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4 VDI automation use cases that lower IT's management burden

IT pros should understand the role of automation in VDI because automating certain tasks such as virtual desktop creation and monitoring can free up IT to focus on other issues.

Successfully managing VDI isn't always easy; VDI administrators must invest substantial time and effort to create, deliver and monitor desired desktop images to client endpoints, and manage and provision VDI resources.

Automating the more routine tasks of VDI management is invaluable for virtual desktop admins because it can speed up those processes significantly. VDI automation maintains consistency in virtual desktop management processes and helps assure repeatable results.

The following use cases lend themselves to VDI automation, and organizations should consider automating these tasks to ease the burden of management on their IT departments.

Desktop standup and teardown

Administrators can use tools such as PowerShell scripts to stand up new virtual desktops using the desired desktop images. They should then configure the new desktop for the user's login credentials. When admins need to configure new virtual desktops in bulk, they can execute one script that runs a series of related scripts that encapsulate all the required the workflow steps to create a new virtual desktop.

Conversely, a virtual desktop that an organization no longer needs is simply taking up space on the VDI server, and administrators can use scripts or other tools to tear down the instance and free up the VDI server's resources. In some cases, the automation workflow may involve archiving the data store related to that user for possible later access or record keeping.

When admins need to configure new virtual desktops in bulk, they can execute one script that runs a series of related scripts that encapsulate all the required the workflow steps to create a new virtual desktop.

Organizations are increasingly turning to self-service automation for VDI, which allows users to request desktops autonomously via a normal workflow. This isn't simply a feature in VDI management software; organizations will need to design their VDI architecture to accommodate this feature. For example, the University of Texas' VDI service provides users with this feature. HR admins can request a new desktop when they onboard a new employee. For example, they can autonomously destroy the desktop when the employee completes their exit interview. This kind of VDI automation eases the management burden on IT.

Desktop monitoring and reporting

VDI automation also has value in virtual desktop monitoring and reporting, allowing IT staff and executives to review and improve VDI performance. VDI monitoring, for example, can track the health of a virtual desktop, identify instances of desktops that have failed or stopped responding and raise alerts while automatically attempting to restart the affected VM.

This relieves the VDI administrator of basic troubleshooting and remediation tasks. Tracking virtual desktop performance issues can also yield insights on the cause of issues with the server, network and other aspects of the infrastructure. IT should collect other metrics such as desktop network traffic or latency to get a full picture of the virtual desktops' performance.

Virtual desktop security

One noteworthy difference between virtual desktops and independent PC desktops is the implementation of security. Virtual desktops generally omit the regular antimalware tools such as background virus checkers found on traditional PCs. This is due to the common centralized server that runs the virtual desktops, which can have trouble with the workload imposed by antimalware tools. These types of scans can significantly hinder VDI server performance, especially if those tools start running on multiple virtual desktops simultaneously.

Instead of the traditional security tools, IT should deploy VDI-specific security measures on the server itself. VDI automation plays a vital role in running security tools and scanning for threats on a regular basis. It also can help IT pros take corrective action when a security flaw is discovered. For example, VDI security automation can help alert admins and lock down the affected desktop until an admin can validate and remediate the threat.

Desktop image creation and updates

An ordinary PC is comprised of separate drivers, applications, configuration files, an OS and countless other components. However, a virtual desktop exists as a single VM file.

To create a fully functioning virtual desktop, the OS, drivers and other components must be composed into a desktop image file. This process of composing -- or building -- a virtual desktop image is typically a manual process. Once the image is complete, IT can easily replicate and distribute the desktop clones. In practice, a business may build and employ several different virtual desktop images to accommodate the unique needs of major user groups.

Today, the process of building a virtual desktop is increasingly automated, allowing admins to create and validate desktop images quicker. With this VDI automation in place, IT pros can identify and integrate newer components into desktop images to test and maintain timely image file updates without a manual process.

If an OS security patch or new application feature update becomes available, for example, automated update tools in VDI management software such as VMware Horizon can update the image with the latest components and provide the patch or new feature to users quicker than desktop admins could on their own.

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