I came across an interesting article  by Greg Shields this morning and it has lulled me out of my blogging doldrums. The author makes a point that desktop virtualization is a great DR strategy, and in fact, it can be very easy since you don’t need “all” of the features employees typically need, just enough to get by. In fact, I have spoken to a number of customers who deploy XenDesktop for just this purpose (remote access and DR.) In the office, workers all use their “normal” desktop environment, but if they need remote access, or in a DR situation, they can login to a different, stripped down desktop environment to get access to files, basic productivity and critical applications. It is a great use of technology and far better than warehousing laptops. The virtual desktops IT creates can be simple stripped down hosted-shared (Windows Server-based) or pooled VDI with just critical applications and communication apps installed. Most, if not all, users can be treated pretty equally so not much complexity for design.

While I completely get the thinking, and it certainly gets IT departments going on the technology, and may even be a good tactic as a transitional tool, I would argue that it should not be the strategy.

At Citrix Synergy in Barcelona, Mark Templeton used a line that has had me thinking for months. “If you design for exceptions, the rest is free” (Or something close to that). In otherwords, why architect DR differently than you do your day to day operations? The same is true for mobility stategies and remote access strategies. Companies think of these topics as exceptions that they need to plan for, they need to go buy software and infrastructure for DR, they need a mobile strategy and need to figure out of they will support Android and what products to buy and install on devices to protect data. It is easy to allow all the new pressures of regulations, IP security and consumer devices to put IT on the defensive and there are a host of companies out there ready to sell product, but if instead you re-architect for the exceptions, the rest gets easy.

What does it mean to “design for the exceptions?”

Architect a virtual desktop and application environment that permits:

  • The use of any device, company or employee owned, any OS, any screen size, touch or keyboard
  • That desktops, apps, data, and user preferences are all centrally stored and managed and maybe used used online or offline
  • That datacenters are redundent and abstracted so that users can work and communicate seamlessly on any public IP network.
  • That the workflow for accessing desktops, apps, and data is exactly the same both inside and outside the office so that they never need trained

So if you want to lightup XenDesktop to meet your DR needs, fantastic. We’re happy to sell it, and it sure beats the alternatives, but don’t stop there, with a little more planning, you can meet 100% of your users requirements and get the full benefits of desktop virtualization. To make it easier, Citrix has lit up a new web-based tool to help architects and project managers assess, design, and deploy desktop virtualization projects. In fact, working with Lakeside software, we have recently made available in the Desktop Transformation Accellerator a new free, automated assessment tool that gives you all the background infromation on what your users are using on their desktops to speed up and take the risk out of your deployments.