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VDI: Why Hasn’t Everyone Done It?, Is It Complex?, The Phobia!

Whilst I was attending VMworld Europe (or “Dell world” your choice :P) this year I attended a session led by Dan O’Farrell from Dell called VDI: Complex, Costly and Challenging. Or Not?

This session was quite useful to here the various views on how complex VDI implementations can be and why they have been failing in the past.

This post will cover the following areas at a high level from my view and comments made by Dan O’Farrell:

  • Why isn’t everyone doing VDI?
  • Are VDI implementations complex?
  • Is there a VDI-phobia? (yes this is now a known phobia that some people have nightmares about)

There was more discussed in this session but it was mainly aimed at promoting the Dell Wyse brand and how it can assist in simplifying VDI deployments. My personal opinion here is if you are engaged with the correct partner they will ensure it is simple, or at least as simple as it can be.

Why isn’t everyone doing VDI?

This is an interesting question and can be up for debate for hours, days, weeks etc, but fundamentally organisations previously may not have gone down the VDI route due to commercial viability and the ROI/TCO assigned to it. Over the past couple of years this is becoming less of an issue, as the benefits VDI can bring typically assist in lowering TCO (if done right) and a lot of the components required for VDI deployments have now be commoditized/price points have lowered. For example; there are a million ways now to deliver crazy number of IOPs via software and hardware options.

Other reasons organisations didn’t go VDI were:

  • Experiences
    • Standing up even a POC in the past was complex and time consuming
    • Not all users were happy with the experience
    • Gauging VDI costs was difficult and difficult to predict
    • Thus, many VDI pilots/POCs were deemed unconvincing
  • Perceptions
    • Implementation requires an expert team, working for months
    • The user experience is simply not satisfactory for demanding users
    • Server and storage configuration is essentially a guessing game
    • Its easy to over-spend or under-configure as you scale

Again as VDI has matured a lot of these experiences and perceptions can be de-risked/removed utilizing an experienced partner. For example: Demanding users can be catered for within VDI whether they are developers, CAD users, healthcare professionals etc. Enhancements with vGPU and CPU processing power has enabled VDI environments to provide a great experience across varying use cases.

With regards to the VDI guessing game and ensuring you don’t over spend/under configure, there are now tools out in the market to assess your user environment as it is prior to VDI and experienced partners can then interpret that data and build a solution around the desired requirements with growth. Some vendors also now have built in capacity planning and trending tool sets to assist with this! Whether that be utilizing VMware vROPs, Lakeside Systrack as assisting toolsets.

One key reason I have seen organisations not look at VDI is due to the always on connectivity requirement for access your desktop and applications. In an environment whereby users need offline working capabilities or an office only has one network link that could fail, then VDI may not be the best option. This is where your partner should advise and assist you on analyzing the benefits against the risk of implementation, or even bolstering these use cases with additional network links (where possible) or a physical device management solution that is closely linked to your VDI management so that you don’t end up with vendor sprawl or unnecessary complexities.

I am sure there are many other potential reasons but this was just a few. They key thing here is:

“Experiences shape our viewpoint and opinions, and perception is reality”

Are VDI implementations complex?

According to Dan O’Farrell >50% of virtual desktop implementations will fail or not reach their objectives, and many will be abandoned before completion. I agree and disagree with this comment having been an internal infrastructure admin, support engineer, delivery consultant and solutions architect, but deploying a virtual desktop solution is only complex if you don’t understand your requirements for doing this in the first place and the expectation has not been set from day one!

VDI implementations can become complex the more vendors you have engaged within your solution stack, and minimizing the complexity can be driven by minimalizing the vendor sprawl, ensuring that the products within the solution are clearly articulated to the customer and end users, so the expectation is clearly defined.

One complexity to any VDI solution, or any end user facing system/solution is understanding the user profiles and working practices. What do they need, how much of this and that, when do they need it, why do they do that, is that process relevant in VDI etc, because what generally happens is some organisations take an IT only view of the estate and start to heavily guess and remove elements that they believe aren’t needed, when they probably are! Working this out is complex and time consuming but this process should be taken whether you are delivering VDI, SBC, new operating systems, hardware refresh etc, therefore is not a specific VDI issue.

The other key area that is seen as complex is not complexity but the fear of change. I have seen organisations trying to manage VDI environments as if they are physical PCs,, using the same tools and processes/procedures as they have done for the past X number of years. With a VDI implementation an organization needs to embrace the change and take on board the new processes and procedures that come with it. Any experienced partner in delivering VDI solutions will provide in depth solution handovers geared towards the infrastructure, desktop and help desk teams as all of their questions, queries and scenarios need to be addressed. This process should happen from day one of engagement and involve the relevant team leads in the project, with a structured workshop throughout to handover the solution.

Is there a VDI phobia?

The answer to this is yes and no. No… people are afraid of change and a VDI solution can be a significant change within an organisations working practices. (depending on reason for implementation). What some organisations are afraid of is the hearsay from friends, colleagues and peers at other organisations that have had a bad experience of virtual desktops (or what they think is virtual desktops).

Dan O’Farrell for me put this element across really well in the session comparing scenarios of general day to day tasks that have changed over the years, which have now become standard. something happened to make us move form the old to the new, which was to make it simpler and more convenient. Some of these scenarios are seen below:

Scenario Old World New World
Getting cash out Go to your bank or post office Use an ATM
Researching a place or thing Go to the library, encyclopedia reference “Google it”
Directions Hard copy map, or guess Satnav, download route from the net
Written correspondence Write a letter and post it Email or instant message
Document Exchange Print it and post it Email it, “dropbox it”
Buying an asset Go to the shop Online shopping

Being able to access your desktop, data, apps from anywhere, anytime, any device from any cloud is what will be expected over the years to come. People may argue that VDI or SBC in the future wont be required due to web developments, mobile native apps etc… but I am a firm believer that if someone wants to use something a certain way let them, as that will make them more productive. If they want a desktop let them have one, some generations don’t like app stores, some do… give the users choice. (within reason).

Thanks for reading this post and welcome any feedback on areas you would like further information on.

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2 thoughts on “VDI: Why Hasn’t Everyone Done It?, Is It Complex?, The Phobia!”

  1. I think the cost aspect is a huge, huge factor that’s often ignored. You can show up at any given end-user virtualization collaborative event and hear from a dozen vendors who contribute to various bits in the “stack” – and if you added up their SRPs it would be completely absurd. It’s important to use tools that do a lot of things well, and simplify the management process to keep people costs down. Hyperconvergence and the surprising improvement in what you get “out of the box” with Windows Server (Hyper-V, RDP/RemoteFX) make a big difference for current-day VDI. You can now put together an all-flash, fully personalized, UDP-protocol central desktop solution with layering technologies in place for less than the cost of physical desktops, so adoption can really climb quickly.

    1. Agreed 🙂

      From a customer perspective and looking to implement a virtual desktop solution, it could be very easy to get cost bloat due to the various vendors out there that can add a “benefit”. For me so long as the TCO/ROI mapping has been done up front, against a solution that meets the customer requirements then you can make a good informed decision on whether or not it is right for your organisation. Benchmarking of before and after from a commercial standpoint and performance is a crucial key for benefits realisation.

      thanks for your comment

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