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So You Virtualized Your Desktop Environment. Now what?

mmarx.phpBy Mike Marx

Most of my customers start with a low-risk user group consisting of a large number of users with identical application requirements. This is the common scenario when starting out on the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) journey and ‘testing the waters.’ With proper design efforts, initial implementations are highly successful.

I spend the majority of my consulting effort working with customers helping them create their initial VDI design. Designs can be simple or complicated, but they all utilize a common technical approach for success: understanding user requirements, and calculating infrastructure sizing. But I’m not blogging about technical calculations or infrastructure sizing. Instead I would like to address a VDI design challenge customers face as they expand their VDI design: user application assignments.

While resource requirements are simple to assess, calculate and scale, application delivery becomes increasingly challenging as more users are added to the design. VDI administrators struggle to manage increasing numbers of desktop users – each having unique application requirements.

Applications are easy to add to a large static group of user desktops using linked-clones. But when unique user groups are introduced, and application requirements change, administrators are confronted with the challenge of maintaining a large number of small desktop pools – or impacting large groups of users in order to change an application assignment.

So how do we design an effective stateless desktop and maintain application diversity amongst unique user groups? VMware Horizon AppVolumes is the answer.

Using AppVolumes, VDI designs become simple to understand and implement. Once applications are effectively removed from the VDI desktop, VDI administrators are left with a simple stateless desktop. But users aren’t productive with an empty desktop operating system; they need applications – and lots of them.

Without going into deep technical detail (there are excellent blogs on this topic already) AppVolumes captures the application files, folders and registry components, and encapsulates them into a transportable virtual disk called an AppStack. As the user logs on to a stateless desktop, the assigned AppStack(s) will automatically attach and merge the user’s applications with the desktop virtual machine.

Now users are presented with a stateless desktop that is uniquely assembled with all of their applications. AppVolumes’ attached applications interact with other applications— and the operating system—as if they were natively installed, so the user experience is seamless.

Now that applications are no longer an impediment to VDI designs, VDI administrators are able to support large groups of users and application requirements using the same stateless desktop pool. By following the KISS principle: “Keep It Simply Stateless,” AppVolumes will open the door to new design possibilities and wider adoption by users and IT administrators.

Mike Marx is a Consulting Architect with the End User Computing group at VMware. He has been an active consultant using VMware technologies since 2005.  His certifications include : VCAP-DTD, VCP-DT, VCA-WM, VCA-DT, VCP2-5 as well as being an expert in VMware View, Thinapp, vSphere and SRM.

Top Tips and Take-Aways from VMworld 2013

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since 23,000 forward-thinking IT professionals converged in San Francisco for VMworld 2013. With VMworld Barcelona just around the corner, we asked a few of our consultants to reflect back on highlights from San Francisco and offer advice for how to get the most out of the event.

What nugget of information from VMworld did you take back to your work?

“Pay special attention to NSX and vSAN because VMware is changing the way IT delivers networking and storage services.” –Jung Hwang

“Automating SDDC is now more than an idea—it’s a reality. It has a huge impact on the Business Critical Applications space.” –David Gallant

“Almost anything can now be virtualized: monster VMs are now commonplace; systems that previously required an entire Unix platform to run can now be accommodated in a single Virtual Machine on VMware vSphere 5.x.” –Michael Webster Continue reading

“Status-Quo” or “Status-Go” in a BYOD World?

By Mike Marx, VMware EUC Consultant

Why do virtual desktop implementations always follow the Status-Quo?  Numerous times, I have encountered administrators that are fearful of change for one reason or another.  An exciting virtual desktop strategy will quickly change into a routine humdrum desktop replacement project when the only incentive seems to be: “This is the way we always do it and we can’t change.”

I remember taking a bold step into uncharted territory when I was managing an IT department for a University back in the early 2000s.  At that time, allowing customers to bring their own computers and access internal network resources was unheard of! This strategy is now commonly called BYOD. [Bring Your Own Device] My strategy was out of the box, had new challenges and requirements, but quickly brought value and a competitive edge to the University.  I completely attribute the success of that project to the shared knowledge of the strategy.  Everyone from top management down to the support desk was aware of the strategy and contributed to the initiative.  There were technical challenges and support challenges, but everyone was engaged, creative, and knew why we were entering this “Bold New World.”

Culture change takes time and everyone wants to do things better.  Somewhere along the way, the virtual desktop strategy has simply become the Status-Quo running on virtual hardware.  Companies must listen to their employees and develop the virtual desktop strategy to effectively deliver productive tools to their end-users.  Some do, but it appears that listening is where the strategy ends in most cases.

A virtual desktop strategy is flexible, it is efficient, it is easy to support and is exciting.  It can provide everything that end-users want.  In short, it challenges the Status-Quo and promotes productivity and creativity.  I encourage companies to develop their virtual desktop strategy and challenge their engineers and support staff to come up with creative ways to change the Status-Quo. Too often, we [IT] end up creating new ways to prevent end-users from utilizing their desktop as a creative tool.

When you are considering implementing per the Status-Quo, keep these points in mind…

Remember when you wanted:

  • A Mainframe terminal…
  • A Desktop PC…
  • A Laptop PC
  • A Blackberry…
  • A Smart-phone …
  • An iPad…

It’s time for Status-Go!

-Mike Marx

Mike Marx is a Senior Consultant with the End User Computing group at VMware.  He has been an active consultant using VMware technologies since 2005.  He is certified in VCP, VSP, VTSP, VCA-DT and VCP-DT, as well as an expert in VMware View, Thinapp, vSphere and SRM.