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How VDI redefines the corporate training model

Virtual desktop infrastructure has already entered common corporate departments such as IT, finance and support. The benefits of using VDI in corporate training departments are now being realized.

Training teams handle customer and company end-user instruction. Each scenario has different needs based on location, access requirements, performance, server resources, cost, and software requirements. When a training plan is being developed, ask the following questions to ensure that certain requirements are met:

  • Where is the student located?
  • Does the student have Web access?
  • Is the class completely computer-driven?
  • Does the student have a company user account in Active Directory or LDAP?
  • What are you trying to teach the student?
    • Internal processes
    • Software package
    • Hardware interface
    • Documentation
    • Other
  • What are the performance needs of each student?

Training classrooms are usually located in a public training facility or a corporate classroom, hosted at company headquarters or at a centrally located office. These classrooms most likely consist of 20 to 30 computers, each assigned to a student. Classroom computers serve one of two purposes:

  1. The software being taught is running on the computer
  2. The computer acts as a portal for the student to connect to the software or hardware package being taught or used.

The

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second is the most common model, but the time it takes to reload each computer can make the process cumbersome. VDI allows companies to break out of the old training model.

By using VMware View, a training department can create a virtual classroom -- forming a pool of virtual desktops that can be linked to clones. Each desktop is actually an individual Windows XP virtual machine (VM) running on VMware ESX servers. When a trainer creates a group of such desktops, he can construct different types of pools based on classroom needs. Some common characteristics a trainer can choose from when creating these pools include:

  • Persistent vs. non-persistent desktops. If the class last longer than a day or a single session, will students need to log in to the same desktop with changes from a previous session? If the answer is no, then a non-persistent desktop will work. If this isn't the case, then a persistent desktop is needed. Keep in mind that a persistent desktop can be restored to "new" at any time. When the training is over, the pool can be refreshed.

  • Desktop imaging needs. To determine your imaging needs, you should ask the following questions: What is the purpose of the training? Does the image need to have a special software package on it? Is the class being given on a new version of company software or does the image just need the ability to access an internal resource via a Web browser?
  • User entitlements. The term user entitlements refer to what users can access in the pool of desktops. These users must have already been created in the AD domain. Typically, users should be in a special unit in Active Directory, so Group Policy can be used to define users' security policies. This also allows you to manage higher-level group permissions instead of managing user permissions.

    Additionally, you must consider if the student is an employee or an outside user. If he's an employee, then he should already have an AD account. If the student is a customer or partner from outside the company, you must create a generic student account for him in the AD.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   
Brad Maltz
Brad Maltz is CTO of International Computerware, a national consulting firm focused on virtualization and storage technologies. He holds certifications from VMware and EMC for many technologies. Brad can be reached at bmaltz@iciamerica.com for any questions, comments or suggestions.

This was first published in May 2009

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