Total power often leads to corruption. No, I’m not talking about business or politics. I’m talking about desktops.  Have you been in a meeting where people talk about giving users admin rights to workstations. I have two words for you… Be afraid… Be very afraid…  OK that was 5 words, but the point is clear. Be afraid.

Many of the challenges with the traditional, distributed desktop operating environment are the lack of standard definitions and enforcement.  Most organizations strive for a secured and locked down desktop environment, but over time users were granted exceptions. Throughout the months and years, those exceptions became the new de facto standard.

Now, users have local admin rights. Thousands of unique applications are installed throughout the organization.  Every desktop configuration is unique.  This is an almost impossible situation for any IT organization to support.  This environment did not happen overnight; it took time.  Standards slipped because it was simply easier and faster to circumvent the standards instead of troubleshooting the issue.  Because of the lack of standards, the environment is so convoluted and complex, it is excruciatingly difficult to make any changes or updates without causing mass confusion.

That being said, can these types of organizations still use desktop virtualization? Yes. And they will see many of the benefits with desktop virtualization that have been discussed over and over again. It will just be more difficult to achieve than an organization who has the desktop standards in place and actively followed.

Many organizations look at desktop virtualization at being the solution to simplify the desktop operating environment.  Desktop virtualization is an enabler.

If done to the fullest extent, desktop virtualization is an enabler towards better IT management.  Desktop virtualization can enable an organization to discard the bad habits of the past  and replace them with best practices that can help an IT organization survive and succeed within an ever increasingly complex computing environment. In order to simplify the management of the desktop, reduce desktop operating costs, and achieve desktop virtualization success, the organization must have alignment in terms of:

  • User rights: Users must have enough abilities to do their job, but this does not mean users should be a local administrator.  IT must be able to provide the users with the correct applications and resources when requested. If modifications are required, IT must be able to accommodate in a reasonable amount of time. If IT is unable to meet the agreed upon time frames, alternatives must be made available so users can continue to be productive, which might require an open, and temporary virtual desktop playground area where users can utilize these applications until IT integrates them into the mix. I discussed this in a previous blog about a virtual desktop playground.
  • Applications: Allowing users to install their own applications into the corporate desktop image increases complexity and reduces the security of the system.  IT has no visibility into the application and is unable to plan upgrades, updates, or hardware refreshes. The applications could open up holes in the infrastructure that others could exploit.  The organization must gain control of the applications if the organization is going to be more flexible.
  • Operating Procedures: IT must deliver the resources users require in an adequate amount of time. This involves the development of new IT processes and ways of working.  If a user requires an application, IT must find a way of either incorporating the application into the environment, or finding the user an acceptable alternative while working within the confines of the corporate standards.  

Simply moving to desktop virtualization will help us solve some of our challenges, but if you want to make a significant improvement in the way IT is seen within your organization, there must be a new approach.  Without clear definition of the operating standards, moving to a desktop virtualization solution will result in many of the same challenges observed with the traditional, distributed desktop operating model. Chaos.  Except this time it will be virtual chaos.

Daniel

Lead Architect – Worldwide Consulting Solutions
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