If your organization is among the many planning to deploy desktop virtualization solutions, be forewarned: You need a plan. The degree of difficulty associated with virtualized environments increases as your organization climbs further up the networking stack. A company should construct a specific list of best practices that encompass every phase of a desktop virtualization project, from planning to deployment and ongoing maintenance.
In preparation for the move to desktop virtualization, Information Technology Intelligence Corp. has compiled the following checklist for IT managers to follow to ensure a successful deployment:
- Align the technology with the business goals. Organizations should always define business goals around end users. Assess the local- vs. mobile-user population and the issues associated with each group. Make a three- to five-year plan, if possible. Ask what products, tools and capabilities users need to be more productive. What does the business need to be more competitive (upgraded desktops or servers, improved security, reliability, remote access, or more flexibility, business agility, etc.)? Once you've compiled the list, prioritize. This will make it easier to build a business case for desktop virtualization solutions.
- Take inventory and review the end-user population. Take inventory of all devices, licenses and connections. This is a crucial component of regulatory compliance. Next, profile users: Identify the current percentage of mobile and remote workers and estimate how this number will change during the next several years. Review the type of end users -- mobile, call center, fixed. Are you users demanding choice? Do you need to provide customization and flexibility?
- Identify the level of desktop and application flexibility users require. What are the key business and technology drivers for the organization? What can users do with desktop virtualization solutions, and how will it make them more productive and support the overarching goals of the business? Assess the security of your current and planned desktop virtualization environment.
- Determine the level of customization needed for application delivery. Once you've decided on the degree of customization, review the application infrastructure. Identify the skills needed to maintain and manage the new desktop virtualization environment. Don't skimp on training or recertification. You'll also want to establish that any new solution won't require you to rip out and replace the entire existing infrastructure.
- Calculate the investment cost and ramp-up time. Once you've collected the requirements, you're ready to look at desktop virtualization solutions. Establish a realistic estimate of the capital expenditure acquisition costs and calculate costs for each phase of the desktop virtualization project. Construct a timetable for the development, testing and final rollout of the virtual desktop infrastructure. Estimate the annual maintenance support costs, so this can be incorporated into the IT department's annual operational budget. Companies must map out a three- to five-year business plan that includes a realistic budget for IT salaries, training and migrations to the appropriate desktop virtualization solutions, as well as support and maintenance agreements. Do not rush the project. Careful fiscal planning will lead to faster ROI.
- Ensure integration and interoperability with the legacy environment. New technology deployments are frequently disruptive. Carefully review all aspects of your legacy desktop applications and tools, with an eye toward a smooth transition. Some incompatibilities are unavoidable. This is particularly true if your firm's desktop hardware and applications are outmoded. Your IT department should work closely with vendors to find workarounds and construct a plan to ensure backward compatibility.
- Estimate the solution life span. Ensure that the new desktop virtualization environment is futureproof. Does it support multiple platforms? Will it support cloud infrastructure? Will it continue to support rich-performance applications?
- Set operational-level agreements (OLAs). The OLA is the working organizational chart that defines and establishes priorities and responsibilities for things like hours of operation, response times, systems support and security. OLAs are crucial and especially important in a desktop virtualization environment, where the physical devices may be local or remote.
- Pay close attention to the pricing and licensing model of your vendors and their products. Desktop virtualization solutions are part of an emerging technology; licensing agreements will vary from vendor to vendor and even among product lines from the same vendor. The size and scope of your deployment will also affect the terms and conditions of deals. Conventional wisdom has long held that large enterprises and named accounts get the best deals, but that's not always the case. Many midmarket companies can score excellent deals that can save tens of thousands and even millions of dollars over the product's life span.
C-level executives, IT managers and corporate attorneys should regularly review the terms and conditions of their licensing, maintenance and upgrade contracts. Licensing contracts are often obscure and vague, so don't hesitate to call your vendor or reseller sales representative. Whenever possible, enlist the aid of in-house counsel or external lawyers specializing in contracts, to explain licensing intricacies.
- Communicate, collaborate and co-operate. Finally, companies contemplating desktop virtualization solutions should also pay close attention to the human elements of the project. It takes careful planning and buy-in from all of the appropriate members of the organization to successfully deploy desktop virtualization. Practice the three "Cs": communication, collaboration and cooperation. Communication among C-level executives, IT departments, software developers and members of the physical facilities staff, as well as the persons responsible for negotiating the key infrastructure components (desktop, server and applications), is the key to successful operations and achieving the greatest economies of scale. This will help the business assemble the appropriate team to outline the project goals, construct a budget, assign responsibilities and set a timetable complete with milestones.
Laura DiDio is principal at Information Technology Intelligence Corp., a primary research and consulting firm in the Boston area; email her at email@example.com.