As students and administrators seek anytime, anywhere access to the cloud, higher ed IT teams must face their fears and get to work.
Virtual desktops offer cost savings and more efficient management, but deployment must be well planned. Here are five tips to get you started.
Planning for Client Virtualization
Client virtualization can help organizations run more efficiently, bolster security and reduce costs. Yet before these benefits materialize, organizations need the right IT foundation and a rollout plan that keeps disruptions to a minimum. Use these five tips to move forward with a deployment.
Tip 1: Don't expect to see cost savings right away. Although every organization wants to save on IT expenses, don't look to client virtualization for a quick return on investment. The ROI will come over a few years, depending on how much the organization needs to upgrade its IT infrastructure to prepare for this new strategy. Also, don't overlook added costs for software licenses; client virtualization may require changes to the organization's current contracts.
Expect budget savings to slowly materialize from lower-cost client hardware and reduced IT management overhead. Meanwhile, take comfort in a host of near-term benefits, including tighter security, higher availability of IT resources and the ability to quickly roll out new services to end users as business conditions change.
Tip 2: Plan on a network upgrade. Client virtualization will put constant stress on the network with data, applications and images flowing from data centers to client desktops. Before a deployment, map out the capabilities of the existing network infrastructure and then create accurate estimates of the performance levels required after implementation.
Start with a detailed inventory of existing traffic volumes. Pay close attention to differences seen in various departments. Evaluate technologies designed to accelerate throughput to get the most out of the organization's available bandwidth. With this groundwork completed, look for gaps and areas where bottlenecks are likely to exist once the increased demands of the virtual desktop environment take effect.
Another important aspect of network planning is managing the expectations of senior management. Explain to them in advance that new investments are needed to upgrade the organization's networks. Develop concrete data that highlights the business benefits of a post-virtualization environment so top managers understand that there's more at stake than just moving bits and bytes around more quickly.
Tip 3: Take a close look at the organization's storage operations. Client virtualization lets organizations replace many desktop PCs with low-cost thin client devices without hard drives. This means the underlying storage environment will be a deciding factor in realizing the full potential of client virtualization. Along with network upgrades, storage investments also represent some of the larger upfront costs.
The best option for virtual desktop deployments is a collection of multiple, high-performance storage area networks (SANs). Originally designed to handle large data blocks from large databases and transaction-intensive applications, SANs are a perfect fit for client virtualization because they can accommodate fast response times and the need to maintain performance when large numbers of people access data resources simultaneously. Finally, SANs let IT staff add and reallocate capacities on the fly without incurring costly downtime for end users.
The good news is that SANs are more cost effective than ever. Solutions that support the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocol allow SANs to use Ethernet cabling rather than expensive fiber links. And because FCoE can run Fibre Channel protocols using Ethernet across long distances, it's possible to use 10 Gigabit Ethernet across the organization's virtual desktop environment.
Tip 4: Check out the latest Remote Desktop Protocol. Take a close look at how the organization's multimedia applications run in the new environment. In Windows Server 2008 environments, Windows Remote Desktop Services lets multiple users establish independent sessions with applications installed on Windows servers. The latest Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 7 can now compress audio and video content sent to desktops. This means smoother playback for end users and reduced processing demands on servers.
Tip 5: Prioritize which applications are to be virtualized first. Identify which departments will most quickly see the benefits of virtualization and then gradually roll out the new architecture to other areas.
A good place to start is a department, such as a call center or administrative office, whose staff members use the same types of applications. By allowing these people to share applications running in a central data center, the organization will more likely take advantage of virtualization's benefits without significantly disrupting established work routines.
As the organization documents business benefits and implementation successes, slowly introduce client virtualization to power users, who should have helpful questions about performance, flexibility and other concerns associated with desktop virtualization.