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10 things you should consider when virtualizing enterprise desktops

If you're planning to move your desktops and other assets to the cloud, make sure you keep these critical factors in mind.

By now, we all recognize that cloud computing is here to stay and that embracing the benefits, such as cost savings and greater management efficiencies, makes a lot of sense for corporate IT departments. However, even with all the inherent benefits, improper planning can lead to unexpected costs and unnecessary hours spent on troubleshooting.

Many customers have begun to turn to integrated solution suites to help ease the management burden. As their desktops, applications, data, and mobile devices move to the cloud, an integrated suite that manages the total user workspace will help IT administrators save time and money compared to point products.

If you're thinking about virtualizing your enterprise desktops, here are some long-term considerations to think about that will future-proof your efforts and your investment as your organization moves its desktops and other assets to the cloud.

1: Future apps and devices

When taking inventory of your physical environment as you prepare to virtualize, think about how your requirements will change with the introduction of new applications and devices down the road. Consider whether future applications and devices will support a cloud-based infrastructure.

2: Thinking local

VDI is a great solution for many users, but it doesn't work well for those who are frequently off-network. Use image layering and desktop persona technologies to extend single image management benefits to as many users as possible. The combination of both approaches allows IT departments to extend their infrastructure to support all types of mobile knowledge workers who need anytime, anywhere access to corporate data, apps, and services.

3: Application support

Make sure your virtual desktops offer the same richness and access to data that traditional applications provide. Otherwise, users may reject the solution before they give it a fair chance. Choose a virtual desktop solution with support from a wide range of technology partners that allows your desktops to utilize the latest technologies, such as 3D graphics and unified communications, where users have presence-aware instant messaging, VoIP, or Web conferencing support automatically. A successful deployment of virtual desktops should have little to no impact on the user experience.

4: Mobile devices

When moving desktops to the cloud, evaluate your mobile device strategy, since cloud-based personas can also be pushed to laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Managing user workspaces is a better approach than managing the devices themselves because many people now use their devices (smartphone or tablet) for both work and personal purposes. Selecting a holistic solution suite instead of a point product will help streamline provisioning/de-provisioning, management, and reporting and help safeguard your investment for a longer period of time.

5: Client device selection timing

When looking at users where thin clients or zero clients are a good fit, evaluate the demands that users and the VDI workload are going to place on them before pulling the trigger. For example, both approaches offer mobile workers anytime access to their desktops, along with enhanced data security. But thin clients are better suited for those who carry hardware such as a laptop or tablet with them at all times, whereas a zero-client desktop requires mobile workers to find an available terminal/smart display to access their desktop.

6: Sufficient storage IOPS

When choosing storage for a VDI solution, consider how large your deployment is likely to grow. Choose a solution whose IOPS, not just capacity, will scale to meet your needs.

7: Virtualizing legacy Windows apps

Virtual and physical desktops become easier to manage if your legacy Windows applications are virtualized for streamlined entitlement, deployment, and management. To complement a virtual desktop solution, look at application virtualization and management technologies. Consider integrated solution suites that can help simplify management.

8: Optimizing Windows images

A standard corporate Windows image that's fine for physical desktops may not be ideally suited for running at scale in the data center with VDI. To improve performance and save money on server and storage resources, take the time to optimize your Windows images for VDI. Many services that are necessary when running on physical PCs may not even be necessary in a virtual environment.

9: Repurposing PCs

In many cases, older PCs that are no longer suitable to run as physical endpoints make perfect devices to access VDI. Save money compared to buying new access devices by extending your desktops from the data center onto these endpoints. Many organizations, particularly universities and school districts, are finding this approach to be cost effective in extending the life of older PCs.

10: Regulatory compliance

Think ahead about the list of industry regulations your organization needs to comply with. Since virtualized desktops are delivered as a service out of the data center, policies can be implemented and enforced centrally to all virtualized desktops more easily than traditional desktops. As a result, enforcing compliance on mobile endpoints will be simpler.

About the author

Erik Frieberg is senior director of End-User Computing at VMware. He has more than 20 years of experience with cloud, IT infrastructure, SaaS, application lifecycle management (ALM), databases, and security software.

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