closely can also help identify current areas of unnecessary redundancy and duplication.
In summary, the IT department leveraging virtual desktops as the primary and de-facto way of delivering applications and data to users features an org chart which is fundamentally different from today’s reality in most organizations. The change can be painful – therefore, the successful transition is swift, well executed, and is planned with the end in mind.

I can already see some of our friends in the industry replying to this blog by stating that Citrix requires a risky wall-to-wall go-live in order for promised ROI/TCO benefits to materialize.
No, that’s not what I am saying. ROI calculators are great tools if used properly in the context of actual values in an organization. Generic statements are often based on industry averages and must be validated before delivering realistic projections. Some of our friend’s VDI solutions actually don’t significantly reduce or eliminate the desktop support team at all – it just moves their work to the datacenter. Unlike the virtual desktop approach supported by Citrix FlexCast (as little as one desktop image for all users, solid application virtualization, streamed operating systems to the end-point, etc.), VDI still has one desktop for every user and doesn’t leverage the “power of one”. The problem just moved to the datacenter, but didn’t fundamentally change. Not bold enough! I am not even saying that your organization will achieve a specific ROI on your virtual desktop implementation. Too much depends on your current operating model, cost structure, and use cases. All I am saying is that whatever ROI /TCO you calculated , you should strive to changing the computing model fast – otherwise you risk cost overruns and therefore reduced ROI benefits.
Again – start with the end in mind and pledge to replace all physical desktops with virtual ones by a certain date .

Citrix actually offers a couple of things that support you in your resolution:

  • XenDestkop 4 Trade-up program for XenApp customers: Get a better trade-up ratio if you trade ALL of your XenApp licenses: http://bit.ly/4EIM0u
  • 1,000 Desktops. 90 Days. In production: A fast deployment methodology offered exclusively by Citrix Consulting to get a scalable architecture in place and have a significant number of users in production in a short period of time: http://bit.ly/4E4iih
  • A modular design approach to the virtual desktop solution provided by Citrix Consulting Solutions: http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX124087
  • Enterprise Licensing Program. Specific discounts – the more you buy, the larger the discount. This should help with the wall-to-wall approach: http://bit.ly/8TNoJS
  • Citrix Consulting architects will continue to cover topics on planning and executing the transition on these pages in the future.

Please share your thoughts and comments.
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