Why you need a readiness assessment before deploying VDI

Some vendors and organizations may think a readiness assessment is unnecessary, but before you deploy VDI better assess your needs and use cases.

If you're debating whether it's necessary to run a readiness assessment prior to rolling out virtual desktops,...

don't be fooled by vendors. It's an absolute mistake to skip a VDI assessment, and it's a mistake to try and do one yourself.

If you ask around, truly successful virtual desktop deployments start to feel a little like UFO sightings. There are a lot of stories about people who have seen them, but when it comes right down to it, they can be awful hard to find and see for yourself.

I think the reason for this (with regard to virtual desktop infrastructure, not aliens) is that people fail to assess their readiness for VDI prior to moving forward with it. It starts innocently enough with a pilot or proof of concept, and it's more about curiosity than a genuine desire to look inward and find new efficiencies through technology. In many organizations, a few people start using it, and it's buggy, but then again it's only a pilot right? The end result is a community of users and IT professionals that doesn't have total faith in VDI. It doesn't have to be that way.

What a readiness assessment can provide

Readiness assessments can allow you to avoid most issues, and there are a number of vendors that make software specifically for that purpose. However, these software solutions can give you a false sense of security. They give you important information, including reports on installed software, IOPS requirements, storage requirements, network consumption and a host of other things. The problem is that you need to measure more than technology readiness; you need to measure human readiness.

A good assessment will have some sort of logical flow to it that includes an objective assessment of people by people. Of course, each vendor handles it differently, but a good VDI assessment should look something like this:

Task 1. Setup of automated assessment software (Liquidware Labs Stratusphere FIT or something similar). Review of user groups and use cases.

Task 2. Assessor comes on-site to interview management team, including senior management. The objective is to identify what the commitment level and uses cases are in the organization.

Task 3. Assessor sits down next to users and observes how they do their jobs. The goal is to identify the target audience for VDI and see how those people live their lives.

Task 4. Continued observation of the users and a review of Active Directory/inventory of any group policy objects.

Task 5. Overview of network architecture, IP schemes and any existing virtual infrastructure that may be purposed to VDI.

Task 6. After a couple of weeks' worth of data has been compiled, assessor meets with IT to review results and discuss any anomalies in the data.

Task 7. All data, quantitative and qualitative, is reviewed, and recommendations are made to the customer regarding whether VDI suits the organization, and if so, in which use cases. The output should also include architectural recommendations and possibly even a project estimate.

Don't skimp on a VDI assessment

So, why can't an organization do this assessment themselves? Abraham Lincoln once said, "He who represents himself has a fool for a client." He was talking about the courtroom, but it applies to a VDI readiness assessment too. Bring in a third-party assessor. If you've ever lost your car keys and found them right in front of you, you know that many people can't see their situation objectively. Flaws and weaknesses blend into the background of the every day.

More VDI assessment resources

Does your infrastructure need desktop virtualization?

A few reasons VDI might not be right for you

VDI project planning guide for beginners

Why then do some people proceed with VDI without an assessment? Why are there even vendors out there that would go forward without one? The answer is that it's always easier and faster to sell a dream than it is to sell pragmatic reality. For a vendor, the fastest path to a sale is to say what everyone would like to hear: "This is easy! We do this all the time and can tell you what you need without that assessment hassle. Let's get started!" My advice is: Set a higher standard.

As IT professionals, when you work in the data center you are largely invisible to the user population. Little glitches that occur in the data center sometimes don't show up on the end user's radar. It's different on the desktop. When you are tinkering with a user's computer, you are really tinkering with their productivity, stress level and livelihood. The stakes are much higher.

So, don't accept IT providers that don't see the need for a readiness assessment. Resist the temptation to do it yourself. Be open to the recommendations that you get as a result. The odds are that the extra money and time you spend on an assessment will save you a world of hurt and result in a successful VDI project.

This was last published in October 2013

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Hi Todd, thanks for this article. I am also a firm believer in the value of assessments prior to any form of End User Computing transformation. I agree with most of your points, there are however a couple that ( based on my company's personal experience) I would not completely agree with. For example Point 3 around observing users, while I think this is valid at some point my experience tells me it's best to do this only after the full assessment data has been collected and properly analyzed. For example a client might think that they wish to provide virtual desktops to a team of users who utilize design applications, you spend time watching how they work, then you see the assessment results and find that the apps they use will be impossible to virtualize, this equals time wasted.

Another point I would add to your statement, "The output should also include architectural recommendations and possibly even a project estimate." would be to include a full TCO analysis of the virtual desktop option. It may well be that the assessment highlights that from a functional and technical perspective virtual desktops will be a great fit, the usability issue may not be a factor but what if the investment required is not attainable? In my experience justifying the TCO and proving a valid ROI is an essential element to gaining executive buy in to virtual desktop initiatives and this is why we always include the full financial analysis in our EUC transformation assessments.

Thanks again for the article and helping to promote best practices in this area!

Best regards, Norman

(Norman Annette - MD - EUCafrica)
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