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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Application Strategies to Consider Before Taking the Plunge

Dec 15, 2016 posted by Alex Dubois

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Today virtual desktop provisioning is easier than ever both in the cloud or in a private data center. For those doing this responsibly, it demonstrates how IT can accommodate the business, thereby increasing the faith our users have in technology.

The VDI ecosystem is broad, consisting of multiple areas including: Security, Storage, Monitoring, Application Delivery, Endpoints, SSO and Persona Management. Each of these elements needs to be carefully considered and thoughtfully architected in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Unfortunately, many IT organizations do not have the knowledge or discipline necessary to maximize the benefits of Virtual Desktop Integration. Often organizations stand up the VDI environment, add hypervisor-level security anti-virus, throw in a bit of monitoring and sit back waiting for the ROI.  

In about six months to a year, the VDI ecosystem starts to become stale. People don’t provide proper care and feeding to VDI and one main problem area is lack of an application strategy. This can cause different challenges such as: image sprawl, one-off VDI desktop pools being created, countless hours trying to virtualize an application that is better off being hosted with RDSH or left out of the virtual environment entirely.

This is why it is vital to have and maintain an Application Strategy.

But first…

What are some core benefits to developing an application strategy?
  • Bring all the client applications to the surface so key stakeholders are aware of the application names, versions and count within the organization.
  • Discover which applications have the highest likelihood for success with layering, virtualization, and hosting via RDSH, etc.
  • It’s a starting point for a pilot development for VDI or even a catalyst to revitalize a stalled VDI deployment.
    • It’s not uncommon to discover a problematic client application is moving to a Web Based solution which can remove it as a barrier.
    • Early discovered application incompatibilities can trigger a more aggressive “phase out” schedule and remove barriers to onboarding new users. The classic “IE6 to IE8” migration became a “you have no choice” movement with XP going end of life. Windows 7 is already in extended, general support. Time to get moving! 

One very important asset that an application strategy brings is a framework to operate by. It’s more than an inventory and certainly meant to develop into a set of guidelines for preparing and delivering software to your organization.

Here is how to begin constructing an Application Strategy.

Where do you start?
Making the choice to start managing your client application portfolio is certainly the first place to begin. It is important to educate your IT leaders on the value this will bring to the organization. Do not undervalue business sponsorship with this process. A lot of work in developing an application strategy comes from tight collaboration with your business’s application teams.

Choosing application discovery tools?
VMware has Lakeside, Liquidware Labs has Stratusphere FIT. You might even have your own enterprise software delivery (ESD) solution (Managed Engine, SCCM etc.) that gives you an inventory. Keep in mind, an inventory is one thing but the value comes from the built-in assessment features to help identify good virtualization candidates, applications with high resource requirements, etc. Many times for this type of initiative, a business will attempt to rely solely on what the internal team knows “off-hand” and tend to move beyond the data collection/review process. These toolsets provide objective data that will provide insight to validate the assumptions and also provide guidance during the discovery process.

The assets within an application strategy (software details, categorization, usage detail, suitability etc.) can work to minimize a good portion of the software packaging effort by having requirements prior to any software packaging work begins. A particularly simple but very useful guide can be creating an Installation checklist for each application based on the data collected and interview processes involved in developing an application strategy.

An installation checklist can provide detail for each application such as:

  • How to install the software,
  • Where to locate the media,
  • The primary points of contact to support and answer questions on the installation.

To take it a step further, an Operational Checklist can provide useful details for each application such as:

  • The test accounts to use,
  • How to execute the program and validate core functionality.

The work up front will save the software packager time during the packaging process as well as the business user time from going back and forth with QA testing.

An application strategy is meant to adjust your business and IT culture for the better. By learning more about the applications the VDI solution thrives and continues to add value to the organization. 

Why not start developing your own application strategy today? 

Topics: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

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