By Neil Glick – Technical Marketing


I’ve been working with virtualization for a while – it’s one of those revolutionary technologies where, the first time you see it, you know it’s going to have a huge impact on IT strategy and operations. As for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), well, I fell in love with it the first time I worked with it. VDI can be complex, temperamental, and difficult, but when you get it right it’s an awesome feeling!

Like a fine mechanical watch, VDI has many parts, each of which relies on all the other parts it’s connected to. If any of them doesn’t work properly ­the whole system can fail.

Never fear, VDI-Man is here! (I’ve always wanted to say that.) I won’t be able to solve all your VDI woes, but hopefully I’ll address some of the common pitfalls that can derail your VDI project, leaving you with thousands of angry desktop users with torches and pitch-forks who want nothing more than their old computers back.

1. Assuming what your users want and need

Ugh! This is like when your mom used to buy your school clothes and they were horrible! You tell her how awful they are, but it’s what she likes so it must be good. Sorry moms, those awful shirts and pants that you like will bring shame and ridicule to your child. Remember, VDI is about the desktop user. Never assume you know what your users need; conduct user surveys, include users in the design process, or run focus groups before designing your VDI infrastructure. Test the user experience with real, live users: talk to them, they won’t bite!

2. Building a one-off custom design, rather than using available reference architectures

Hey, we all want to be architects right? We all know what’s the best design right? Well… If I was going to build a house I’d want to go with a design I knew was successful. If I tried to create my own plans, there’s a large chance I’d fail miserably. Going at it alone is not only unnecessary, but it’s dangerous. Lots and lots of fantastic VDI reference architectures have already been built and a lot of them are free.

3. Just because it’s virtualized, doesn’t mean it will do 200% the work of a regular computer

This is not just a VDI pitfall, but a huge virtualization pitfall. This is like continuing to write checks even though you’re out of money. A computer is a finite resource, and just like any resource it has its limits. There are lots of sizing tools available that will help you from over-sizing or under-sizing your environment. And if you need help, just ask your sales folks.

4. Running your VDI environment like a physical environment

I commonly talk with folks about their virus and patching strategy when they’ve moved to a VDI environment, and they tell me they’re running it like they did their physical environment. That’s one way to do it, but it’s like driving with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake. Virtualization companies have spent tons of money streamlining those processes because they take tons of resources on the desktop. Look to the experts that have solved these resource-draining tasks before continuing to use traditional methods.

5. Organizational heartburn between desktop and server admins

When VDI gets introduced into a company, many times there are organizational issues with the desktop and server administrators. Desktop admins are afraid they’ll lose their jobs because this new technology will make them obsolete, and server admins are afraid they’ll become responsible for desktops, because the infrastructure now lives on servers instead of individual desktops. Organizational restructures are completely up to you, but in my experience it’s best to train the desktop folks with the new desirable virtualization skills so they can continue to support the desktop community, while keeping the server folks responsible for the servers.

6. Guessing desktop IOPs, block size, disk space and RAM

Like a pair of pants, one size does not fit all. If I tried to wear my wife’s pants, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight! Now think about how a power user would feel if he/she got a desktop built for a knowledge worker. Guessing on resource sizing is a recipe for disaster. There are lots of applications and companies out there that will help you properly size your VDI environment.

7. Storage silos and tiering

With traditional storage there’s a trend toward placing applications on faster tiers of storage, and user data on slower tiers to save money. With Nimble Storage, tiering is a thing of the past. Both applications and user data can live in harmony on the same array, allowing for easier and less complex management of your storage infrastructure. Who doesn’t like things to be simpler?

With careful attention and consideration to these seven factors, your VDI implementation may still have some glitches along the way, but hopefully you’ll avoid the torches and pitch-forks , and will instead reap the many benefits that VDI can bring.