COMMENTARY

How to avoid overdoing it with desktop virtualization

Jim McHugh is senior vice president of global marketing at NComputing.

If there was ever a year when “do more for less” was a mantra, this would be it.

The impact of local and global recessions is pressuring federal agencies to find ways to reduce their costs without reducing services. In such an environment, desktop virtualization has the potential to be a strategic asset to many IT managers. But even the best technology innovations are not immune to people overthinking them.

The selling points of desktop virtualization are well-established. Depending on its size and scale, a deployment can pay for itself from Day One. Initial acquisition costs are often less than 50 percent of those of traditional PCs, with ongoing maintenance and support costing 70 percent less and energy costs typically 90 percent less than a traditional setup.

Virtualization also brings benefits in the form of business agility and productivity. For example, if you need to provision a desktop for a new employee, it can take minutes rather than hours to get it up and running.

Unfortunately, in their eagerness to start reaping the benefits of virtualizing desktops — and spurred on by vendors who are more experienced with large-scale, service-based virtual deployments — IT managers tend to overbuy and over-provision for virtual desktops, leading to overly convoluted deployments.

For a deployment to be a strategic and cost-effective venture, IT managers need to follow these six steps.

1. Understand the business user case. Who in the organization could benefit from a virtual desktop environment and why? Focus on identifying the right business cases and which employees could be in your test group. What roles do they play in the company, and how do they use IT?

2. Assess your needs. Work with your IT partner and/or your IT department to determine how many virtualized desktops you need. Once you have that information, virtualize a few desktops to see how it works. Once you have the right deployment strategy, expanding will be a straightforward venture.

3. Minimize component complexity. How many components do you need and will they come from different companies? Think of both the desktop and server ends of the deployment, and make sure you know whether there are any integration issues and how they will be handled. Planning ahead will help you avoid management, integration and support issues down the road.

4. Determine how fast you want to be up and running. Most departments, particularly government departments, cannot close down during setup. A workgroup or remote office should be able to be deployed and up and running in days, not months. Beware of vendors who tell you the project will take several months and require you to shut down during deployment.

5. Determine infrastructure needs. Desktop virtualization will greatly reduce your hardware costs, but you will still need servers and the devices to virtualize the desktop. Smaller deployments often only require one or two servers that can stream to 30 or so workstations. However, it depends on the needs and structure of your organization. Make sure you understand those factors before implementing a virtual desktop environment.

6. Find the right partner. Look for partners who are experienced in working with organizations of your size and scope. Make sure they understand your specific needs and are certified.

Desktop virtualization is a pivotal technology investment, and deployments that are carefully designed and assessed will pay off many times over.

About the Author

Jim McHugh is senior vice president of global marketing at NComputing.

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