Can you transform your desktop estate by migrating to VDI solution and expect that “savings will be made”?

Technologies have developed so that Turnkey VDI solutions are available – Panologic recently announce the availability of Pano Express;  Kaviza offer their VDI-in-a-Box. The focus of such solutions may be at smaller organizations; obviously larger organisations have more complex environments. That said, it is fair to say in both environments you can reduce administration costs and gain productivity by rethinking how you use your resources: yet the cost of transformation to what you have now to .. “something else” means finding cold hard cash – difficult in the current economic climate.

“Change is constant” they say: the transformation from a traditional desktop service to a VDI can encompass a number of changes. Changes to the desktop deployment; changes to the way users store their data; changes to how applications are delivered to the user. Often the price per device for a VDI may appear to less – but does that mean your management is less, your productivity better?In a presentation at Microsoft’s Management Summit 2010, new research was previewed from Microsoft on the total life-cycle costs of VDI compared to traditional desktops, particularly for office workers. In some environments it was found VDI could be 9-11% more expensive than a corresponding PC environment.

In order to understand if “savings will be made” what are your costs now? What does a process of transformation entail for you and in turn, cost? How long will it take to migrate your desktop environment? What applications are used – do they all need to be migrated? What type of users do you have? Can Turnkey solutions negate the need for VDI enabling tools?

Ask not what you can do for VDI, but what VDI can do for you.
VDI vendors are undoubtedly going to say VDI will save you money: that’s their business. On the other hand, your business may not be a VDI vendor. To make an informed decision by all means you need to understand what it is that these vendors are offering. However, what does  that process of transformation entail for your organization, and importantly, what have you got and manage now?

You have three core questions to ask of your business:-

  1. Who are your users? How and where do your users work; Tasks oriented or project oriented
  2. What are your devices? What type of desktops/devices are needed or can be re-used
  3. Importantly, which applications are needed? How are they integrated and dependent on each other, how are they licensed and, fundamentally, how are they used?

You may find (to the delight of Mr V.De’Ize) that VDI is an answer for you. It is more likely that VDI is one of the answers – amongst traditional desktops, Presentation Virtualization, or even blade PCs. It may be even be that you can continue with your desktop environment as is – but integrate solutions to deliver specific applications; or provide a core environment for remote workers.

There is more to VDI Planning than Concurrency
A common view of VDI planning is to gather deep intelligence for each device and application install; analyze technical information such as CPU use, memory, disk, application footprint, and I/O for each device. These metrics would be applied to increasingly automated decision processes to give templates aligned to desktops assessed as suitable for VDI. The focus is on “what users do we migrate first? What hardware and software is required? How do we ensure user experience? How do we migrate user data and settings?”

Fundamentally “how do we right size our new environment to host our systems?”

There are a number of tools to deliver this; their focus is on migrating your desktop. These tools allow you, typically with a partner, to know how many servers would be needed, which applications can’t be transferred and feed into estimations for application complexity. You’ve answered important questions – but have they answered the core questions?

You can best make ‘IT’ better when you know what ‘IT’ is
What applications do your users work with? What devices do they use now? How are the apps you’ve purchased being used by users …if at all? . You’ve looked to transform your user’s desktop, but what is it that you’re transforming?

Getting visibility of actual application usage enables you to understand how your desktops are used. Look to understand your current application install and usage at a user, at a business group and device level before understanding what horsepower you need. If you are moving to VDI, this also enables the creation of templates aligned to real user requirements and usage patterns: these in turn can help you reduce software bloat and thus, storage for each template. Ideally, you get to understand an environment that has very likely evolved over time, and that can be trimmed and focused before a change is required. Understanding your environment will help you best realize where, and if, VDI can give a return on your business’ investment – Perhaps even show that transformation without virtualisation is possible.

Fundamentally, “how do we right size our systems for this transformation?

Real visibility of actual application usage enables you to provide :-

  • A business case definition for desktop transformation based on your business, not an on-line calculator
  • The suitability of end-points – do you need to completely replace? is it possible to re-use, re-deploy?
  • Discover used and unused applications and likely identify additional savings on application licensing by removing unused or duplicated software
  • Identify off-line and on-line usage and reduce the likelihood of introducing a diminished user experience

How do I get this information?

There is often a claim that VDI saves “up to 40%” on traditional desktop costs. As far back as 2001 Gartner were reporting (“Thin-Client vs. Fat-Client TCO” ,Gartner 2001)  savings using thin client of up to 30%. But, the greater savings were from an unmanaged environment to a managed – and  these savings were not going to be in all cases.

The reality is, many organizations actually have desktop management tools in place. You may already have considerable amounts of technical data on what is going on in your environment. While tools are developing at  a pace to reduce the complexity of migrating to a VDI environment fewer allow you to view your desktop estate holistically: allowing you to understand what is you have to let you best plan and advise your business on how to improve what it is that you have now.

CentrixSoftware’s Workspace Discovery
Fewer, but not “none”.

Centrix Software have a freely available tool – Workspace Discovery which allows you identify your assets and understand usage trends.

Workspace Discovery enables you to analyze your existing desktop environments, helping to identify applications that can be remediated or indeed removed entirely from your desktops. It isn’t fixed to a particular solution – it outlines the potential implementation options including physical devices, hosted virtual desktops (HVD), application virtualization or Presentation Virtualization based technologies. Using information gathered by the Workspace Discovery Agent the application provides you with reports to give an accurate assessment of current client hardware and software used and applies rules to the collected data in order to provide valuable detailed reports that are designed to aid planning and optimization of your application and desktop delivery.

Rarely is there such a thing as ‘free’ in IT. Workspace Discovery is a sizable download to install; and it needs an agent  to be deployed to each desktop. However, there is a great business advantage in being able to utilize existing services to give a single report view. Potentially you can identify applications that are deployed, but not used – removing these saves on renewed license costs; understanding the use of an application helps you plan which applications need to be migrated first and what the impact on the business will be.

You can find out more about Workspace Discovery from this link.

Can you Transform by Turning a Key?
To Lift and drop, or not to lift and drop – that is the question, Horatio?

There are environments where a turnkey solution is a viable business decision. But, how do you know its yours? Even a small organization can lose sight of what each user’s workspace actually is.

Introducing a virtualized infrastructure for your desktops does not offer guaranteed savings. The application is the most important driver for deploying VDI, not generating cost savings.

The process of transforming your desktop needs to begin with understanding what each user has in their workspace. Understanding not only what the applications are, but how they are used. This is a process that takes time, but there are tools to help, like CentrixSoftware’s Workspace Discovery. Of course, look to minimize your capital expenditure, but without fully understanding your workspace you’re likely to lose that gain in creating or maintaining unnecessary operating costs. Being able to minimize your desktop device spend should not come with increased costs due to complexity and lost productivity. Be sure you fully assess what it is that you have now before considering transforming your environment.

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Andrew Wood (144 Posts)

Andrew is a Director of Gilwood CS Ltd, based in the North East of England, which specialises in delivering and optimising server and application virtualisation solutions. With 12 years of experience in developing architectures that deliver server based computing implementations from small-medium size business to global enterprise solutions, his role involves examining emerging technology trends, vendor strategies, development and integration issues, and management best practices.

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2 comments for “Can you Transform your desktop with Turnkey VDI?

  1. June 8, 2010 at 12:15 AM

    Great article Andrew – thank you for highlighting the importance of VDI planning!

    Have a look at the free Lanamark Suite Express, which provides agent-less IT asset discovery, search and reporting. You can learn more about it here:

    http://www.lanamark.com/product/editions/express

  2. June 12, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    Mark,

    Thanks for that. Always interested to see how different tools compare – will take a look.

    Cheers

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