Guest Blog by David Marshall, Sr. Marketing Manager and Social Media Strategist at Virtual Bridges

Virtual Bridges and SolarWinds have jointly put together a four part blog series intended to provide guidance in implementing and managing a VDI environment. These will be posted alternately on the SolarWinds Whiteboard blog at http://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/whiteboard/blog and the Virtual Bridges blog http://www.vbridges.com/company/news/blog/ . This is the second part in the series, the other parts are:

We hope this is useful to you and look forward to your feedback.

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We’ve all heard the horror stories of VDI projects that are stalled and left in the IT graveyard. But with the right planning, you can enjoy the benefits of VDI without the headaches.


Below are 10 tips to ensure your VDI project is primed for success, and ready from the onset through project completion.

  1. End user analysis is essential. Evaluate not just how many users will be on the system, but more importantly, how many desktops each user needs and what type of activities they will be doing. For example, an admin or knowledge worker typically only needs a single desktop, but developers often need multiple desktops. Likewise, some users will be doing low bandwidth office style work, whereas others will engage in multimedia viewing. Consider how many different locations exist and how spread out they are as well. Together, these considerations will allow you to properly size your infrastructure, understand user experience implications, and establish reasonable SLAs.
  2. “Where” matters as much as “Who”. When you look at access clients and protocols, make sure to consider where the users will be located, how often will they be remote and accessing their VDI session from across a WAN, and how much multimedia will be used in the environment. 
  3. Take a holistic approach with your storage considerations. Start with a comprehensive understanding of your users (including types of users) and move through the entire implementation, carefully considering the design for both scaling and cost.  Evaluate your storage needs independent of vendor. And then consider using monitoring software such as Solarwinds to keep the storage vendor honest. Remember to keep in mind that you will more than likely be working with different types of users in your environment: task, knowledge and/or power users.  Ensure use cases are set up accordingly.
  4. Cluster to improve reliability. Clusters of host /server machines can improve both scaling and reliability. From a VDI scalability standpoint, the cluster allows you to more effectively load balance virtual desktops for better performance. When we look at reliability, clustering eliminates the concerns of having a single point of failure, while also leaving spare capacity in case of failure.
  5. Guest OS can replace a desktop. VDI done right eases the migration burden on both end users and IT staff associated with such upgrades. In fact, this has been so successful that many enterprises are turning to VDI to streamline the time-sensitive upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 (and for some, the planning stages of the anticipated move to Windows 8). In this case, the guest OS is the actual desktop OS that the users are interacting with in their VDI session, essentially replacing their desktop.
  6. Applications drive user productivity. An assessment of the application landscape is critical to the success of any VDI implementation. Applications drive user productivity and typically include a mix of commercial and in-house apps. Most of the typical commercial apps will become part of the Gold Master image, a common set of operating system and base application configurations shared among a group of users, and centrally managed, while the specialized, in-house apps may be packaged and associated with particular user’s desktops (e.g. a factory floor worker).  If custom in-house applications are widely deployed, they can live in the Gold Master as well. Applications typically included with the Gold Master are: MS Office, Adobe Reader, Flash and custom browsers (e.g. Chrome or FireFox).
  7. The most up-to-date USB devices work best. It’s important to review the peripherals that will be used in the VDI sessions.  Most up-to-date USB devices work well in the VDI environment as the USB is redirected from the physical client to the VDI session. Typical devices utilized in VDI environments might include printers, scanners and thumb drives. Special case or niche devices may need special consideration. Keep in mind, USB devices work best over a LAN connection.
  8. Client devices offer flexibility and mobility. Thin clients are typical replacements for the legacy PCs in use and offer a number of advantages including excellent power efficiencies (often enough to offset their costs over a 3-5 year payback period), superior security and much longer life.  Other physical clients may include thick clients, iPads and other tablets used in BYOD scenarios.  The same virtual desktop can be accessed from multiple clients and allows the end-user to be mobile without having to be tethered to a specific client device.  
  9. Make sure it scales. Infrastructure choices, including servers, storage and networking, should be scalable up to a maximum theoretical deployment.  While you may start with a small, initial roll-out, you should plan with the maximum intended size in mind. At the same time, ensure you can migrate with minimal downtime in the case that you do outgrow your current availability.  
  10. Keep cost in perspective. Storage and other VDI costs should be thought of as marginal cost per user, not overall cost.  For example, if you are planning a 6,000 user deployment and looking at a $230,000 NAS setup to support it, the number that really matters is $38/user, not $230k.

 

Do you have any tips that you’d offer to those considering VDI? Drop us a line and let us know. In the meantime, we hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series with Virtual Bridges. Keep an eye out for part 4, Key Considerations for Storage Optimization for VDI, coming from SolarWinds on Thursday.