In my last post Project Foundations – Focus on XenDesktop – Part I I began this series and in this post I have begun to add more information on the project phases and some pitfalls that I have seen.
Before moving into the different phases of a project I feel that discussing your current environment is very important. This is the main building block for all of your projects and could make or break your implementations. We get very busy and at times and often overlook things in our own environment.
This week I visited a customer’s site with several other engineers. As we walked through their data center, all of the comments were very similar as we all noticed how clean and detailed everything was. All of the wiring and structured racks were near perfect. While not always a firm indicator, it was just one of the many indicators that day that give us insight into how they manage their environment and the time that they take to ensure that everything is just right. There is more than just wiring and a neat data center that goes into a great foundation for a project but this is a perfect start.
All implementations rely on not just their functionality but also the functionality of other technologies in your enterprise. Your networks, server and workstation hardware, operating systems, storage area networks, and ancillary applications work in conjunction together; a technology symphony. If there is a break down in any of these systems it will show up in one form or another and it could appear that your deployments are not sound. Slow authentication in your environment could appear as if your new deployment is having logon issues; where another system in your enterprise is the actual culprit.
These topics and other assessments should be explored during your analysis phase but also bullet points that should be looked at often.
• Is your current network environment suffering from over subscription?
• Are your WAN connections too small or slow?
• Are your servers at or near capacity?
• What is your round trip transit time between sites?
• Do you have packets that are dropping in your network?
• Are there any Directory Service issues?
Your current infrastructure is the main foundation on which any new project will rely on. Without a firm foundation, even the most eloquent design can suffer and end user satisfaction will surely be sub par. Take the time to ensure that all systems in your environment are running smoothly and periodically check the health of your environment; this can be performed by your staff or via an outside firm which will give an objective look into the workings and health of your environment.
Proof Of Concept
When a new technology is introduced to an Enterprise one the first things that everyone wants to see is if it works, and how it can be added into the current environment. A Proof Of Concept (POC) is a fairly quick implementation of the technology so that we can see it working. Many of the people reviewing the POC won’t know what it really takes to successfully implement this technology; they may not even know much about your current environment or workload but could have a significant influence on your project. Do your home work early and know the potential pitfalls that you may encounter when asked how long it will take to move to production; you may be asked to move to production earlier than you expected. Without a firm understanding of the technology and sound project design practices, you may agree to a project time line that may not include the time needed for a smooth, issue free deployment. Take the time to go through all of the phases of a successful implementation as documented in Architecting a Citrix Virtual Solution (http://citrixtraining.com/courses/course_view.cfm/course_id:277) . You should also work with Citrix Consulting or another consulting firm with experience in Architecting Citrix solutions.
A POC doesn’t always employ the same methodology required for a successful implementation. It often includes a very small subset of the features of the technology and often doesn’t include monitoring, backups, high availability, network assessments, or other methodologies required to ensure a successful enterprise deployment.
Many times a POC is completed and the environment is quickly adopted and rushed into production without a large amount of work going into the foundations required for a healthy environment; this can lead to poor performance, bad user experience, extensive downtimes, and frustration surrounding the new technology.
Is the hardware you used for your POC sufficient for a production environment?
Did your POC encompass an evaluation of all best practice documentation and environment assessments to determine a sound deployment?
The POC is actually the first part of the Analysis phase of a project and should not circumvent all of the project phases and get moved to production. Hastily moving a POC environment to production can cause severe user dissatisfaction and also add additional support and resource utilization. Whatever you do; don’t just rush your POC to production.
XD proof of concept checklist.
Once a Proof of Concept has been completed you will be working on gathering the information necessary to build your project plan and design.
Nobody likes having their babies called ugly but we need to investigate all of our existing systems and their current state of health; as previously mentioned, this should be performed on a regular basis and not just during a new project design.
During the discovery phase you will need to speak to your customers and identify their workflows as well as conduct assessments (Network, Application Virtualization, etc.) to ensure that you are meeting their requirements as well as the requirements for your enterprise.
A XenDesktop deployment can be very simple or very complex depending on the needs of your enterprise. With XenDesktop you may require several different Citrix technologies such as Citrix Provsioning Server and Citrix XenServer to achieve your overall virtualization needs. Each of these technologies will require assessments and design criteria for a successful deployment.
Here are a several questions that may come up during your analysis:
• Do your customers use smart cards?
• Do you have an enterprise printing policy that will work with your new project?
• Will your users require Multilanguage support in your VDAs?
• Will these VDAs be assigned on a one to one basis? Permanent?
• Will you be incorporating High Availability into your design?
• Will you require the need to dump the memory contents of your VDA images for troubleshooting?
• What teams will be responsible for troubleshooting issues on the VDA?
• How many team members will be dedicated to the build and deployment of this project?
• Do these team members have other projects that could detract from this deployment?
During this phase you will also need to review the best practices and determine what settings work best for your desired performance. I have seen several implementations use the slowest cache type on their VDA images only to find out they were not aware of the other options until post production. While this may be the desired cache method for some, it may not be the best method for your desired performance. Take your time to understand the Best Practice methodologies and put your best foot forward.
Now would also be a good time to think about what types of tools you will pre-install on the VDA and Server images to assist you in troubleshooting issues when they arise.
HDX Experience Monitor – http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX123058
Critical Tools matrix – http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX122827
Win7 VDA Memory Dump – http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX123642