June 03, 2015

Developing a Viable Proof of Concept (POC) of a VDI

Developing a viable plan for proof of concept (POC) of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) naturally begins with establishing and clarifying your company's primary objectives in implementation of the virtual desktop interface. Obtaining conclusive results in testing depends on ensuring that requirements of budget, system performance, and timeline expectations are realistic, measurable, and crystal clear. Committing these to writing is essential to ensure that criteria do not fluctuate along the way, and that all project sponsors and stakeholders are satisfied that all clearly specified requirements are being met. Differences of opinion about sufficiency of proposed solutions to predicted issues need to be resolved before undertaking the process, and full agreement on the suitability of criteria for a VDI that meet your company's needs must be agreed prior to beginning the POC phase. Discrepancies in expectations between key participants in the endeavor can adversely impact the general architectural design of the VDI.

After objectives are clarified and firmly agreed by all interested parties, turn focus to examining past challenges to implementation as well as current systemic and peripheral operational issues that may affect the efficacy of the implementation process to be undertaken. Identify solutions to predictable obstacles in advance. For a few common examples, if frequent updates of applications are a concern, determine how this can be most effectively approached. Or, perhaps organizational growth potential causes scalability concerns for VDI that should be included in plans for providing POC as it applies to future needs. Or, your team may need to address issues of new VDI compatibility with some users' hardware, etc...

Preliminary Processes

In completing the above preliminary tasks, you have already made meaningful progress toward successful POC. Once you and your team are prepared with sharply defined goals for the system, those finished tasks can be marked off your checklist of necessary steps in the larger process of VDI POC, and you are ready to embark on the more physical processes of building an infrastructure. The list below provides a reasonable general framework of preliminary steps to be completed prior to testing for POC.

• Explanations and agreements — Clearly specify performance and timeline criteria and obtain commitments to all agreements in writing.

• Implementation Test Team — Complete implementation orientation and training for managers of networks, desktop operations, directory, and applications to ensure that all participants operating in the test environment clearly understand all relevant components as well as opportunities inherent in integration.

• Software — Work closely with your vendor to obtain and install all appropriate software.

• Licensing — Identify a qualified individual to manage acquiring all necessary software licensing before beginning testing for POC.

Intermediate Process

Prior to moving forward with testing, determine critical needs for your VDI. To help manage and track steps in each phase throughout the process of developing your POC, the list below suggests typical general areas of concern for architects of VDI.

• Visual display — users can control resolution and sizing of their monitor screens for their virtual desktops.

• Graphics quality — LAN and WAN users experience functionality of applications for two-dimensional graphics that is adequately responsive.

• Printing — users can print from their virtual desktops to local network printers.

• Delivery of applications — only applications assigned to a user are visible to that user.

• USB access —users do not need to log off and on again in order to utilize USB devices from their virtual desktops.

• Roaming ¬— users can log on to any computer in the network and use their virtual desktops, and find that their selected configurations are retained consistently at each location.

• Video quality — LAN and WAN users can play Adobe Flash and Windows compatible media without excessive start delays or freezing of video or audio content.

• Desktop environment — users can modify configurations via user preferences and settings to personalize their virtual desktops.

• Remote access — users can remotely access their virtual desktops securely without dependence on a VPN client at the remote location.

• Multiple monitor use —users can utilize multiple monitors without special configurations to enable use of their virtual desktops for additional monitors.

Implementation Processes

POC must include robust strategy for user support following implementation of the VDI. The list below highlights some general areas of concern for architects of VDI to help in managing and tracking steps in the process of developing POC.

• Desktop additions — virtual desktops can be added to the environment for new users quickly (normally within minutes) and is accomplished using only one console.

• Storage controls — virtual desktop images should be limited to as few as possible in order to minimize storage requirements.

• Safeguards — Adequate redundancy of functions and components ensure continuous functionality of users' virtual desktops in the event that a component fails.

• Updates — Adding updated security patches for the OS are required on only one or a few images. And, these updates can be administered to all virtual desktops remotely.

Administrative Processes

Typically, organizations have a greater number of user workstations than servers. Supportability of the environment is the key to a successful roll out of virtual desktop software and to the strongest quality management of the virtual desktops for users. Prioritizing the following tasks is essential to POC.

• Devise strategies to ensure that IT administrators can most efficiently manage the virtual desktop infrastructure and individual desktops as desktops are virtualized or moved into the network data center.

• Evaluate and enhance management of storage requirements, patches, and other critical systemic necessities, as appropriate.

Planning for Future Needs

To accommodate growth in your organization and/or changes in users' working arrangements, you must capacitate delivery of virtual desktops to as many users as may need them. If your company opts to permit employees to work from home or at other outside locations, your VDI must be able to provide for those needs. Critical capacities include the following.

• Diverse OS types —the virtual desktop solution supports Windows XP, Macintosh, Linux (and, as needed, other) types of operating systems that users have on their computers at work and at home.

• Hypervisor — the virtual desktop solution is open, i.e., functioning with various server types, including, for examples, Citrix XenServer, VMware, and V13.

POC and VDI Implementation

Certainly, issues encountered during the POC phase must be prioritized for resolution prior to roll out of virtual desktops to users. Identify and correct all problems that reasonably should be addressed before the roll out. Trying to fix such problems afterward invites an unmanageable circumstance for IT administrators and staff who may become overwhelmed in a struggle against exponentially increasing numbers of technical problems, trouble reports from users, and untenable scheduling challenges in the weeks and months after roll out. Consider obtaining outside analytics, if necessary, to assist in determining the extent of any potential impacts to your underlying network infrastructure.

Challenges both large and small during POC, preparation for implementation, and after roll out are all to be expected. However, effective collaboration on strategic design, thorough planning, and diligent attention to assuring that all requirements have been met to effect optimum VDI—prior to roll out of virtual desktops to users—ensures for you and your team that everything that can be done has been done to execute smooth implementation and to achieve a satisfactory long-term experience for your company's virtual desktop users.