With more distributed workforces becoming the norm, it is more important now than ever to have a flexible, modern, and engaging digital workspace solution. A major part of a successful digital workspace is supporting application and desktop virtualization. Since this is a Citrix transformation blog, you know where this is going. Regardless of where you are at in your transformation, we’ll run through everything you need to consider when transforming your environment from Citrix to VMware.
Challenges to Successful Implementation
While underlying technology and implementation philosophy are independent of your history with Citrix, there are special considerations to keep in mind to achieve successful implementation:
1. Misalignment Between Groups:
Regardless of the reasons for migration, Citrix may be a familiar technology for many admins who’ve spent years investing time into mastering Citrix. For this reason, some admins might be reluctant to embrace Horizon. In this case, it is imperative to include formal education classes to help all stakeholders get up to speed. This includes updates of the operational procedures and process designs.
In addition to technical training and education for administrators and updating the operational procedure to match the new technology stack, you should also think about developing an aligned project charter and governance model right at the beginning. Without it, it might be hard to overcome roadblocks and objections from parts of the project teams.
2. Desire to Re-use Existing Citrix Deployments:
Some customers have architected their Citrix deployments with traditionally built VDI and RDSH server images that don’t take advantage of application layering, golden images, or non-persistent desktops. Some of these customers think about swapping out the Citrix broker for the Horizon broker and leave everything else alone.
This approach is suboptimal in several ways. Firstly, it carries all the technical debt and potential problems into the new Horizon environment. Secondly, this approach rarely takes advantage of some of the advanced capabilities of Horizon. Organizations should consider the tradeoffs between reusing existing servers and desktops, which is sometimes perceived to be “faster” and taking the opportunity to update and optimize the server and desktop landscape, which is sometimes perceived to be more cumbersome. However, real-world experience shows that this is often not the case.
3. Forgetting about the end-users
It’s called end-user computing for a reason and therefore we should NEVER forget the end-users as we’re making changes in our technology stacks. Proactively communicating what is about to change (even if we minimize the impacts as much as possible – more on that below), it’s good practice to communicate with the end-user communities and minimize disruptions to their workflows as much as possible.
With these challenges in mind, customers can better prepare and enable groups for transformation prior to project kick-off.
Guiding Customers to Transformation Success
With many successful large-scale Citrix transformations under our belt, VMware Professional Services is uniquely positioned to help customers successfully transform application and desktop virtualization solutions to VMware Horizon.
The Journey with VMware Professional Services
As mentioned above, it is tremendously helpful to develop a project charter in the very beginning of the journey and help key project participants and future Horizon administrators understand the Horizon stack and its operation through education and certification. VMware education offers classes, online (on-demand) learning modalities, and VMware certifications to support this effort. Therefore, the customer’s core project team should, at a minimum, consume education classes or on-demand content prior to the start of the project.
We have also found that our customers sometimes take quite some time to procure and provision the production grade-hardware, which can cause project delays. It’s helpful to spin up a small scale Horizon environment (either on-premises or potentially in a public cloud) as that can help expose customer stakeholders to the technology and its user experience. Cloud-hosted Horizon environments potentially work slightly differently from the eventual on-premises environment and such differences should be considered in the selection of a cloud platform.
Next, the core phase of the production implementation starts. Note that each user group must go through the following sub-phases. These user groups are typically much simpler than the initial heavy lift however new apps and peripherals need to be integrated and tested for each.
- Assess. Define and determine the use cases. It is beneficial to focus on single-use cases initially before subsequent use cases are considered. That way, the customer team can become intimately familiar with the technology and its operation before taking on too much complexity. Citrix Transformation offers a unique opportunity to shorten the overall assessment. The existing Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop environment can reveal quite a bit about the target user groups and their requirements.
- Design. The technical design should always start with the Horizon Reference Architecture and should focus on the integration of that reference blueprint with the customer-specific elements such as data centers, networks, directory services, etc.
- Build/Test. Upon completion of the design, the system shall be built (software installation and configuration) and the use-case specific applications, peripherals, and access modalities shall be configured and tested.
Starting at some point during the production implementation – and running mostly in parallel – a complete operational design should ideally be developed and documented. This is particularly important for transformations from Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops. Customers have their teams and processes already set for Citrix and must retool to consider the differences between Citrix and Horizon.
As such, the operational design shall include:
- Definition of Roles RACI (i.e. “Responsible”, “Accountable”, “Consulted”, “Informed”) for various tasks
- Documented procedures (sometimes referred to as “Runbooks”) for key operational tasks such as:
- Integrating new applications
- Building and defining new desktop templates
- Updating settings and driving desired results through Dynamic Environment Manager (DEM)
- Creating and assigning desktop and application pools to users
- Integration into IT management platforms (such as Service NOW, etc. )
- Monitoring the infrastructure and desktop/server images for faults and resource consumption
- Specific helpdesk-focused procedures (and training) for common support requests.
Finally, the project moves into the Rollout phase. During that phase, users and support staff are prepared for the transition to Horizon. Specific training and enablement documentation and content may need to be created to fit into the customer’s enablement framework.
The go-live itself needs to be carefully planned and communicated to end-users. Depending on the scale of the go-live, a smaller pilot rollout can be considered a first phase. VMware professional services can provide “red-shirt” support for a few weeks during and after go-live to assist the customer’s IT team.
In summary, the journey of an ideal Horizon implementation consists of these elements (timelines are shown in estimates):
Additional Practical Considerations
Customers may wish to take a phased approach to the transformation. The Citrix Transformation offering supports a phased approach depending on the customer’s needs. Each phase includes evaluating the current deployment and design, building a plan, and ultimately deploying Horizon while offering assisted pilot roll-out and comprehensive adoption support.
- Insulate: Option to start with Workspace ONE Access to help integrate Citrix Apps and Desktops into a VMware universal app catalog and make the subsequent Horizon transformation less disruptive for end-users while setting the stage for the adoption of the full digital workspace portfolio.
- Transfer: Option to build on the Insulate phase or begin the transformation by building the Horizon environment upon a standard reference architecture. This phase typically focuses on a defined set of user groups with infrastructure on-premises or in public clouds.
- Complete Transformation: Includes comprehensive assessment and designed plan to transform technology to VMware Horizon while integrating the Unified Access Gateway (UAG), Dynamic Environment Manager (DEM), App Volumes, and Workspace ONE Access. Technology design options range from standardized on-premises reference architectures to large multi-site or hybrid cloud deployments.
Which of these phases are best for your organization largely depends on the desired timelines and available resources relative to the overall size and complexity of the environment.
Regardless of where you are at with your Citrix to VMware transformation, VMware can help. If you’re just beginning to learn about Horizon, take a look at some of the advantages to Horizon in the resources below. For more information on how VMware Professional Services offers services to help you succeed in migrating from Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, please contact your VMware sales representative. To learn more about VMware Professional Services related to Digital Workspace, click here.