Windows 7 could provide the catalyst for a wave of virtualization at the desktop level. Computerworld's Virtualization Guide Part 1 covers the pros and cons, and looks at which vendors and products you should choose.
So you’re about to roll out Windows 7 and are thinking of going down the virtual desktop path. You’ve built a good set of skills around server virtualization and feel ready to take on the desktop. Either way, desktop virtualization is increasingly on IT managers’ radars for its promise of greater ease of management, costs savings, flexibility, improved control over security, ability to create and push virtual standard operating environment (SOEs) out to users anytime, anywhere and its ‘green IT’ benefits.
Before you set about building up a business case for moving to virtual desktops, however, it’s worth taking a moment to think strategically and ask a few key questions: Is moving to virtual desktops a tactical solution or is it a part of an overall private cloud strategy? Do you want to own the service but not the infrastructure or do you want to get rid of both? Does desktop virtualization suit your whole organisation or just certain parts?
Once you have answered some of these questions you can begin to move toward the right desktop virtualization partners and vendors to deliver the service that will achieve your goals.
Desktop virtualization isn’t a specific technology or single delivery method; it’s a description that includes all the ways it’s possible to use a desktop, laptop or other device to access data or applications that live somewhere else. Usually, that means a user with a PC interacting with an application that’s running on a server in the data centre.
Evaluating potential partners
In the search for the right service partner, begin by aligning your server, your network and your desktop teams and identify any shortcomings in the necessary skills required for desktop virtualization.
Once you know which skills are in short supply, you have a place to start when weeding out service partners, VMware ANZ product manager enterprise desktop, David Wakeman, advises.
When you have settled on a partner, an ‘operational readiness’ review carried out by the partner can be of huge benefit in the adoption of processes that will ready the organisation to support enterprise virtualization and be successful in the long term.
The next step is selecting a vendor. Begin by looking for one that is strategic to the business and shares the same vision. This is important, Wakeman says, because the leading virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) providers have similarly featured product sets which continue to evolve rapidly. This helps ensure the vendor and/or its partners have the local skills, support and vision to deliver a successful outcome.
It’s worth considering what other areas of virtualization the vendor offers, such as application and user data virtualization, which can be important components of a total virtual desktop. Also assess whether the virtual desktop solution on offer works with existing management tools and processes.
IDC analyst, Jean Marc Annonier, says given the similarity in features of the major virtual desktop vendors, considerations such as compatibility with your existing virtualization infrastructure and cross-use of existing skill-sets are important considerations.
“If you already have a lot of servers running VMware and you have VMware vCentre deployed, VMware View sits perfectly into this; you just have to plug it in and it works,” he says. “That said, if you have been a Citrix XenApp or XenServer customer for a long time, then it is a natural progression to move to XenDesktop. It really depends on how you are structured as an IT organisation.”
Director of server and tools for Microsoft Australia, Philip Goldie, adds that the consideration of existing strategies around application management, data management, mobile worker management and IT management across multiple physical and virtual form factors is also a useful way of refining your choice of virtual desktop provider.