This content is part of the Essential Guide: Essential guide to desktop virtualisation

Three VDI best practices you need to know

VDI comes with challenges around graphics support, user personalization and more. Administrators should keep in mind these tips for deployment success.

LAS VEGAS -- VDI success is an elusive and ever-changing goal.

In the early days of the technology, storage capacity and network bandwidth posed major challenges. The rise of converged and hyper-converged infrastructure addressed many of those problems, but now, VDI administrators face new challenges.

At VMworld, a panel of end-user computing experts fielded questions from attendees about solving these problems and shared VDI best practices for achieving success.

Do I need GPUs for VDI?

"The answer is trending toward yes," said Sean Massey, senior technical architect at Ahead, an IT consultancy in Chicago.

Traditionally, there haven't been a lot of everyday use cases for GPUs on virtual desktops, and they were difficult to implement and manage. But now, with the advent of virtual GPUs and vMotion for GPUs in the works, that's changing, Massey said. And in Windows 10, even common applications, such as Microsoft Office and web browsers, take advantage of the GPU, and the user experience (UX) can suffer without it, he said.

With GPUs, the benefit is way more than the cost at this point.
Earl GayRoundTower Technologies

The cost of GPU technology can be a concern, but because delivering a strong UX is so important to VDI best practices, it's a worthwhile investment, said Earl Gay, practice manager at RoundTower Technologies, an IT solutions provider based in Cincinnati.

"VDI's not going to be super cheap anyways," he said. "With GPUs, the benefit is way more than the cost at this point."

What are the barriers to desktop as a service?

Despite its promise of cheaper virtual desktops, desktop as a service (DaaS) has hidden costs that can make implementation prohibitive, said Dane Young, virtualization practice manager at Entisys360, an IT consultancy based in Concord, Calif. Organizations must consider the total cost of ownership of DaaS and determine if it makes financial sense.

Some cloud providers offer basic desktop virtual machines and leave advanced tasks, such as image management, policy enforcement and patching, up to IT.

"You need to ask, 'How much of this is the provider taking on, and how much am I going to be responsible for?'" Young said.

Deploying specific applications and supporting users are other DaaS challenges, Gay said. A provider that offers those capabilities is more valuable, he said.

How do you maintain personalized application settings?

The key to user personalization is identifying where applications write their settings to on the desktop, Massey said.

It's usually easy to find these locations in professional, off-the-shelf applications, but "it's the homegrown ones that are a huge pain in the butt," Young said.

User environment management products can help VDI administrators deal with this issue, but it's still a complex task. Small and medium-sized businesses -- especially those in which one admin handles all VDI issues -- may not have the resources to take on this task.

"Sometimes, the operational burden is too heavy," Gay said.

It's also important to learn what users' expectations are regarding desktop personalization. The ability to set a custom wallpaper, for example, can go a long way, said Matt Heldstab, enterprise systems engineer for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

"They feel it's a successful VDI project if their kitty shows up on their desktop," he said.

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