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Q&A: Interview with Liquidware Labs Talking about VDI Challenges, the Market and Solutions

For years now, I've had the pleasure and opportunity to speak with a number of different executives and employees over at Liquidware Labs -- most recently, doing a video interview with them at Citrix Synergy.  These guys truly have a finger on the pulse of the VDI market, and they've been creating a number of important solutions to help this industry grow.  So I thought this was a perfect time to dial them up again and ask them a few questions about the lay of the land in order to paint a picture for VMblog readers. 

VMblog:  You had a number of announcements this year citing record financials - how is Liquidware Labs doing these days?

Grace Krokidas:  We are doing very well, thank you.  We continue to gain traction in the market, with more and more organizations realizing that our solutions complete the VDI puzzle for them.  Typically we enter a VDI project when it has reached a certain size, and the customer hits a roadblock in some way - they either can't scale or get the performance they require.   So we have morphed into a kind of SWAT team for VDI.  We have a pretty good success rate of coming in, addressing the problem and setting the trajectory for customers to scale their VDI implementation and get a much better return on their investment because they can bring more of their workers onto VDI.  So anyone out there with VDI issues, call Liquidware Labs first!

VMblog:  The company has been around since 2009.  What would you say are the big differences you have seen in VDI in these past years?

Krokidas:  The biggest difference is that all the major desktop vendors - including VMware, Citrix and the hardware dealers too - are taking VDI very seriously and making impressive advancements in the practicality of the technology.  The cost to deploy is coming down while performance is going up.  As a result, more organizations are looking into desktop virtualization.  However, in the commercial sector, it still largely seems to be smaller deployments around very specific use-cases to virtualize particular groups in the organization -- like supporting offshore developers, field personnel, etc. -- rather than wholesale desktop virtualization.  The exceptions to this are education, health care and federal agencies which have other reasons -- tied to economics, security and compliance - that make widespread desktop virtualization essential for their environments.

VMblog:  Are your customers facing different issues today than what you would have seen a couple of years ago?

Krokidas:  No.  And that's really surprising, quite frankly.   We recently participated in the VMware EUC Insights event and took a short survey of the people who came to our virtual booth.  The top three VDI issues they cited were: ensuring user experience and adoption, designing the infrastructure properly and getting to optimum desktop performance levels.  Now you would think that these kinds of problems would have gone away given all the new storage options, new protocols and other acceleration and advancements out there, as well as the availability of bundled/tested hardware platforms. 

But this actually makes sense to us -- because in VDI one size absolutely does not fit all.  You need to start with understanding your use case for each user group you have.  The use case is king in VDI baby!!  

And you get to the use case through assessments.  Assessment of your physical desktop environment is still the best place to start -- get an understanding of how your users work today. This means not only getting a handle on what applications they're using, and what kind of resources they need in terms of CPU, GPU, Memory, Network Bandwidth and IOPS, but also articulating the additional issues you need to address for that group, whether it's more security, cleaning up desktops, migration or whatever. 

That is the standard that you want to build out in your VDI.   And the more of the virtual desktop infrastructure you can virtualize the better, because that leads to more security and way more manageability.  Finally, you have to validate that the virtual desktop infrastructure is performing to your standard and ensure it keeps performing, even as you make changes.  The only way to do that is with proactive desktop monitoring in addition to systems monitoring.     

That's how you solve these problems.  If you build virtual desktops that perform as well as physical and offer users similar ability to personalize, you are going to get acceptance and adoption by your users.  Assessment also helps you design the infrastructure right, and keep it right-sized over time which delivers the kind of performance you need.  Also, replacing outdated technologies with new innovations, like user virtualization and application virtualization, get you the efficiencies and economies of scale you need that not only satisfies end users, but administrative staff and the executive levels as well. 

So maybe the biggest surprise here is how exact Liquidware Labs got it back in 2009 and how relevant our approach remains today.

VMblog:  Do you see any challenges coming up for Liquidware Labs as the market evolves?

Krokidas:  Well, with regard to developing products and gaining market share, none really.  Our past bets have paid off, and we believe we can still anticipate ahead of the curve on VDI developments, so we are going to stay true to our mission and current course.

There has been one challenge for us in the past which will probably remain in the near term and that is educating the market on how best to engage in a VDI project.  We still maintain the best way is to launch VDI projects based on a "core" methodology of assess, design, migrate and validate to form PoCs and launch pilots, and then go on from there to institutionalize user and environment management and desktop monitoring once you are in production environments.  Using our methodology and our solutions suite at the start of your VDI project allow you to get it right from the beginning and keep it right as you go along.

I just articulated all of this in a few sentences, but believe me; actually achieving this in the real world is very involved.  Yet in our opinion, it's critical that VDI adopters utilize this approach - it's going to save them real pain and expense down the line.  So as VP of Marketing, I will be focused on educating the market on best practices in VDI.  It's challenging because there are so many aspects to VDI - it's very multi-dimensional.  For your readers who like whitepapers, we have an excellent document that explains our approach on our website called "Best Practices in Successful Desktop Virtualization Deployments -- Desktop Transformation Methodology & Top Considerations."   

Okay, so the title is a mouthful, but it's a big subject!!  This paper is recommended reading for anyone who is even considering a VDI project today - even more for someone who has a stalled VDI implementation. 

VMblog:  Great.  Any final thoughts about Liquidware Labs or VDI developments before we close?

Krokidas:  Yes and this one is quite important actually.  For those desktop managers who are NOT planning to go to virtual desktops, they still really need to explore the virtualization technologies - like our solutions -- which have been developed to support VDI.   It's really too bad for the vast majority of desktop administrators who manage physical desktops, that this still seems to be one of the best kept secrets because they could benefit so much through easier management, automation and tighter security.  But there just seems to be a bias towards using Microsoft tools or continuing to go down the traditional OS/hardware upgrade path, which,quite frankly, is a mystery to me why this continues.  Microsoft is much more focused on their next-generation OS and hardware right now than enhancing desktop management tools, but devices like Surface do not solve the classic PC-related issues like protecting user data, centralizing management, simplifying maintenance and support, and keeping users from doing things that expose internal networks and systems to security breaches from hackers, etc.  In fact, these new devices add new layers of complexity.

VMblog:  Ok, that's a great point.  And I probably should have specifically asked, with companies facing a physical PC refresh and looking forward, can you explain a little about what solutions you have to solve those challenges?

Krokidas:  Liquidware Labs solutions can help in so many ways.

First, if you are still using roaming profiles and folder redirection, you would do much better with ProfileUnity which works across ALL desktops, physical, virtual, terminal servers, etc.  This solution not only eliminates profile corruption and bloat, you also get the benefit of an at-a-glance central console that consolidates all group policy objects and settings associated to your user profiles and user workspace environment.  This console is much easier to navigate than having to plough through a massive Active Directory hierarchy.  Install ProfileUnity on a virtual host, configure for your environment, and you are running.  Unlike other user virtualization products, you do not have to source and buy back end systems and databases to get this solution working in your environment.

So you can productively have all of your users' profiles, settings, data, etc. safely stored in your data center and backed up by your traditional backup systems without constantly shoring up the limitations of obsolete approaches. 

If you have to migrate from XP boxes or run them alongside Windows 7 or 8 for a while, you are in luck.  ProfileUnity can migrate from XP to 7 or 8.x at least 3 to 4 times faster than using MS USMT.   Migrations happen automatically and in the background so users keep working right through the migration.  Every migration is also tracked, so you know when it has completed successfully.

ProfileUnity provides a universal profile that allows your user profiles to co-exist on XP and 7/8.x simultaneously, allowing them to go back and forth on applications hosted on either OS.   Also if you have to support RDSH delivery alongside traditional PCs, ProfileUnity profiles work for RDHS /Terminal Server applications too.   ProfileUnity profiles retain native Microsoft Windows formats so desktop administrators are working with exactly the same stuff they have always worked with.  We have a partner, GANTECH, who was able to help a customer jump a couple of levels of versions of ProfileUnity to complete a Citrix XenDesktop upgrade.  The GANTECH consultant was new to ProfileUnity but had worked for years with AD GPO and desktops of all flavors, so he was in very familiar territory, and knew exactly what steps to take.  Desktop admins get the best of both worlds.

Finally, I want to talk about knowing what is in your environment.  Every single desktop administrator out there who manages more than 100 PCs should call one of our channel partners, who are located all over the world, and request an assessment.  About 90 percent of the time, we uncover unused applications, utilities, old scripts, ancient versions of applications, shelf ware - you name it.  And the administrator is always surprised that we find this stuff.  Think about it... your desktop environment has grown over the past 10 -20 years and probably has been managed by successive administrators.  All of these guys have addressed issues, performed upgrades or new installations at a certain point in time.  These changes may or may not be relevant still.  It's incredibly hard to keep track of all of these changes over time, across a distributed environment like desktops.

In assessments with Stratusphere FIT, very lightweight agents called connector ID (CID) keys gather information about the PC environment including OS, machine information, resource capacity (CPU, memory, disk, network) of machines, applications and more.  It's easy to collect the data and when you're done, the CID keys uninstall themselves.  The data collection provides a very complete picture of all of your desktops across your organization, and who is using what, when, where, how and why.  This is a very good place to start to standardize desktop images per user group and clean out what you no longer want or need.  Standardizing saves you a lot of money over time, and is much easier to manage, which is even more important today, when you have so many outside forces complicating desktop environments more than ever.

A long answer to your question, but as you can tell I'm really passionate about helping people to understand what Liquidware Labs can do for them, whatever their desktop environment!


Thanks again to Grace Krokidas, worldwide marketing at Liquidware Labs, for taking time out to speak with VMblog.

Grace Krokidas oversees worldwide marketing at Liquidware Labs, a leader in desktop transformation solutions that enhance manageability and performance of physical, virtual and RDSH desktop delivery platforms.  She is responsible for corporate branding and awareness, as well as delivering marketing strategies and messaging across corporate, channel, field and product marketing teams.  Krokidas has more than 20 years of experience in high-tech marketing, and specializes in developing awareness and driving acceptance of emerging technologies.  Krokidas joined Liquidware Labs in 2011 after previously working with the company's executive team at Vizioncore, a pioneering image-based backup and recovery solutions provider for VMware server virtualization.  There, she launched marketing and channel programs for the company, helping to propel it to the number one provider in its category and to multi-million dollar sales before its acquisition by Quest Software.  Prior to Vizioncore, she successfully supported the product launch of RFID printers for Zebra Technologies who was subsequently short-listed as a top vendor of the technology.   Before this, Krokidas advanced through progressively responsible positions in sales, corporate marketing and field marketing roles at Sun Microsystems, Ricoh Business Systems and DeVry University where she played a critical role in investor relations messaging during the company's IPO as well as launched the online presence of the organization.   Krokidas has an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management and a BA in Communications from Loyola University in Chicago, IL.
Published Monday, June 30, 2014 6:44 AM by David Marshall
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