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Five tasks your desktop-as-a-service provider won't do

Even if IT pros turn to a DaaS provider to deliver virtual desktops to users and take some management tasks off their plates, there are still some jobs they have to do.

One of the main reasons organizations turn to a desktop-as-a-service provider is to take some of the implementation...

and back-end management burdens of VDI off of IT.

With DaaS, IT can provision desktops, configure user accounts and maintain systems with just a few clicks of the mouse, using a centralized web portal to manage the various components. The desktop-as-a-service provider takes care of most back-end upkeep, but there are some management tasks in-house IT must do to keep everything running smoothly.

Keep in mind that processes can vary significantly from one desktop-as-a-service provider to the next. Factors such as the permitted levels of control, the extent of configurable options and the management portal itself can affect what tasks IT still has to handle.

Prepare directory services

If organizations plan to integrate cloud desktops into a directory service, such as Active Directory (AD), in-house IT must prepare the service by setting up special accounts or creating domains for those desktops. IT must also retrieve information from the directory service store to use within the DaaS deployment.

The exact steps it takes depend on the type of DaaS IT uses, how IT implements DaaS and the directory service itself. For example, if an organization runs AD, IT pros must configure Group Policy Objects, create subnets, specify IP address ranges or define Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol scopes. The desktop-as-a-service provider should supply the steps IT needs to support the desktops.

Set up the network

Depending on the DaaS deployment and established infrastructure, IT must carry out several network-related tasks, such as setting up ports or managing virtual private network connections. If the DaaS deployment connects to a corporate data center, IT might also have to modify the network structure to accommodate different traffic patterns.

IT must ensure that the network infrastructure and connections necessary to support communications among the DaaS deployment and corporate systems, services and data centers are in place. As with a directory service, IT should work with the desktop-as-a-service provider to determine the exact requirements. Note that IT can perform some of these steps through the administration portal.

Provision desktops

One of the biggest steps in a DaaS deployment is provisioning the desktops. The process and the flexibility in configuring the desktops depend entirely on the DaaS vendor and the administrative portal it provides. The majority of vendors offer user-friendly web portals to carry out most or all associated tasks, often providing wizards to guide IT through the provisioning process.

The process and the flexibility in configuring the desktops depend entirely on the DaaS vendor and the administrative portal it provides.

Many DaaS platforms start by defining a pool -- a group of virtual desktops that serve a similar set of users. When creating the pool, IT must specify configuration settings, such as supported connection protocols, length of session timeouts, maximum number of concurrently running desktops and persistent or nonpersistent desktops. In addition, IT must identify the domain it will join and which of the vendor's data centers to use for housing the desktops.

IT must also prepare the golden image it uses as the template to generate the individual desktops within the pool. IT will either choose from predefined images or upload its own golden image. IT should specify virtual machine settings, such as the number of CPUs, amount of memory, number of network cards and storage capacity. It can also designate which local resources users can share.

Manage user accounts

IT must manage the accounts of users who access the desktops. Some of these steps, such as mapping the user accounts to virtual desktops, are a part of the provisioning process. This process might include assigning roles and permissions to the user accounts, including other DaaS administrators. In some cases, IT will set up authentication mechanisms, such as multifactor authentication or single sign-on.

If not, the administration portal should still provide access to account management capabilities, with the data integrated in the directory service.

Manage desktops

The administration portal also serves as a central interface for scaling resources and performing ongoing maintenance. IT can control entire pools or individual desktops within a pool, delete or rebuild desktops, or deprovision pools altogether.

Many DaaS vendors also provide system monitoring. At the very least, the portal should give IT a snapshot of the current resources users are consuming, often with the ability to drill into specific details. For example, IT can view a list of running desktops within a pool and click a desktop listing to view more detailed information. Some vendors also let IT set up alerts, view real-time or historical data and conduct analytics.

Other tasks to keep in mind

IT must take other steps to implement and manage a DaaS deployment and address issues related to switching systems, such as migrating data and providing users with the training and documentation they need for a smooth transition to the cloud. Despite these various tasks, IT can streamline the process of implementing and maintaining virtual desktops with DaaS. For many organizations, DaaS represents a far more workable alternative to VDI or managing physical desktops.

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This was last published in September 2017

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