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The key to a successful virtual desktop environment

If you think you're starting desktop virtualization from scratch, you're wrong. These tools can help you determine how to best move an existing environment to VDI.

The key to being successful with desktop virtualization is knowing what you're dealing with. You have to know your starting point.

It's easy think this is not important for things like creating a new virtual desktop environment from scratch. "What starting point?" you might think. "We've never done desktop virtualization before, so we don't have an existing environment to deal with."

If you think like this, then you've already failed before you've begun.

Why? Every enterprise has an existing environment. Even though your organization may not yet have virtual desktops, it does have desktops. And staffers already use Windows, applications and IT infrastructure.

The biggest mistake people make is assuming that they know everything that users will want to do. They think they know which apps the users need and how they'll use them. They assume they know how intense users are.

But the reality is most desktop IT folks don't know these things ahead of time, and many desktop virtualization migration projects have failed because the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) built as designed couldn't handle the actual applications and usage patterns of enterprise users.

So, what can you do about this?

Simple. It's critical to know what your "before" environment looks like. Find out who uses what and how they use each app. Fortunately, there are a few great software tools to help you.

Let's first take a look at Lakeside Software's SysTrack VMP (Virtual Migration Planner). Those who have been working with Citrix for a long time remember Lakeside as the company that created Citrix Resource Manager in the 1990s for tracking the status of Citrix MetaFrame Servers.

Now, more than 10 years later, SysTrack VMP has an agent that goes on existing pre-VDI physical desktops to track usage patterns. From there, you can load SysTrack's modeler tool, which lets you see how different VDI designs would perform based on actual, real-world usage. (For instance, you can track terminal server versus VDI, virtualized apps versus native apps, and big servers versus smaller ones.)

Another company in the virtual desktop analysis and modeling business is Liquidware Labs. It was started by the former executives of a services firm that was sold to VMware. Liquidware's Stratusphere Fit also assesses your current desktop environment, taking into consideration users, apps, network, storage, etc. From there, you can move to its design studio to figure out which options might make sense for your virtual desktop environment.

A third product worth looking at is App-DNA's AppTitude. Unlike the software from Lakeside and Liquidware, AppTitude focuses on application compatibility. App-DNA offers a similar client agent that analyzes all the applications that are in use. But what AppTitude does with that data is really what sets it apart from the other two: Once App-DNA learns which apps everyone is using, it analyzes what the apps actually do (both via heuristics and a database of known software). It then provides you with a chart of which apps will work fine in a new environment and which will have problems.

For example, App-DNA can show you all the applications with 16-bit components that will not run on a newer x64 Windows OS. Furthermore, App-DNA will show which apps can be virtualized via Microsoft App-V, Citrix XenApp streaming or VMware ThinApp. It says whether each app is compatible, compatible with remediation or known problems, or flat-out not compatible.

In a perfect world, you'd choose Lakeside or Liquidware and then use that product with App-DNA. Of course, all of these products cost money, but they're all well worth it. You should get your investment back many times over with the success your desktop virtualization project will enjoy after properly planning your environment.

About the author:
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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