Virtualizing the User

Blog archive

The Crucial role of Users in Accelerating Desktop Virtualization

No one can ignore the fact that desktop virtualization adoption is on the rise, but for all the benefits it promises to deliver I would think that deployments would be rolling out a lot more quickly.

After all, this still new technology promises a significant decrease in desktop TCO and fewer headaches for IT managers. By centrally managing each desktop, enterprises can dramatically save on desktop management costs and decrease help desk calls. Desktop virtualization can also be extremely helpful in the event of server or client hardware failures.

The reason for adoption varies with each organization. CIOs and top-level executives look at the cost savings the technology can deliver, while the IT department considers the time savings. Either one of these benefits is attractive to enterprises and plays a key role in why they consider adopting desktop virtualization.

However, like most scenarios that offer benefits, there are challenges along the route of desktop virtualization, with the main ones being storage optimization and performance, standardization, application delivery, desktop performance, high availability, and user acceptance. These are all important aspects that must be managed effectively in order for desktop virtualization to be successful enterprise-wide. 

In addition to ensuring that storage optimization is suitably managed, there are several key decisions that must be made before creating a desktop virtualization solution. Users must choose the application virtualization model to use, determine where the user population resides, select where the data resides, and define an acceptable user experience. 

To make an informed decision and try to preempt any user issues, it is vital to know what the user population looks like and what they require from their application set--in addition to being aware of the connectivity available from their working locations. Having the full picture of how the user needs to function will put the IT administrator in a far more effective place to create the correct overall solution. In most cases, this is something new for the enterprise since they previously just installed things at a user’s desktop and let the user get on with it. Until now, IT administrators have typically not needed to be concerned over the amount of bandwidth that application delivery would consume and how that would affect the user experience.

This all comes under the heading of user experience, and we must not lose sight of the fact that the user experience is the most important aspect of desktop virtualization. The user experience is actually becoming the most important aspect of desktop delivery, period.  This is largely due to the prevalence of desktop devices that users now have and interact with daily in the home, and the fact that the PC has become part of everyday life outside of work. As a result, users typically have more power in their home PC and expect their work system to be as good as--or better than--the one they use at home. Today’s user has a louder voice when it comes to  technology he is expected to work with, resulting in project failures where there is not a sufficient user experience, regardless of whether the project is for desktop virtualization or something else.

Planning out the project in a structured manner is key to accelerating any desktop virtualization deployment. The most important aspects relate to simplification, which is accomplished by standardizing the moving parts, sharing the operating system image among the user population to simplify the process of building the desktops, and then layering in the application set by making use of a solid application virtualization solution. This is the only way to minimize the cost of building the solution at outset and then to realize maximum gains in operational expenditure once the solution is in place.

Therefore, crucial elements of simplification include the selection of a suitable application virtualization technology, and the determination to drive its success within the enterprise by capturing as many applications as possible and packaging them appropriately for the target user population. If there are too many applications to virtualize within the project timeframe, the enterprise needs to decide which applications are the most important and/or frequently used. They then need to virtualize those apps and then make use of some third-party technology to deal with other user-installed applications by policy. This ability may be a key aspect that guarantees user satisfaction and, ultimately, acceptance of the desktop virtualization solution.

The final aspect that will ensure that desktop virtualization adoption is accelerated is the use of a personalization solution. This will ensure that the digital identity of the user is managed independent of the application delivery.  By delivering this essential component, IT administrators ensure the user always receives the same personal experience when using their desktop and application set.

As the economy is slowly improving,  IT departments are wary of what technologies they will begin to adopt. So, while the number of desktop virtualization deployments has greatly increased in the last five years, there is still a long way to go. I think that one of the biggest factors in an organization’s decision-making process will be learning of other success stories before they choose to venture into virtualization themselves.

Posted by Simon Rust on 10/15/2010 at 12:49 PM


Subscribe on YouTube