With Desktop as a Service – You do Have a Choice

Right now, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is buzzing. DaaS is a solution in which levels of services are combined to provide a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution. The back-end is installed and managed by a service provider while the tenant layer is managed by the customer.

Typical DaaS solutions are based on a cloud service and the VDI is hosted by a cloud service provider. There is also an option for the customer to have the DaaS infrastructure in their own data center. The customer then becomes the service provider.

DaaS is designed to have multi-tenancy architecture.  The resources are consumed based on a subscription model. In the on-premises DaaS delivery model, the service provider manages the back-end responsibilities of data storage, compute, security and upgrades. The resources are then allocated to each tenant by the service provider. The tenant administrative console would use the allocated resources to create the virtual desktop services or pools, based on an imported desktop image. The entitlement for the users are created which allows a user to obtain a virtual desktop.

The division between the different business units would be considered tenants. When a solution requires completely isolated environments within the company, on-premises DaaS would be used to provide that separation. This adds more management by the IT Administrator as they not only have to maintain the desktops for each of the tenants but also the DaaS infrastructure that supports the desktops.

DaaS is a good alternative for small or mid-size businesses that want to provide their end users with the advantages a virtual desktop solution without deploying an in-house VDI infrastructure. If there is a need to keep the infrastructure in-house (compliance issues) and still provide a multi-tenant environment, DaaS on-premises could be the solution.

 

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Do You Have Shelfware?

Paint is no good in the can and software is no good on the shelf.

Shelfware is software that is bought, paid for, and then left unused on the shelf. Have you contributed to this phenomenon? According to a poll conducted by IE Software, companies in the U.S. waste up to $12.3 billion per year on maintenance for software that is not used.

All too often, the application you want comes with a software suite offer you simply can’t refuse. Soon after, you encounter difficulties with installation and leave the software on the shelf, uninstalled. The investment has already been made and it’s not a task you want to tackle, so nothing gets done. Suddenly, it’s shelfware.

Below are some tips to help prevent your organization from investing in shelfware –

Core Use Cases

Regardless of how many cool features the software has, if it’s unused, it has zero value. During the evaluation, consider the user based and subsequently have them evaluate the installation of the solution against some well-defined use cases. If the core features of the software are not applicable or useful, then additional features are moot.

Technical Champion

It is essential to have someone truly understand the product and understand how to use it in order to satisfy the various needs of the organization. A technical champion with a sound understanding of the software can engage users and avoid straying into unsupported use cases that increase the risk of a failed deployment.

Business Sponsor

The cost of deploying and utilizing software is often bigger than acquiring the software itself. The investment needs a sponsor to ensure the rollout is smooth, processes are attuned, and the correct metrics are put in place. Business sponsors should provide clear and measurable goals for deploying the solution. They also need to engage with other stakeholders (IT, users, managers, vendors) to make sure the software is integrated into the organization’s business operations.

Pace Yourself

Take a gradual approach to the rollout.  It is a risk to roll out a complex solution to everyone, all at once. Instead, focus on a successful deployment to a smaller group of users within your core use cases.  This enables you to learn along the way, and reduces risk for the organization.  

Getting users to adopt new software is never an easy task. First impressions are key, and the introduction of the software is critical to success. Bring in the stakeholders to plan the deployment and integration before the roll out. Show users how the solution will make their lives better and easier. Once adoption occurs, users will be more confident and start to use more of the powerful features. This is when the value of the solution is realized. Remember, it will never happen unless adoption is achieved from the very beginning.

Professional Services

Even with a technical champion, sponsors, and the right use cases, there are many decisions related to deployment and usage that can greatly benefit from the expertise and experience of a solution provider. 

Skimping on services can lead to an extended period of stumbling up the stairs while you spend valuable time learning where the steps lead. A good solution provider has a map; rent it from them by buying their services.

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The “Other” Reasons VDI Fails

When considering a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution, make sure success criteria is defined. What will make the project successful – cost savings, security, better management, etc.? I suspect that in most projects, it will be a combination of all these factors, plus many more.

There are plenty of articles out there about VDI failure. Most lead you to a vendor solution to help solve initial problems. However, there are additional factors to consider in providing an overall successful solution. The first consideration I look at when talking with a client is if the solution makes sense for their problem. “My boss read about VDI and says we need to use it” is not a good starting point. Discussing your problems and what you ultimately need to solve is essential, and the beginning of a productive conversation. You can’t put solutions where they don’t fit. Many VDI conversation turn into End-User Computing (EUC) conversations because a single product is not going to solve all your problems. It is truly a journey.

Make sure there is a clear understanding that a successful proof of concept (POC), in most cases, will not immediately scale to a production solution. The nice thing about VDI is it will work very well as a POC. The problems begin when everyone wants the new solution quickly and the environment does not scale.  Often, POCs are successfully set up and momentum is built, then everything screeches to a halt. Now what? Limit your POC and stick to it. Make it clear that a well-defined environment needs to be developed to support the growth of the solution.

Pay a lot of attention to application performance. There are plenty of guides on designing and optimizing the OS for a virtual environment, but don’t forget the application. Make sure testing is performed on a fully loaded virtual desktop and also stress test the environment with a number of “live” desktops. One application on one desktop in a VDI environment does not guarantee it will work in the full production environment. Does the application act the same as when it was on a physical endpoint? One “noisy” application on a server with hundreds of desktop running the same application could cause all kinds of resource problems. Take the time to test!

You have taken the time to construct the best environment for your VDI solution – all is good – how do you keep it that way? What will the effect of an upgrade or a new application have on your new environment? Don’t forget to have tools in place that allow you to monitor and troubleshoot your solution when something goes wrong. The right tools will allow you to drill down into the environment and isolate problems, which will be invaluable to you and your users. The ability to predict problems or know the difference between a threshold breach and a real problem is important. Seeing the same warning everyday often means you stop paying attention and miss when the real problem occurs. The right types of tools need to be part of planning the overall solution

What is the most important parameter in a successful VDI deployment? End-User Experience. If the end-user is not happy, the solution will not be successful. Do not ignore their experience. Sit with them, watch them work, and try to understand why they are unhappy. Not factoring in end-user satisfaction is a big risk, and often leads to failed VDI.

Happy Virtualizing

Chuck – @vChuckmills

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Be Careful of the Mixed Messaging Surrounding Windows XP Support

According to a recent article in Computerworld,

“Windows XP owners can expect most antivirus vendors to continue providing them with up-to-date signatures long after Microsoft pulls its patch plug in April, but that won’t keep their machines safe.”

Don’t be fooled thinking this a good thing for your Windows XP computers. If you continue to use XP beyond April 8, 2014, understand there will be NO fixes to new vulnerabilities that hackers find and use. Antivirus and Anti-Malware software cannot patch the underlying vulnerability to an operating system. The extended antivirus updates will keep your system safer, but not secure!

You know the problem. Now, what do you do if you still have hundreds (or thousands) of endpoints running Windows XP? VMware Horizon Mirage is the solution to solve the Windows 7 migration task. Mirage also helps tackle the difficult desktop management problems that administrators face every day.

The typical steps required to migrate an endpoint from XP to Windows 7 include moving the user data off of the endpoint, complete downtime during the migration, and then copying the user information back to the migrated endpoint. VMware Mirage’s approach is much different:

  • Allow users to work on their systems while the Windows 7 image is being loaded
  • Allow user data and settings to remain on the system during the migration
  • Preserve the exact XP image and roll it back to the user if something goes wrong
  • Take that preserved XP image and present it into a virtual machine
  • Use the same solution to continue to manage your images and application along with a solid disaster recovery method.

If you have already started on the XP migration and find it’s taking longer than expected, don’t fear! Mirage can use the image you have created and accelerate your process. Mirage makes the Windows 7 migration easier, and saves you considerable time in managing your endpoints. The looming deadline for Window XP support is coming and cannot be ignored. This migration can be the first step to completing an End User Computing (EUC) strategy.

- See my company blog on this topic at: http://gantech.net/connect/blog

Secret Starbucks Drinks

Caramel Apple Frappuccino

Apple juice to the first line

Whole milk to the second line
Cream base (4 pumps for venti, 3 pumps grande, 2 pumps tall)
Dark caramel (3 pumps for venti, 2 pumps grande, and 1 pump for a tall)
Cinnamon dolce syrup (3 pumps for venti, 2 pumps grande, and 1 pump for a tall)
Caramel ribbon crunch pieces
Caramel drizzle
Get it with whipped cream and cinnamon dolce topping
If that seems like too much caramel for you, try asking for:

Cream base to the first line
Apple juice to the second line
Caramel syrup (2 pumps for venti, 1.5 pumps grande, and 1 pump tall)
Cinnamon dolce syrup (2 pumps for venti, 1.5 pumps grande, and 1 pump tall)

Enjoy!

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End User Computing Considerations

End-user computing (EUC) is undergoing significant transition, driven by the expectations for mobility, collaboration, and user-choice. It is no secret that current approaches are becoming harder to sustain.

Over the next few years, IT must transform the old desktop management methods that have made end-user environments costly to run and difficult to change. In doing so, they will embrace approaches that change how users and IT work.

Specific changes I expect are:

  • Applications and device ownership becomes optional for companies and users
  • Support becomes less complex and should drop operational cost
  • Users have access to data from any device, but still adhere to company policies
  • Management of platforms shifts to management of applications
  • Managed applications are delivered to many types of endpoint devices
  • Users have self-service capabilities for file and application recovery

Areas of EUC

Physical Desktop

Despite the drop in PC sales, there will still be plenty of physical desktops in the environment. There are new management tools available that make image and application deployment much easier than some of the legacy tools used today. It would be to your advantage to have a solution that manages the image and applications of both the physical and virtual workstations.

Laptops that Provide Mobility

Mobile working makes it harder to deploy new applications quickly, and also provide OS updates and patching. Keeping systems safe with backups for the mobile work force is a challenge. Having the solution that manages your desktops also manage your mobile worker is a definite advantage.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

In many opinions, over the last few years, VDI has been considered the backbone of EUC. Companies have struggled to obtain the benefit of central management that VDI brings, but perhaps have forced the solution beyond where it makes sense. Now, with better tools to manage the physical endpoints, this allows VDI to provide a solid solution where it fits best.

Tablet and Smartphone Devices

my opinion, there are two ways to look at the management of tablets and Smartphones. Do you manage the device if it is company-owned, or just manage (and protect) a container of company information if the device is personally-owned. Think about the company information at the center of a target with “rings of access” around the center. As a user, the more control you want of the data (read-only vs. edit) the more control you will give to the company to manage your device.

Where does it all go?

Imagine having a core console as an access point for the management of the entire EUC environment. What does this mean?

  • Access to the Window based environment and manage across both the physical and virtual end-points,  such as:
    • Backups
    • Image and application deployment and enforcement
    • Application repairs
    • Users file recovery
    • Complete endpoint recovery
  • Create, configure, manage, and entitle pools for the VDI solution along with the services that allow access to the environment.
  • Seamlessly move physical endpoints to a virtual solution with minimal downtime.
  • Support the mobile work force with recovery and updates as they travel.
  • Mange and deliver legacy applications (through virtualization or app layers) where they are run as long as necessary.
  • Control and deliver, through a catalog service, new applications that are web-based or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) type. As applications are replaced and upgraded, they will move from the legacy solution to the application catalog.

Today, there are solutions that are close to delivering the consolidated management console. What you need is an EUC solution today, which prepares you for your future EUC needs.

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VMware Horizon Mirage with Chuck Mills (@vchuckmills)

In part 1 of a 2 part series Chuck Mills takes us through an overview of VMware Horizon Mirage and live demo.  Chuck will be back with us on July 24th to continue with the live demo and answer more of your questions.  Also a special thanks to Chris Halstead for support all the great quesitons on Twitter with the #vBrownBag hash tag.

Follow this link to watch the session

http://tinyurl.com/oqo87my

Thank You,

Chuck

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Cost of Desktop Management – Application Virtualization

Today, organizations are focusing on the importance of having a holistic End-User Computing model by combining operating system solutions with virtualization technologies that enhance the User-Endpoint infrastructure. Along with the traditional PC solution, there is a very real and needed trend to address end user-centric computing, desktop virtualization, and cloud solutions. These solutions are growing in popularity because of the acceleration and adoption of new and unique consumer devices (think Tablets and Smartphones,) and the user’s demands for mobility.

Enter application virtualization….Changing the desktop model to be a virtualized set of resources (OS, applications, and user data with personal settings) provides the benefit of independently managing the layers, and applying them where/as needed across many endpoints. As organizations move to Windows 7, VDI, and session-based solutions, there is often a lack the resources and skill sets required to transform applications into solutions that meet the needs of a fluid business landscape. This is where application virtualization becomes a building block of the new endpoint model.

Application virtualization was initially designed to deal with application conflicts; but then it continued to grow because IT operations realized it was a viable alternative software deployment solution. IT managers liked it because application delivery evolved into a strategic role by offering a low-cost and efficient way to deploy software to users without installing and maintaining the applications on the client endpoint. This saves time and resources (money), and also provides additional security and control. Alternatively, developers like it because they no longer need to struggle with the challenges of writing new applications that don’t conflict with the applications currently installed.

It is no secret that applications are the critical resource that each user needs in order to be productive. By adopting application virtualization, an organization experiences accelerated deployment, improved support, and flexibility, while reducing the effort of implementing new technologies. The ever changing conundrum for IT is how to take hundreds of applications in various formats and standardize them in a common format. Application virtualization provides a solution, however the resources and time needed to convert applications into new formats can be a challenge. So, always remember to:

• Start with a Plan

• Produce Reliable Virtualized Applications

• Package Once, Deploy Everywhere

• Cater to Your Mobile Workforce

The new End User Computing model is happening now.

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vExpert Honor for 2013

This is truly an honor. Thank you VMware!

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EUC

VMware’s EUC Vision

VMware came out with their new End User Computing (EUC) strategy in March. This has been an area of interest for me for quite some time. I was on the VMware Customer Council before taking my current position. Partners cannot serve on the council. I saw many of the pieces two years ago that are now in the EUC solution. It has been a long wait.

So the EUC for VMware consist of View which is the VDI solution, Mirage, which is a image management solution for physical desktops and Workspace which allows the delivery of VDI desktops, applications and data from a single pane of glass along with VDI desktops from a browser. Everything has the name horizon in front of it.

  • VMware Horizon View
  • VMware Horizon Mirage
  • VMware Horizon Workspace

Rolls right off the tongue, right?

View

This release is 5.2 and it has some very nice improvements. The 5.0 release of View is where VMware finally produced a solid product. There several nice enhancements that I will talk about later. Now with the Blast technology, you have the ability to open a VDI desktop in a browser. I played with technology a year ago with WSX for Workstation. (below)

It’s nice see this progress to a final release in such a short time.

Mirage

Mirage is my favorite product from VMware right now. I have followed the product before it was acquired by VMware in May 2012. The solution gives you the ability to manage physical desktop images from a central location, with easier updates, OS fixes and hardware migrations. I’ve done a lot of work with this product. Plenty of information and some crazy things I have done with Mirage in the future. Nice addition VMware.

Workspace

Workspace is one the newest products from VMware (1.0 release). It allows you to access your VDI desktops, SaaS applications, ThinApp applications and your data (think Dropbox) all from several types of endpoints. I have this installed and need to put together the use cases that will drive this solution.

So this is just a quick overview of the VMware EUC strategy with much more information to follow. I have everything installed but need to finish pulling it all together. Stay tuned.

Happy Virtualizing.

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I’m Back with Good News

Ok – where do I begin?  It has been a long time since I made an update to this web page. Since my last post, I have accepted a new position with Gantech, Inc. I’m the Innovation Architect focused on delivering virtualization solutions around the VMware product line.

Gantech

Allegis Group was a good company to work for, but I watched as they drifted away from the technologies that I enjoyed working with. I met some wonderful people there and very happy for the experience.  Thank you, Allegis.

My move to Gantech was to continue chasing my passion for virtualization and also to create forward thinking solutions. I will focus on the solutions that include the products have spent the most of the last few years with.

I’m currently working with:

  • View 5.1 and 5.2 beta
  • Mirage 3.6 and the beta
  • Horizon and the beta

I have updated by home datacenter to vSphere 5.1 and installed vCops for View.  I’m working on an effective and affordable DAAS solution.

There is a lot to write about and I will make 2013 the year to get the information to you.

I’m sorry for the time gap and hope you will benefit from the information here.

Happy Virtualizing.

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