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4 VDI Success Tips from an Insider

Time has been our greatest teacher and has taught us some valuable lessons as far as what works in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

A question I am repeatedly asked is, "Which vendor should we go with for VDI?" My answer is that they all work and they all have pros and cons. Citrix is most definitely a front-runner, but that doesn't mean you should immediately disqualify solutions from VMware, Microsoft or Dell. Time has taught us that VDI is not an all-or-nothing proposition, it's not for everyone, nor is it right for all of your workloads. Even then, here are some guidelines you can follow when implementing a VDI project.

1. Properly profile your users and workloads.
It's a crucial first step that allows you to identify which vendor's solution is the best for them. The decision is even more critical when looking at vendors with multiple solutions like Citrix, in which case you'd be asking, "Why should I use XenDesktop or VDI-in-a-Box?" Properly qualifying workloads, users and future use cases would easily answer this question.

If you want to start small and be able to scale and keep costs in check (and your workloads are VDI-compatible), then go with VDI-in-a-Box. If you need the scalability and the diversity that FlexCast offers, then Citrix offers an upgrade path. If you're a VMware shop with VDI-only workloads, then choose VMware View. There are requirements that need to be qualified, of course, such as WAN scenarios and CAD application scenarios, so in this respect, make sure the vendor you select is supported by the application you own.

2. Separate VDI workloads from enterprise workloads when it comes to infrastructure, especially storage.
I can't begin to tell you how many times not doing so has resulted in major headaches for organizations that insist on combining the infrastructures. I would also venture to say that you should consider converged infrastructures that are targeting VDI workloads, such as Nutanix and others, which will reduce the TCO and would allow you to scale as needed. It's better than having to purchase large quantities of infrastructure up front when the initial VDI rollout might be for only 400 users.

3. Choose an endpoint that is cost effective, especially when you're choosing thin clients or zero clients.
If you settle on a thin client or even a zero client that costs $500, you will significantly increase your CapEx. The smart thing to do is to choose a device that has a system on chip (SoC); some can be had for less than $250 per unit. I would also urge you to repurpose existing PCs into thin clients. You might be saying, "Then I would need to manage another OS." While that might be true for the most part, it does keep costs down and you're probably already managing other similarly configured physical machines in the environment. These converted PCs would need less management, and as they break down you can then replace them with thins or zeros.

4. Don't ignore the network, especially if the WAN is involved.
You will need to consider that a good user experience will need anywhere from 100Kbps to 2MBits/s and a good average of about 400KBPs. While keeping an eye on storage IOPS is important, network bandwidth is equally important and network latency that doesn't exceed 100 ms is also critical: the lower the latency, the better the user experience. You'll find that latency of 200 ms or more degrades the user experience quite a bit, especially for users requiring multimedia.

All these tips need to be considered before adopting a solution, but let me leave you with one more that is perhaps the most important of all: Choose the integrator that has done this before and can prove to you that it has had successful implementations. It could make all the difference in your VDI world.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 05/20/2013 at 1:33 PM


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