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Follow the recipe for successfully deploying VDI

When creating the recipe for a successful VDI deployment, IT needs to include automated build processes, hypervisor clusters, golden VMs and more.

Even though all cookies, from chocolate chip to oatmeal, are a little different, there are common ingredients --...

flour, sugar, eggs -- that form the base of these delicious desserts. Likewise, every organization's VDI deployment is unique, but there are still some commonalities IT professionals deploying VDI can look out for.

Identifying the areas that cross over throughout VDI deployments enables IT to reuse those designs. Reusing designs and process elements is a central part of a VDI deployment in any context. These common VDI features are also reminders of what to cover during the design consultation process for new VDI deployments.

Combined together, these shared features form the ingredients for a recipe of VDI success.

Add a dollop of automated build processes

Build automation -- the process of automating the installation and configuration of software so it's ready to use -- is a central part of deploying VDI, and IT can reuse much of the automation across multiple deployments. Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to automating build processes with VDI.

There are a number of different build processes in a VDI deployment that IT must complete repeatedly. Automating them is the only way to ensure that IT delivers the same result every time a build process runs.

Unfortunately, a single build automation tool does not exist. Usually, the hypervisor requires one automation tool, while the guest virtual machines require a different tool, for example. The version control system should hold these source files to protect the latest versions and enable IT to roll back to previous versions, if necessary.

Sprinkle in hypervisor clusters for desktops

Any time an organization is deploying VDI, it needs a home for the VMs that contain the virtual desktops. VDI VMs run on dedicated hypervisor hosts, separate from the hypervisor clusters that run the server infrastructure.

Most VDI clusters are built with eight to 12 physical servers, accommodating around 1,000 desktops. The hosts must be interchangeable within the cluster; a fully automated build process is vital for this consistency. The desktop virtualization cluster usually has a fairly simple build, with a few optimizations and little third-party software.

Measure VDI management clusters

Servers, including connection brokers or Citrix Provisioning Servers, run every VDI deployment. These server functions usually run in VMs on the server virtualization cluster rather than on the virtualization clusters for desktops.

The front-end services VDI clients access should scale out for availability and scalability. The clients access a load balancer that then distributes VDI sessions across the connection broker servers. 

Two varieties of hypervisor
Two varieties of hypervisor

Serve up secure internet access

Many organizations start deploying VDI so they can allow users to access corporate applications from untrusted locations. Most often, this access is over the internet and through a VDI security gateway.

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Even if organizations aren't prioritizing untrusted access, users' virtual desktops are often available over the internet for flexible working or for IT support teams to access them, so IT pros must ensure that access is secure. They can do so with a security gateway that sits on a semi-trusted network. Like the connection servers, the security gateway should scale out and have a load balancer.

Bake up a golden desktop VM

Building desktop VMs also requires automation. Usually, VDI shops build a single golden desktop VM. The VDI platform then copies the golden VM to make hundreds of desktops. Build automation helps with consistency, enabling IT to build a replacement golden VM if the original image becomes dated, bloated or corrupt over time.

Build automation helps with consistency.

Basic build automation covers the initial Windows installation and the VDI optimizations IT should apply. IT must also automate application installs with a tool such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.

There are further optimizations -- and cleanups -- IT must apply just before passing the golden VM onto the VDI platform. IT should automate these changes. Building and optimizing the golden image is typically the most time-consuming task in a VDI deployment. Reusing build automation helps accelerate the build process for a new VDI deployment.

Include a dash of file servers

File servers are a routine part of any server infrastructure. When deploying VDI, it is normal for the deployment to need additional file servers or additional capacity on existing servers. Roaming profiles, user home directories and virtualized applications, for example, all require file server capacity.

In many VDI deployments, these file servers must deliver higher performance than for physical PC deployments, either with highly specified VMs on the server virtualization platform or with physical network-attached storage devices.

This was last published in December 2017

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