Desktop Virtualization Deployment Insights eBook


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Need advice for desktop virtualization deployment? These 6 experts have over a hundred successful deployments under their belts, and they're sharing their key lessons.

Visit the Citrix Services Resource Library for more helpful insights, tricks and tips from Citrix consultants, trainers and support engineers:

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Desktop Virtualization Deployment Insights eBook

  1. 1. Desktop Virtualization Deployment Insights Six experts share their advice A Citrix eBook for project owners and their teams
  2. 2. Been there, done that, got the standing ovation. Deploying desktop virtualization is a big deal. For users, it enables mobility, supports BYOD and delivers a great desktop experience. For IT, it’s a quantum leap in agility, manageability and security. For the business, it’s a whole new way of empowering workers and responding to change. Butmakenomistake:movingfrom a physical desktop infrastructure to a virtual one (or a hybrid) is a real transformation that touches almost every part of the enterprise and the IT department. You don’t waltz into something this big as if you’re just changing the light bulbs…
  3. 3. Project Accelerator does just what it says While we’ve captured some great best-practice advice in this eBook, we’ve captured much, much more inside something called Project Accelerator. It’s a free, online project management environment that asks you a few questions about your goals and users, then guides you step-by-step through your pilots, roll-outs and beyond (with reference architectures, hardware sizing, user segmentation… and lots of fantastic documentation and advice). If you’re thinking about virtualizing your desktops (or are already on Control your destiny This eBook is about getting your desktop transformation journey off to a great start. It’s about the main principles that will help you: •Harvest the low-hanging fruit • Deliver quick wins to the business • Keep your users excited • Arrive at your destination in great shape • Get all the benefits that virtual desktops have to offer To make it, we approached six desktop virtualization industry experts who we respect, and asked them what makes some deployments successful and others go off the rails. The insights we’re sharing here are based on hundreds of real-world desktop transformation deployments. These guys know what they’re talking about. And they’re keen to help. We hope you take some time to absorb these ideas and bring them to your own virtualization projects. Here’s to success. Read the insights. Then try the tool. Project Accelerator will help you manage your entire desktop virtualization project.
  4. 4. Meet the Experts Here are the experts who contributed their insights and experience to this eBook (thanks guys). We’ll just use their first names to attribute their advice in the pages that follow. Nick Rintalan Senior Architect Citrix Consulting Services Robert Morris (@agsi_rmorris on twitter) Virtualization Consultant and Trainer (and CTP)Advantec Global Services Inc. (AGSI) Shane Kleinert (@shanekleinert on twitter) Solutions Architect JDL Technologies Jarian Gibson (@jariangibson on twitter) Virtualization Practice Manager Choice Solutions LLC Steve Greenberg (@stevegreenberg on twitter) Founder and Chief Architect (and CTP) Thin Client Computing Dan Allen Lead Architect Citrix Consulting Services
  5. 5. The Insights Here are the big-picture ideas that will multiply your chances of a successful desktop transformation implementation…
  6. 6. “The key is to understand your business needs first. Establish your priorities. Understand why the organization wants to virtualize.” Shane “The most common mistake that I see in virtualization projects? Choosing to put in tech because it’s cool. Every piece of technology you implement has got to have a good business case, a specific business case.” Robert “Don’t let the IT tail wag the business dog. Talk to the people who do the day-to-day tasks within the organization. Find out what they really need in order to be productive; then, plug in the best technology to add value for them.” Steve “Time to value is key. Do your use case analysis up front so everyone knows why you’re doing desktop virtualization.” Shane “Starting out with the wrong goals – or different goals – has the power to kill any project. It kills the excitement. The real benefits in a virtualization project are most often: 1. Speedier, more efficient management 2. Greater IT flexibility 3. Faster time to market Basically, you can do stuff faster, and respond to change more quickly.” Robert Start out with clear goals. It’s project management 101: get management buy-in from the start, by putting appropriate goals in front of them. Robert
  7. 7. Get your apps in order. “It’s especially important to test any homegrown applications that might not have been written for a shared environment.” Jarian “Customers who struggle the most with desktop virtualization try to treat all applications the same and virtualize them using the same model.” Nick “Don’t cut corners here. That’s why Citrix bought App-DNA to help people get the app-compatibility piece in place and make better decisions.” Dan “Don’t take a bunch of crap from your existing desktop environment and simply put it in the data center – you need to rationalize your apps before tackling a desktop virtualization project. Otherwise, you’ll end up with image sprawl and you’ll have the same crap in your data center!” Nick “You need to analyze your applications up front. Understand where each app writes to. Does it write to locations outside of the user profile? Is it terminal services or RDS compliant?” Nick “You can’t overlook application compatibility testing before you go too far down any virtualization path. Tools like App-DNA can help accelerate that and take the manual work out of it.” Jarian “Application understanding is the critical piece. You must know what your users do; what apps they use; how they use them; and where their data lives.” Dan
  8. 8. “Virtualizing desktops is a great opportunity for application rationalization. You may find that you have 5000 apps, but only really use or need 500.” Nick “It’s essential to start with an application inventory. And it’s a great time to rationalize and consolidate your apps. Then it’s much easier to centralize the apps you’re bringing forward.” Shane “Dig deeper to find out what applications are in use and are mission critical. This is a very common blind spot for organizations. It often takes a neutral, outside party to get a clear picture of the real app list. Some of the newer tools help quite a bit but there is no substitute for making direct contact with the end users.” Steve
  9. 9. If your users aren’t happy, you’re dead.”Shane “You need to be serious about gathering user requirements and understanding their work and their demands. At the end of the day, if the users aren’t happy, your project will fail.” Jarian “The first step is to segment your user base. If you don’t know what users are doing and what apps they’re using, you have no clue.” Nick “You can use survey tools to help automate discovery of your user base. But there’s no substitute for sending a person to the field to sit down and talk to the users and their managers. Ask them to launch the apps they use. Look at their desktops. Look at the drive mappings and learn how their desktop is configured.” Dan “You need to work with people. Sit side-by-side and demo the environment for them. Show them they can still customize their desktop; still have the photo of their kids on it; still access all their data and apps…” Jarian “The human element is really important here. Sending questionnaires to lots of branches doesn’t really give you everything. I much prefer 1- to 2-day site surveys with users, collecting real-world data.” Dan “You can’t meet every user but you can pick 4-5 managers and 4-5 power users out of 400-500 people and spend an hour with each.” Dan “Get your eyes on the workflow of the end user, learn what they do each day and how you can help them. IT projects usually fail because they’re disconnected from what the business really does and what it needs to improve. We often get hired to do one thing and then – after observing end users – change the approach. Sometimes the killer app can be as simple as better folder structures or fixing profiles.” Steve Know your users.
  10. 10. “You can get crazy with over- segmentation though. It’s usually possible to consolidate down to a cluster of groups of users that share the key dimensions – even if they’re not in the same office or department.” Shane “It’s good to go for the low-hanging fruit first. You get the easy wins and get the buzz going so users get excited about virtualization instead of fearing it will ruin their world.” Jarian “It’s key to understand the various use cases and provide the right technologies to service each one. However, behind the scenes it is also important to identify commonalities. Often user cases that seem very different may only vary by a few apps, or by their preferred access method.” Steve “Segmentingyouruserbaseletsyou choose the right delivery model for every user group – to make sure the model you choose actually supports what that group does.” Shane And put them into groups. “We always use two or three delivery models” Shane
  11. 11. Proactively manage change in the organization. “I’m a techie. I love technology. But after years and years of doing this, I’ve come to realize that there’s going to be a human being that is ultimately using this technology. And people will help you if they feel heard and valued.” Dan “It’s important to brand the effort internally and give the customer a stake in the process. Oftentimes just including users and departments in naming the project can foster enthusiastic support. Make the project name a buzz word, and a rallying force, in the organization. Create excitement and buy-In! This is one place where marketing can really help IT.” Steve “It’s important during the testing stage to give really responsive support to users. Their experience now will give them a taste of the future.” Shane “There’s a marketing element to this.You can make a solution, but if no one cares about it, it’ll just sit there.” Steve
  12. 12. What’s in it for users? “With virtualization, they can be back up and running in minutes from a new endpoint. They like the sound of that. They also like flexible working. Knowing you can be productive wherever you need to work. And virtualization lets them bring their own devices. So the college kids coming in get to use their shiny new Macbook Pro instead of the clunky old PC – and still get access to all the company apps.” Jarian “My standard questions to users are: 1) What do you do today? 2) What challenges do you have and what could be better? 3) If we could wave a magic wand and make it do whatever you want, what would that be? Most of the time the answers to 3) are exactly what we can do with application and desktop virtualization, users just don’t know these things are already possible.” Steve
  13. 13. Pick the right deployment models. “The idea of mapping FlexCast models to your user segments isn’t the first thought of many project managers – but it ought to be.” Shane “Some other vendors only have a VDI model so they skew people’s thinking by marketing that model as if it’s synonymous with desktop virtualization. It’s not. There’s much more to it.” Nick “Persistent desktops – the full VDI model – are a hungry beast. Memory and disk footprint and IOPS can be huge. So only do it for the small number of users who really need that experience.” Dan “If a customer wants to do VDI, they usually assume it’s going to be a dedicated virtual machine with hypervisor layer and all the storage and networking that was used for server virtualization. In reality, VDI is the right technology only about 10% of the time. Most use cases dictate other modalities such as XenApp, App-V or Provisioning Server, for example. These can be achieved with lower cost, excellent performance and easier management.” Steve “For many users, session virtualization is absolutely fine – you don’t need an entire OS as with VDI.” Nick “Structure your IT infrastructure so that it serves your business, and not the other way around.” Robert “The biggest insight I’ve gained is to keep things simple and only introduce complexity when there’s a business case for it.” Steve Find your models with Project Accelerator. Our own project management tool will help you map your users to the right deployment model. Give it a try!
  14. 14. “Too often, customers skip over the Assess and Design stages – and it comes back to haunt them.” Nick Front load your projects. “There’s no short cut for a pretty rigorous assessment stage up front.” Jarian “Measure twice and cut once. Mistakes are very expensive in terms of dollars, manpower, productivity and organizational support. Design, test, re-design, test and then rinse and repeat…” Steve
  15. 15. “Certain common applications belong in the image for technical reasons, but the lion’s share of apps should be virtualized to gain the real benefits. When you do this you have the ultimate flexibility to deliver the applications any way you need to.” Steve Maintain your layers of cake. “Best practice is to separate the OS from the apps from the personalization. If you de-couple these layers, administration is easy and the system is predictable.” Nick “You need to containerize your apps early so you can layer them properly. Yes, it costs a bit more money up front but your ongoing operational costs go way down. A lot of companies just install the apps inside the image and utilize local profiles – then when you update an app or tweak a user setting, you have to crack open the entire image to modify the OS, which means downtime. With layers, you can update a major app like SAP without touching the base OS layer. Once apps start getting installed inside images, the image proliferation starts. And if each image is 40-50 GBs, and you’re keeping two or three copies for backup/resiliency, that’s ~150 GB of storage. For essentially one image! This is why application virtualization is key – to minimize the number of images you need to maintain and decrease storage costs.” Nick
  16. 16. Be realistic about your hardware. “You shouldn’t buy anything until after you’ve gathered requirements and finished your design.” Steve One of the biggest errors I see is people underestimating the hardware they’re going to need. The only way to really do hardwaresizingistounderstand how users are working. You can use Lakeside or other survey tools to get a snapshot. Jarian
  17. 17. Centralize your data. “The Golden Rule for VDI: Every app must reside in the same data center as the data it accesses.” Dan
  18. 18. Centralize your data.Continued. “It’s important to centralize your data before you move to a virtual environment –– or do it in parallel. But do it.” Jarian “If you break this rule, you’re pulling data over a WAN – and your performance and user experience will be terrible. An SAP report that took 3-4 seconds will now take 60-120 seconds over a WAN – that’s unusable.” Dan “So don’t put the app in the field where the user is – bring the user to the centralized app and its data.” Dan “You need all your data close to your apps. It’s more secure. Easier to back up and performance is far better.” Shane “Centralize data for live production, but whenever possible keep it in more than one place, on site and off site” Steve “You can’t separate desktop centralization from data centralization. If you want to centralize an app or a desktop, you must centralize its data at the same time.” Dan It’s a good thing. “Centralized data is easier to manage, more secure and a lot less expensive than trying to maintain small data centers in every branch office. It’s much easier to maintain, backup, secure and manage data from one or two locations.” Dan
  19. 19. “You need to get all the IT administrators involved. Desktop virtualization touches desktops, applications, networks, security, storage – and you need all the admins of these things working together. If one of the systems goes wrong, the whole environment suffers.” Jarian “Desktop virtualization touches everything in IT. That’s good news and bad news if you don’t get everyone involved and the communication going.” Nick “Desktop and application virtualization involve all layers of the stack, from hardware, storage, network and operating system all the way up through apps, personalization and presentation. This has to be a cross-discipline effort and we always recommend creating a project team that has representation in all of these areas” Steve “Project teams that try to do this themselves with no input from the other teams, especially the business, always struggle. It never works.” Nick Get the whole IT team involved. The desktop team can’t do desktop virtualization alone. You need a cohesive IT group. Dan
  20. 20. By far the biggest deployment trap is failing to test. Nick “Use the application experts – the users – to run tests. Don’t just let an IT guy launch an app, click around a bit and consider testing complete. Remove the user’s old endpoint so they give their full attention towards testing. Otherwise as soon as the first problem arises, they will switch back to their old endpoint. The key here is to make sure they can perform all job functions in the future environment before removing the endpoint!” Shane “With the first test users and business cases, we look for people who are going to be positive, and who will step up and help. We make them the early testers and rely on their feedback to eliminate most issues before going into general testing. When they are satisfied and can show success we make them the poster child for the rest of the organization. If you don’t test, you will fail.” Steve “Load testing is critical.” Jarian “If you have branch offices, have live users test from those locations. It’s important to see how the user experience will be across your WAN links. If possible, test with WAN simulators first to tune policies, then test with live users.” Shane “I was called in to consult for a pretty large public organization. Just a few days before they went live, they wanted to review the structure. I asked if they had done a test. They had not. They were planning to run 40-50 people per server. I asked them: What are you basing that on? They had no idea. None. And they didn’t even test it.” Robert “POCs are done on low-end hardware, usually whatever is laying around. You should look at your new infrastructure design to determine what the capacity will really be in production. You’ve got to stress things out to test them. That’s critical! A lack of proper scalability testing is one of the biggest causes of failure when companies move from POC to production.” Robert “It’s not just user acceptance testing (though it’s amazing that some customers skip that too). It’s performance and scalability testing. I’d estimate that only about ten percent of customers do this properly or at all. You need to find the bottlenecks early – the things that cause systems to break and lead to outages – and design around them. Only performance and scalability testing can do that.” Nick “Don’t go from 5 users to 5,000 without proper performance scalability testing. The idea is to try to break the system intentionally. Put 250 users on a server or throw 2000 desktops in a single resource pool or cluster. That’s when you start to catch the issues.” Nick Test,test,test.
  21. 21. Exploit the available resources. “Consider Citrix’s Provisioning Server. This is the coolest thing since sliced bread if you understand how it works. Many projects should use it but they don’t because the technology looks intimidating. But I could teach you how to use it in a day or two.” Robert “I created a rollout incidents app in Podio for tracking tickets during testing and trend the issues and resolutions. If you don’t do incident tracking during user testing, you’ll repeat the mistakes when you roll out.” Shane “There are incredible resources available to you today – take advantage of them. But do not lose sight of the huge learning curve. You must dedicate real time and effort to get up to speed. The Citrix FlexCast model is a perfect example - you are given multiple ways to solve the same problem, so make sure you understand both the problem and the differences in the available solutions. “ Steve “You need to educate yourself and your team. Leverage Citrix resources and take a systematic approach to deployment, using the planning guides, reference architectures, Project Accelerator. They’re out there – use them.” Shane Go to Project Accelerator. This is our go-to project management tool for your entire desktop virtualization project.
  22. 22. “Project Accelerator is great for sizing and reference architectures. It’s really important to review these. The framework really helps projects stay on track. Even for experienced CTPs.” Shane “One of the first deliverables in Project Accelerator is a roadmap that shows you which user groups to start with and which delivery model to use for each.” Nick “When you’re in the trenches, it’s hard to stay on top of developments with the technology. Project Accelerator has the latest best practice and the latest documentation built in so you stay up to date. With Project Accelerator, our customers see the project moving forward – it gives everyone on the project constant visibility.” Shane “I like Project Accelerator. It takes a lot of important data into account and asks the right questions. It takes extensive expertise to determine what the general outline of any given project will be in terms of hardware, software, services, planning and execution. This tool helps you get a good picture of what your project will look like without requiring the level of skill that the experts in this eBook have.” Steve A word about Project Accelerator. Forgive the shameless plug, but we’re proud of this puppy (and our experts seem to like it too). We basically tried to capture all the best practice advice from our consultants and wrap it up in a self- service environment. Dan Try it now!
  23. 23. Conclusion To be honest, we weren’t sure what kind of things we’d come up with when we set out to make this eBook. Would it be too detailed and technical? Would it be too obvious and generic? What we got back from our generous contributors feels to us like solid gold: real, front-line advice from the mouths of some of the world’s most experienced desktop virtualization experts. The themes that we summarize here all emerged naturally, from the experts themselves. In most cases, the advice was unanimous. Which left us with a strong impression that we’re starting to hit the real, critical issues that drive the most successful desktop virtualization deployments. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed assembling it. And, more importantly, we hope it helps you make your own desktop virtualization projects run smoothly. The Citrix Consulting and Project Accelerator teams Oh, and if you did enjoy this eBook… please do share this with your colleagues:
  24. 24. More Resources Our XenDesktop Blog For best-practice advice from some of our top people The XenDesktop Support Forum There’s not a lot this community doesn’t know about desktop virtualization The XenDesktop Design Handbook With reference architectures, planning guides and lots more The Citrix Knowledge Center Dig in - we share everything we know eDocumentation All our documentation in an easy-to-use format The Ask the Architect blog An excellent team blog by some of the best in the business Podio The social collaboration platform that you make your own. AppDNA The application compatibility testing tool that accelerates and de-risks migration.
  25. 25. About Citrix Services We’re Citrix consultants, teachers and support engineers and we’re all about one thing: making sure you succeed. With our help, you’ll deploy high-performance, robust virtualization and networking projects, faster and with dramatically lower risk and higher return. From free online tools and 24x7 support to intensive training, live events and deeply committed consulting engagements – we’re here for you. How we can help Citrix Consulting Intensive engagements for complex, critical or just plain massive projects. Citrix Support Always-on support services that leverage everything we know about best-practice deployment and maintenance. Citrix Education The fastest, most efficient way to get your team the virtualization skills they need. Online, on-site or in class. Plus free tools resources, including: The Knowledge Center Online forums, documentation and support resources Citrix Auto Support The automated online troubleshooter and health-checker. Project Accelerator The project management environment for your entire desktop virtualization project.