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Q&A: Interview with Liquidware Labs, Helping the Journey from VDI POC to Full Scale Production Rollouts

As the VDI market continues to mature and expand, there has been one company evolving along the way as well in order to make the desktop transformation process a smooth one.  Liquidware Labs is an innovative provider of desktop virtualization solutions for physical and virtual desktops, adding support for VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop and Microsoft Windows 7.  If your company is currently involved with VDI or even thinking about it, this is a company and product line that you want to learn more about.  

So to find out more about Liquidware Labs, its products and where they are headed as a company, I spoke with their president, Chris Akerberg.   

VMblog:  Since it began in 2009, Liquidware Labs has been promoting a desktop transformation methodology supported by your products as the path to successful virtual desktops.  Four years later, do you still stand by this approach?

Chris Akerberg:  Yes, our methodology of assess, design (based on assessment findings), migrate users to the new environment and validate that virtual desktops perform as well as physical, is still the single best way to ensure that you will make the right decisions every step of the way.  Even more importantly, it will allow you to scale properly and confidently as you expand your virtualized footprint.

But I want to stress that our perspective really has broadened as we work with more production environments.  These days, we are much more active in the post-POC phase, helping our clients with ongoing management of their users with ProfileUnity and helping them monitor and troubleshoot environments with Stratusphere UX.

VMblog:  What's driving demand and interest for ProfileUnity with regard to user management and Stratusphere UX for visibility?

Akerberg:  The demand for user management with ProfileUnity is really coming from a few trends.  The first is that VDI projects are leveraging stateless desktops with shared image strategies to lessen the impact on storage and to ease management. Yet organizations still want to deliver personalized desktops, and ProfileUnity lets them do that easily.   Second, Windows desktop administrators need to get their users migrated from XP to Windows 7, and the clock is running on that one.  ProfileUnity delivers "Anytime Migrations" with a universally compatible Windows profile which takes a lot of the complexity and manual intervention out of the migration process.  Once a user is "under management" with ProfileUnity, that user can log in to XP, Windows 7, View, Citrix, or Physical - we have taken the barriers out of the migration process - hence the term "Anytime Migrations."   We have seen that ongoing user management gains importance as organizations want to launch "follow me" identities for employees that allow them to login to their personalized workspaces anytime, anywhere, on any device.

For monitoring and troubleshooting, Stratusphere UX provides unparalleled visibility into what users are experiencing on their desktops. When a problem develops, administrators can drill down to identify root cause, analyze the data and perform diagnostics to quickly fix issues.

VMblog:  I keep reading great things about FlexApp as well.  Can you explain why Liquidware Labs pushed the development on this technology?

Akerberg:  FlexApp is a type of application virtualization approach that is a natural extension of user virtualization in ProfileUnity.  FlexApp has two components: User Installed Applications and Department Installed Applications.   We pushed the development of FlexApp for user installed applications, because we saw that a lot of our customers were going from persistent virtual machines to non-persistent. Non-persistent allows for the greatest CAPEX and OPEX savings, but the drawback is that it doesn't supply user personalization to the workspace.   ProfileUnity supplies the user profile and FlexApp delivers the specific applications that users want on their desktops.  FlexApp UIA then allows these applications to follow users to subsequent logons.  With this functionality, larger numbers and more diverse types of users can be compatible with VDI, not just task workers but knowledge workers and power users. 

Earlier this year, we added Department Installed Applications to User Installed Applications.   FlexApp DIA allows administrators to package applications and assign them to users on non-persistent desktops.  This form of Application Virtualization is dramatically different than that used by Microsoft App-V or VMware ThinApp, which utilize application isolation.  Because our FlexApp technology does not "isolate" applications, it has a very high degree of compatibility for complex applications or those requiring a driver to be installed.  So, it provides a very complementary technology to other application virtualization solutions to get to a 100% solution where both applications and users can be decoupled from hardware and OS to be centrally stored and managed from the data center.

The use of ProfileUnity FlexApp greatly lowers the number of images a company needs to manage in a non-persistent desktop environment by removing many of the applications from the base images and "snapping" in user and departmental applications at log in.

VMblog: Can you elaborate more on your Windows XP to 7 Migrations story?  I know it's a hot topic for a lot of organizations who may have to move thousands of users over to Windows 7.

Akerberg:  Sure.  Liquidware Labs solutions are very applicable in the physical space, and we have been saying this for quite a while.  But what we didn't fully comprehend was how few options were there for desktop administrators to automate the migrations process.   The competing choices for tools to help them are either too little, like USMT, or very costly, complex user virtualization solutions at the other end of the spectrum.   ProfileUnity is a perfect, "just right" solution for Windows 7 migrations.

ProfileUnity can support an "Anytime Migration" with a universally compatible profile.   When we spoke with Windows desktop administrators recently at the Microsoft Management Summit, many of them had not investigated virtualization solutions because they felt it would be adding something incompatible with their environments.  ProfileUnity was a real revelation to them.  One thing they really liked hearing was that we do not force them to move to a proprietary format - they will continue to work with the same Windows profiles they know and have worked with for years.    They can get their users and data under management on Windows XP until they can cut-over to Windows 7 or Server 2008, whether it's running on physical or virtual systems at that time. It will be as simple as a user logging off their system one day and logging on to the new on the next.   If the Windows 7 environment develops an issue, no problem, roll the user back to Windows XP until you get the bugs worked out.  A bit later this year, ProfileUnity will support Windows 8 and Server 2012.     So, today, we're educating traditional Microsoft Windows IT users that ProfileUnity meets their need for an affordable solution that keeps them in familiar Windows territory.

VMblog: Going back to the VDI market - doesn't VMware and Citrix offer similar, competing solutions to ProfileUnity?

Akerberg:  Well, in a way.  The similarity ends at the fact that all of these offerings manage user profiles.  Their solutions work fine in specific use cases and obviously their offerings are specific to their platforms.   However, ProfileUnity is a much more broadly applicable, feature-rich platform-agnostic solution that is actually being endorsed by the platform vendors when customers hit a certain size or complexity in their environments, or are running mixed environments.

With ProfileUnity, you can automate much of the set up and maintenance of users profiles.   You also can take advantage of user organization inside of Microsoft products, like Active Directory, Outlook and Exchange, which now you can leverage fully.   Finally, you can apply consistent user management practices across physical, virtual, Citrix XenApp or Terminal Server - all your Windows desktops regardless of platform.  The result is a "follow me" user profile identity that allows users to access their workspace from any device, in any location, at any time.

VMblog:  Similar question for Stratusphere UX.  Isn't the monitoring space full of competing solutions, including vCenter Operations Manager and Citrix EdgeSight?  What's the need for Stratusphere UX?

Akerberg:  Yes, there are many other monitoring solutions available, but none of them really provide the detailed "in-the-guest" metrics that Stratusphere UX does.   With desktops, the only way you can really gauge how well the overall VDI infrastructure is performing, is by knowing what is happening on the desktops.  Are logins slow?  Are applications launching correctly?  How long it is taking for an application to respond - or worse - are they not responding at all? 

In order to measure user experience objectively, you have to quantify good desktop performance and measure it.  And that's where it gets tricky.  What exactly do you measure, how much do you measure, how long should you measure and finally how do you get that data in a way you can interpret it?   Our Stratusphere UX solution solves this problem for you.  We've already done all the work in determining the key indicator metrics and how and when to gather that data.  Better yet, we associate meaningful date in organized views, so you can quickly spot the problem areas and take steps to fix them.

And, by the way, we have Adapter technology for Stratusphere UX to push user experience metrics into vCenter Operations Manager.

VMblog:  You guys have long been known for Assessments, but now it looks like you are making an equal push on Health Check services.  Is that something new?  Can you tell us a little bit about it.

Akerberg:  Actually Health Checks are something our engineers have been doing for a long time using Stratusphere UX, but last year we decided to roll this out to our Acceler8 partners as a discipline they could add to their services portfolios and offer to customers.

Our Health Check methodology came out of our frequent excursions into customers' production VDI environments when their "hair was on fire" because something really bad was happening and they simply could not figure out what the problem was.  At lot of times, we were called in as a last hope, and I am very happy to report we have a 100% success rate for accurately diagnosing "sick" VDI infrastructures.

In virtual desktop environments, there are a lot of layers that can present issues.  Stratusphere UX can answer questions like ..."are we building the infrastructure correctly? Do we have enough resource capacity?  Are workloads balanced properly? "   It's really best to be proactively monitoring VDI to prevent problems if possible.  Stratusphere UX supports proactive monitoring as well as reactive diagnostics and Health Checks, if issues develop.

VMblog: Ok, so what's the outlook for the company today?

Akerberg:  It's really exciting and encouraging.  Early on, we were helping companies prove out that desktop virtualization could work for them, and many instances, spent our time in advancing POCs and small trial deployments.  Now, those POCs and trials are morphing into production rollouts and we are helping those organizations scale and manage these larger environments.  As I mentioned earlier we are also seeing great momentum in the larger physical PC market where organizations are getting prepared for future change with user management and our "anytime migration" feature.

So whether  companies look to centrally manage their physical users or stand up more virtual desktops for a wider spectrum of users, it just gets better and better for us.  We have unique solutions that solve real problems for customers and help move them directly into more agile, mobile desktops that are a lot easier to provision and manage.   Our products are easy to install and affordable, and we're demonstrating daily that they are also robust and scalable.   We are in a very good place right now and positioned even better for the future as we see the overall desktop landscape continue to evolve.

###

Once again, I'd like to thank Chris Akerberg, Liquidware Labs President and Chief Operating Officer (COO), for taking time to speak with VMblog. 

Published Tuesday, April 30, 2013 7:02 AM by David Marshall
Comments
Interview with Liquidware Labs, from VDI POC to Full Scale Production Rollouts - Telapprise - (Author's Link) - June 5, 2013 4:04 AM
Q&A: Interview with Liquidware Labs, Helping the Journey from VDI POC to Full Scale Production Rollouts – DABCC - (Author's Link) - March 14, 2016 3:57 PM
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