How a VDI migration changed my life

A VDI migration doesn't just change the way you access applications; it affects simple things like printing and how often you work.

Now that I've completed my transition from physical to virtual desktop, I want to take a look back at the process and reflect on how VDI affected my life, plus what I would have done differently.

In the previous parts of this series, I talked about all of my best-laid plans, from how I designed my virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment to my endpoint selection. I explained how I modified my user profile, data and even my work habits to accommodate this new way of living.

Read the full series

Part one: Beginning the VDI migration

Part two: Choosing endpoint devices

Part three: Managing the user persona

My life has changed a lot as a result of VDI. One unexpected change was that I didn't print a single sheet of paper for nearly four months after I switched to VDI. At first this was because I couldn't get my printer to work on my VM. I overcame my printer problem, but not before I found new PDF tools to apply markup and my electronic signature to documents. The bottom line is that necessity is the mother of invention; I couldn't print, so I found other ways to work.

Another change, for better or worse, is that I'm working from everywhere now. I've always worked long hours, but there have been plenty of times that the hassle of logging into a VPN and waiting on node-based apps to load over a slow connection caused me to toss the whole plan and go watch a movie. That's not happening as much anymore. I can work so easily and productively from my home zero clients, my tablet and even my phone that I find myself making use of every available minute. I'm not sure that's such a good thing, and I'm trying to keep it in check, but when I need fast access to local company resources, there's no substitute for a VM.

What I would change next time

Of course, there are things I would do differently next time. First of all, I started out by not taking my own advice: I rolled myself out a persistent desktop, and I didn't speak up when the IT team decided to put the VM environment into our branch office's resource domain. When we first rolled out the VM, we did it ahead of having the profiling worked out, so it seemed to make sense to put up a persistent machine for a little while and then switch it out. Of course, we didn't get to switching it out. In fact, I ended up with a pool of extra VMs in case mine has an issue. All the profiling has long since been addressed and only recently have I started moving to a nonpersistent desktop.

With regard to the resource domain, we stood this whole thing up at the same time as we were opening a branch office. I agreed to put the VM environment in its own resource domain, but now I realize that was a flawed plan. The resource domain has twice resulted in me not being able to access something I needed (the printer issue was a result of this). The opportunity with VDI is to break down barriers and allow everyone to operate as a cohesive whole, but separate domains create a border that sends the message that we are two separate offices instead of a group. That means we missed a cultural opportunity to say, "We're all one unit regardless of location." Instead, we have the "us and them" model that lots of companies have. "Oh, the branch office? They log into VDI in the resource domain"; i.e., "They are not the same as us."

In the end, I would not go back to a physical system, because this technology has transformed my life. In a meeting with a prospect this morning, I listened as she told me about her concerns regarding acceptable use policy for her staff. While she talked, I subtly logged into my VDI image and emailed her a template policy that's on one of my servers. Then I informed her that the answer to her problem was already in her email. Could I do that before VDI? Yes, but it was a clunky process that would have been disruptive to the conversation. I did this in less than a minute, without missing a beat.

That's powerful, and that's the reason to go to VDI as an executive. It isn't cost savings or gadgets that should drive the desire; it's the opportunity to break down the walls that stand between you and seamless productivity. It's about enabling technology that allows you to better serve your customers.

As I write this, I am logged into my VMware Horizon View virtual desktop from my Dell Venue 11 Pro. Oh, and I'm on an airplane too. They said it wouldn't happen, but I have lived to see the day that I could be on an Internet-enabled airplane using a mobile device to access a desktop in my office that doesn't exist anywhere but in some server's CPU and memory. It's a brave new world.

This was first published in March 2014

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