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Desktop virtualization success relies on apps, use case

For a desktop virtualization project to be successful, IT needs to focus on delivering specific apps and remembering their goals.

CHICAGO -- Virtualizing desktops isn't about the desktop anymore -- it's all about the apps.

Delivering specific applications to users efficiently is the new name of the game in the desktop virtualization industry, and since users don't usually need a full desktop, IT must focus on delivering individual applications,  said Brian Madden during the keynote address at BriForum here this week.

Still, the Windows desktop isn't going to disappear; there are many complex applications that will never be Web-based apps.

That's something to keep in mind when starting a desktop virtualization project. Organizations that want to virtualize desktops must first assess users and their applications, said Greg LaVigne, a consultant at Flexera Software, based in Schaumburg, Ill.

Consider what tasks users need to do, which applications they have installed and which ones they actually use. Then, figure out where those apps are located and how they're being delivered. It's also a good idea to consolidate apps during your desktop virtualization project, often by standardizing on one version and operating system, LaVigne said.

Use case is No. 1 consideration

As companies determine how they want to deliver applications, they also need to make sure they're doing VDI for the right reasons. It's all about the use case, said John Whaley, founder and CTO of MokaFive.

"You have to understand why you're doing this in the first place," he said. "Is it about better desktop management? Is it about security? Do you want to enable bring your own device?"

Plus, IT must take the business side into account.

"Without the proper alignment between your business needs and the technology, your project is going to fail," said Shane Kleinert, a solutions architect at JDL Technologies, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The problem with alignment often arises because some CIOs just want to deploy the latest, coolest technology, and they care less about determining an actual business need for it, said Jarian Gibson, virtualization practice manager at Choice Solutions in Overland Park, Kansas.

In their session about desktop virtualization bake offs, Kleinert and Gibson said many organizations think they know what they need, to implement a VDI platform, and then realize either the users' or business's needs weren't met -- and that can be costly.

One of Gibson's customers, for example, uses Citrix ’s XenDesktop but doesn't require all the advanced features it has to offer, so it's considering a cheaper offering such as Dell Inc.’s vWorkspace.

To get the use case right, IT can even tweak systems to suit the needs of their users and get in sync with the existing infrastructure.

Dane Young, a solutions architect at Concord, Calif. based Entisys Solutions, said one of his clients, a software company, initially struggled with administrator access on persistent desktops in its XenDesktop environment.

"There was a significant difference between what you could do on a remote WAN connection versus on the campus," he said.

Since many of its developers were offsite, IT set out to provide local admin rights for users logging into a desktop -- no matter where they were. Citrix's Personal vDisk technology, which enables user-installed apps and essentially makes everything persistent, couldn't consistently provide local admin rights because settings often got wiped, Young said. Instead, IT developed a script that grants those rights.

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Excellent article and great points made by Jarian. As an IT executive in the channel myself, I completely agree with Jarian's points relating to how most CIOs tend to focus too much on the tech and not enough on its applied use. I've been advising my clients for years to centralize their focus of end-user computing/virtualization around application and workspace delivery, which may or may not necessarily require the use of true VDI.

I read an interested tweet the other day that noted it is cheaper to run 1000 Windows Server VMs than 1000 Windows 7 virtual desktops in Microsoft licensing alone thanks to how the VDA subscription penalizes customers with an annual fee and Server 2012 DC Edition allows for unlimited VMs under each host server that is licensed.

And VDI isn't necessarily all bad either, it's just often times interpreted wrong, applied to liberally, or just not required for what the business is ultimately trying to achieve.