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How to sell desktop virtualization to your management

This segment of our desktop virtualization handbook can help you build a case for using virtual desktops to present to your enterprise's management.

Before you jump on the desktop virtualization bandwagon, you need to figure out whether your organization can benefit from the technology. In this final segment of a four-part e-book, Desktop Virtualization From A to Z, we'll help you map a successful virtual desktop environment and justify to management the reasons for abandoning traditional desktops in favor of virtualization.

The easiest way to sell desktop virtualization to management is to figure out the real-world justification. If you just parrot your vendor's marketing slides -- "Better, faster, cheaper" -- you'll have a hard time convincing anyone that it makes sense.

The first person to convince is you. Consider your reasons and budget for virtual desktops.

For most of us, the desktop "strategy" we use today hasn't changed over the past 15 years. We buy desktops and laptops by the truckload. We image them. We deploy them to users. We cross our fingers. We fix what users break. We patch and update software along the way. And every four years or so, we repeat this entire cycle.

There's the old adage from the mainframe days of IT, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM." In today's desktop world, we could just as easily say, "No one ever got fired for doing more of the same."

The "order more desktops and cross your fingers for four years" system is safe. And while it might not be the cheapest or most secure way of doing desktops, it's a known quantity.

Desktop virtualization changes that. It's risky. You're changing the proven way of doing things for the avant-garde way of desktop virtualization. It's important to have a solid understanding of why you've made this choice.

The biggest mistake that IT pros make when trying to get desktop virtualization projects approved is to change too much at once. Some people, for example, may choose a virtual desktop flavor to increase security and availability, which is fine. But then they'll read something from a vendor about how virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) can save money, which is also fine.

The problem is when people try to achieve both goals at the same time. They can't make their systems more secure or more available and save money. You can move to VDI to save money, or you do it to increase security and availability. But trying to get both is a pipe dream.

This is how the situation usually pans out: Companies want to save money, so they go with VDI. But then during the design process, they say, "Hey, we need to put redundant storage in our VDI servers because if we lose a hard drive, then users are offline."

This is where I say, "So what?"

They say, "Well, it would be bad if losing a hard drive means that our users are offline."

I say, "OK, but why are you trying to sneak this change into your VDI project? Do you have any desktops or laptops with redundant hard drives? No. So why are you trying to change this with VDI?"

Remember, virtual desktops can absolutely be more redundant than traditional desktops. But more redundancy always costs more money. If you need redundancy, then VDI is a great solution, but it will be more expensive than your current nonredundant desktop system.

If, on the other hand, you're just trying to virtualize to save money, that's fine. But don't expect to increase the redundancy of your system in this case.

And this is why a lot of desktop virtualization projects fail. Their proponents feel like they have to really "sell" desktop virtualization to management. And in doing so, they lump all the benefits of desktop virtualization together, and they tack on the promise that it will be cheaper than the old way.

This is an equation for disaster.

The best way to sell desktop virtualization to management is to focus on why your organization needs it.

In addition, having a specific scope is key to a successful implementation. Don't say, "Let's move all users to VDI" or "We should install a client hypervisor on all our laptops." Instead, you could use a Type 2 client-VM solution only for a certain department or move to thin clients only for call center reps. Maybe you implement OS streaming only for training labs, or maybe you use VDI only for remote engineers.

After an organization successfully focuses on a few of these projects, people will realize, "Hey, we're using quite a bit of desktop virtualization." And that's great, because you're using it only where it makes sense. This approach will show your manager that you're thinking about reality and that you haven't swallowed the desktop virtualization hype.

The final key to convincing management that desktop virtualization makes sense in your organization is to drop the "virtualization" from your scope because desktop virtualization is really more about "desktops" than it is about "virtualization." Your company already has lots of desktops, and your desktop virtualization strategy must embrace traditional desktops rather than just create a new virtual walled garden.

Many of the management components used in desktop virtualization, for example, also apply to traditional desktops. You can build application virtualization strategies that cover existing physical desktops as well as new virtual desktops. You can manage your user profiles and the user environment of your new virtual desktops as one seamless entity along with your traditional desktops. This is where the big savings are and where your manager will most likely be happy.

Show your manager that you can take steps today to virtualize your applications and user environment to create a single management environment that transcends desktop type (physical or virtual). Then you can slowly (and easily) migrate from traditional to virtual desktops at a nice steady pace, without much pain.

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, BrianMadden.com, 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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