We here at Matrix42 are big proponents of desktop virtualization, as you can probably tell from this blog. The benefits, nicely detailed by my colleague Patrick earlier this summer, are numerous and can provide organizations with significant competitive advantages. However, as with any technology, desktop virtualization is neither a panacea nor a band-aid, and there can be consequences if it’s not properly planned or implemented. What follows are the top five mistakes I witness IT leaders make when undertaking desktop virtualization.
#1 – Focusing on cost reduction. If your main driver for implementing desktop virtualization is cost savings, you are doomed to fail. Desktop virtualization is in most cases not cheaper than traditional fat client deployment, due to higher infrastructure and storage costs on the backend. Instead of focusing on savings, think about the additional features and flexibility you’ll receive with virtualization.
I like the analogy of buying a car. If your plan is to replace your existing infrastructure with something virtual, it’s like buying a newer model of the car you own now, just without any additional fancy bells and whistles. Desktop virtualization, then, is not for you. On the other hand, if you’re investigating desktop virtualization because of the many additional features and benefits it offers – much like a new sporty car with GPS, satellite radio, and other fun stuff – then a new project makes sense. You’ll pay more, but you’ll give users more flexibility, manageability, and access over any device, which are all the right reasons for implementing desktop virtualization. Won’t you pay more for a better car with more features and benefits? The flexibility, agility and manageability of your desktops comes with a high price tag, too.
#2 – Overlooking or underestimating management changes and integration with current business processes. A common misconception among IT folks is that desktop virtualization implementation works like magic – it will be easy and require no management at all. If you believe that, there will be pain ahead. You must do your homework first – make sure desktop virtualization fits into your existing infrastructure and management paradigm. Virtualization is not a black or white decision: it requires tools for effective management and should be integrated into your existing management tools and business processes like service- and license management. And all too often, this is simply overlooked, or even forgotten.
#3 – Ignoring user workstyle. One of the first things I always ask prospective customers: “How do your users work – at the office, home or on the road?” Because of new breeds of employee – including road warriors who are rarely in the office and thus, rarely connected to the data center – it’s imperative that you analyze your users’ workstyles to figure out precisely which ones are a good fit for a virtual desktop. This should be one of the first items on your checklist. I call it “right-sizing” your desktop virtualization deployment. One size does not fit all.
Along these lines, I always recommend that the IT teams create a separate client computing group to manage end-users. This alleviates any confusion among data center and client administration teams about who’s responsible for managing the end-user’s experience, whether his or her workplace is the office or on their personal device.
#4 – Ignoring license management. This is closely related to #2. My favorite question to ask attendees when I present at a customer event is: “Who has considered the impact of desktop virtualization on license management?” More often than not, no hands rise. I’ve seen organizations time and again make this mistake and, quite literally, pay the price.
E.g. To virtualize a physical desktop, you need an operating system and a VDA license, which costs around $100 per year and entitles users to launch four virtual desktops from one physical device. If you are virtualizing a thousand desktops, this sure can add up. Yet all too often, this budgetary line item is completely forgotten about. License management must be an integral part of the desktop virtualization implementation if the project is to succeed.
#5 – Ignoring migration and transformation efforts. For the most part, IT understands desktop virtualization is a totally new approach to workplace management. The problem is that, more often than not, they underestimate the sheer time needed to make it successful. This is not, after all, a simple upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. I’ve seen projects estimated to complete in six months take almost three years.
Don’t get me wrong: the benefits of desktop virtualization are enormous. But like any significant IT commitment, it requires analysis from all angles – technology, management, organization, appropriate budgeting, as well as solid tools to help deploy and manage every step of the way.
Have I missed any that you’ve encountered? Let me know in the comments section.