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Top 10 Considerations When Evaluating Desktop Virtualization

Top 10 Considerations When Evaluating Desktop Virtualization

A contributed article by Issy Ben-Shaul, Wanova CTO and co-founder

Distributed organizations have unique desktop management challenges.  End users span the globe, are often offline, and have administrative privileges that can lead to an unstable PC environment.  Desktop virtualization (DV) seeks to solve that pain, however with the varied solutions and approaches on the market today, how do you know which one is right for your organization?  Effective planning is crucial for success.  Here are the top 10 factors to consider before choosing your desktop virtualization strategy:

  1. Cost of deployment - While there are some organizations that have specific drivers for VDI -such as security or regulatory compliance -at the end of the day, IT administrators would like to see a justifiable ROI. Thus, the TCO for a desktop virtualization solution should be evaluated end-to-end, including the cost of servers, storage, network bandwidth, network components and image distribution infrastructure. At the same time, when evaluating ROI, IT administrators should not expect dramatic savings in capital expenses by deploying Desktop Virtualization. What they should be looking for is savings in IT operational expenses by dramatically cutting the time needed to manage and support the endpoints, as well as a higher-quality offering that improves end user productivity and the availability, correctness, compliance and data-protection of their endpoints.

  2. End user performance and user experience - When working on their laptops, users expect no less than predictable, native PC user experience, independent of their physical location (local or remote to the data center), or types of applications they use - including graphics-intensive apps or apps that leverage specific capabilities of the endpoint device, such as Flash, video conferencing, VoIP or online training. This is particularly important for knowledge workers, who comprise the majority of laptop users. 

  3. Mobility and offline operation -Gartner predicts that by 2014 that 72% of enterprise endpoints will be laptops. Given this, users with mobile/laptop devices must be able to work when not connected to the corporate network, or when the network is intermittent, and synchronize quickly upon resumption of network connectivity. 

  4. Image management WITH personalization - Many desktop virtualization solutions offer a "single-image" management capability, meaning they can maintain a single image and update a large number of endpoints. However, this often comes with a "hidden" price. When updating the desktop image, any personalization that was done by users on the system drive is wiped out. This includes user-installed applications, as well as any settings or user data that was stored in the "C:" drive (often without user's awareness). Thus, when evaluating DV systems, always ask how user-installed apps are handled.  If the answer is "wipe on every image update", this means you might need to resort to individual management of each endpoint using standard desktop management tools. Make sure to consider the storage implications of your decision: if personalization is critical, make sure the solution can handle storage efficiently.

  5. WAN and storage optimizations - In a distributed environment where users connect over a WAN, make sure your system makes efficient use of bandwidth, doesn't degrade performance, and is latency-tolerant. In addition, if your organization has many branches, find a system that can leverage the branch LAN to avoid unnecessary transfers from data center. Finally, a DV system should incorporate deduplication and other techniques to ensure efficient use and cost of storage, which is the dominant factor in the TCO of a DV solution.  In particular, if the DV system stores a full copy of each desktop without optimization, the cost of storage becomes prohibitive. 

  6. Desktop data protection with fast system restore - A centralized DV solution has the promise of protecting desktop data, including user files, settings, and configured applications. When evaluating a DV solution, be clear about the levels of data protection that are offered. Can the system perform a full desktop restore, including managed and user-installed applications as well as user data and settings, or does it just restore files? Can the system roll back to a previous snapshot if there's a problem with the current one? How fast can a desktop be restored to full operation, especially when the desktop image needs to be executed locally on the endpoints?  Shipping many GB of data un-optimized over the WAN can take days to complete and clog the enterprise network if not properly optimized.  

  7. Compliance, support, and break-fix - One of the great potential benefits of DV is the ability to enhance endpoint compliance and stability by maintaining and enforcing the corporate image. How automated is the process? Efficient image enforcement can also reduce helpdesk costs by fixing endpoint problems more quickly. Consider whether the DV system you are evaluating offers such capabilities and benefits.  

  8. Monitoring and reporting - As with any system that manages thousands of endpoints, one cannot underestimate the importance of a monitoring and reporting sub-system that is scalable, simple to use, and informative enough to alert the administrator in real time on important issues without cluttering the console with non-important events. A good system should also provide reporting tools to assess the resources that are used and the overall ROI of the system and the benefits it provides. Don't settle for cobbled together systems from disparate solutions with separate management, image management, and reporting. 

  9. Security - Many organizations consider server-hosted DV primarily to address  data security or regulatory compliance requirements, since data never leaves the data center. Consider the connectivity for the end users of the system to make sure they'll get the performance they require and the necessary flexibility if they do need to have offline access to data.  Other considerations include the security of data in transit between the endpoint and data center, the security of the data at rest in the data center and of course endpoint security. Finally, it is important to evaluate how a DV solution co-exists and interoperates with existing desktop security products such as anti-virus and disk encryption solutions.

  10. Ease of management and incremental deployment - Consider the impact of the DV solution on your IT organization, your infrastructure, and the end user. Does it require significant data center investments? Do users have to learn a new system or a new way to work? How easy is the system to deploy? If you're leveraging existing PCs, do you have to ‘wipe and load' each one to deploy? How easy is scale up or down as your requirements change?

About the Author

Dr. Issy Ben-Shaul, CTO and Co-Founder

Dr. Issy Ben-Shaul leads all aspects of the technical and product vision for Wanova. Prior to co-founding Wanova, Issy was the CTO of the Application Delivery Business Unit at Cisco and led the technology and vision for the successful Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) product. Issy joined Cisco via the acquisition of Actona Technologies, where he was Co-Founder, CTO and Vice President of Engineering. Actona developed leading edge technologies for file server and protocol acceleration over the WAN, which became the foundation for the Cisco WAAS product. Before founding Actona, Issy was a tenured faculty member at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, working on wide area distributed systems. Issy holds a doctorate and master's degree in computer science from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science from Tel Aviv University.

Published Tuesday, March 01, 2011 5:05 AM by David Marshall
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