The first step toward a virtual desktop infrastructure: The assessment

A well-defined game plan is necessary to implement a virtual desktop infrastructure.

The first step in creating such a plan is to assess the existing environment, which will help you understand the potential scope, size and impact of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementation.

A virtual desktop deployment is typically broken down into multiple use cases. These use cases need to be clearly defined during planning because the end-user rollout is broken down in phases following these cases.

To better understand the use cases, you can simply interview desktop administrators, or you can integrate a

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desktop assessment with the interviews.

Some common interview questions include:

  • What types of end users will use the virtual desktop?
  • What applications does each type use?
  • Are these application CPU-, memory- or graphically intensive?
  • How often does the user log in and stay logged in?
  • Does the user save anything locally to the desktop?

(These questions and many more will be discussed in a subsequent article on interviewing.)

I prefer to run the assessment before conducting interviews because the desktop assessment answers 80% of the questions I would have asked desktop administrators. I can then focus on business requirements instead of the technology when I talk to the IT staff.

Performing the assessment There are very few tools that can perform a desktop assessment. Two good systems are Lakeside Software's Systrack and Liquidware Labs' Stratusphere, which have similar goals but were developed with different architectures in mind. Systrack comes from a monitoring and security perspective and allows administrators to lock down desktops and servers.

Liquidware's Stratusphere was developed as the vmSight tool, which was designed to monitor network packets. It then was redesigned into Stratusphere with an enhanced agent that can monitor and analyze items from the operating system, application and network level. I have more experience with Liquidware and find it to be the most robust tool for the virtual desktop industry.

Regardless of the tool used, a proper assessment requires careful handling by the consultant. Just because a tool collects the data doesn't mean it will be used properly during interviews or deployment. For a successful deployment, it's best to perform the assessment early in the VDI discussions.


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 October 2009

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