Find the compelling event

So…you are thinking about a VDI project?  Had a lot of success with you server virtualization initiatives and now you’d like to take some of that success and coolness and translate that into a VDI project?  Why not?  Everyone wants to run around with iPads and android tablets.  They are so cool.  And being able to work from home on a VDI desktop should increase productivity…and anything we can do to enable BYOT so that the users can use thier MacBook Airs to access the corporate windows apps should be a no brainier, right?  Oh, and think of all the cost savings with CapEx and OpEx efficiencies.  Why NOT do it?

The better question that we should all be asking is WHY do it in the first place?  First, let’s dispell some myths real quick…and read the whole article as I’m not trying to be a “Debbie Downer”…

  • VDI is NOT going to be cheaper than a traditional desktop…unless your idea of traditional was gold-plated.  Yeah, we can get close if we really take it seriously…but that’s a significant transformation that your org is going to have to make
  • OpEx savings are possible…but think of them in the context of your whole enterprise.  Will you be able to realize those savings?  Can you fully transition all of your users to a non-persistent desktop model or will you still need to maintain support for a good portion of legacy desktops?
  • Tablets are cool…but Windows apps weren’t designed for tablet/touch interfaces…be realistic about the user experience and the productivity of your apps on these end points

So…am I trying to say that VDI is a waste of time?  No Way!  However, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to stuff in a VDI environment where it doesn’t fit.  

Consider the Alternatives

Ok…I am a VDI guy.  I’ve been talking about this now going on 6 years.  During that time, while the VDI ecosystem was growing up, Terminal Server and XenApp have continued to mature.  Every time I hear a customer talk about a locked-down non-persistent desktop, I have to wonder if they first considered the SBC solution. It’s much cheaper to run, and is typically much easier to manage.  There’s also a massive community of talent in this space to tap into.  Now, that may not work for your use case.  Ok, that’s fine, but at least you thought about it.

Is your app right for VDI in the context of the new desktop and computing environments?  Perhaps this is the right time to consider replatforming you apps to better accommodate the non-win32 environments and move to a web-based or SaaS model.  When you check mail on your iPad, do you use VDI to do it, or do you use the native app?  I’m betting that most of you would rather just use the native app.  It was designed for that form-factor.

Find the Compelling Event

Look for a business event, that, when ENABLED by VDI, makes the cost of the soltuion insignificant when compared to the benefit to the organization.  THAT’S A COMPELLING EVENT!  We talk about these “justifications” for VDI alot…like Windows OS migrations, BYOT Programs, Work From Home initiatives.  Let’s dig deeper into a few of these.

What does a compelling event look like in real life…

Example:  Company A is going to purchase another company.  The existing users have desktops with applications required to run Company B.  when the merger happens…the users in Company B still need to do thier jobs and keep thier company going…but at the same time, they need to start working on the apps and systems required by Company B.  VDI could be a great tool in this case…but depending on the details of the environment and the apps that the new users need to run, could the same thing be accomplished with a Terminal Server?  How about a web-based app?  The business value of keeping the new users running while enabling a rapid transition is pretty easy to demonstrate.  That’s a compelling business event.

Example:  Company A is a global company that maintains Datacenters all over the world to ensure that end users have close access to thier files and the distributed computing environments located in those datacenters.  As costly as they are to maintain, the performance that users get working closely with the servers and having fast access to thier large files has kept them from consolidating thier datacenters.  Now, considering a VDI environment, the organization believes that they can close several datacenters and consolidate them down into a few geographically aligned facilities.  The cost savings of closing those facilities is much greater than the cost to implement and manage VDI for those remote users.  That’s a compelling business event.

Example:  Company A runs a call center in NYC.  It’s some of the most expensive real estate on the planet and the home of one of the most expensive workforces, too.  When considering expanding the call center operation, the organization considers using workers who telecommute 100%.  VDI is seen as an enabler to this expansion of the business, and costs far less from a facility and salary perspective.  That’s a compelling business event. 

Each of these examples are business-focused use cases.  In each, VDI enabled something much bigger and more important to the business to happen.

The Science Project

I hear this often, “VDI is so cool that if we build it and show it to the business, they will love it for the flexibility and coolness of it and then we will get the money to build it out”.  Problem is, that once you show “them” the environment and they like it and are willing to begin to invest in it, rarely will you have the ability to go back and redesign and architect the solution the way it should have been done.  The small scale tactical deployment you did as a science project working with some pre-sales folks from your infrastructure and virtualization vendors now becomes the foundation of what could be a strategic offering.  Oops.  

Baking a cake

It’s easy for the technical folks who see the value and coolness of a VDI solution to go after it and try to prove its value to the organization.  That’s backwards, though.  That’s like trying to bake a cake with all of the ingredients and instructions, when you’ve never see a cake and haven’t even been invited to the party.  (Credit John Palmieri for that analogy)  

Summary

If you really think that VDI is a true benefit to the business, then there should be some benefit to justify it.  If you have to go searching for the management savings of managing a virtual desktop over the traditional desktop, you might not find what you are looking for.  Or, you just might eat through all of the savings just trying to justify the VDI initiative.  When you DO find the RIGHT justification for transformation, watch how quickly it takes off…in the RIGHT direction.