I have seen a number of failed VDI deployments. Some of them failed because of poor initial technical design or lack of information during initial assessments, while others failed because of factors related to the communication process utilized during the rollout.
Failures may be characterized by technical difficulties faced by users, such as low performance or missing applications. The users will always be comparing the new VDI environment against a baseline – and in this case the baseline is their old desktop or laptop computer.
Independent of the reason or root cause, the failed VDI deployment will either present low adoption or unhappy users. In any VDI deployment there are two key factors to be considered before the initial rollout: USER EXPERIENCE and USER ACCEPTANCE.
The User Experience is the interaction between the user and the interface, in this case the Windows desktop and the applications. This will be measured only by user perception and comparison against a known baseline – again, the old computer. Unfortunately the user experience is not a metric that can be collected and analyzed in a automated fashion.
Some metrics such as CPU utilization, storage latency and network contention will definitely point you on the right direction, however they don’t provide you with an index rate on how users are perceiving their computational environment or how the environment is actually performing. As an example, network bandwidth utilization could be low but display performance is bad due to misconfigured display protocol or network.
Some new tools on the market are promising to measure the user experience calculating metrics such as CPU utilization inside the VM, login time or the time that takes to execute Microsoft Word. However, they offer a very limited view from what the user environment spectrum actually is.
The second key factor is the User Acceptance. This is the consequence of a good User Experience. If the experience is not good then there will be no acceptance. Here is where I found the most dramatic consequences of a not well planned VDI rollout. If the user, in their VERY FIRST experience with the new environment is somewhat disappointed, it will cost you time, effort and sometimes money to re-convert that user. Just like in any market, if users are happy they will spread the word, and if the users are not happy they also will spread the word.
So, it is crucial that a consistent PILOT phase is in place with users willing to take a possible hit with the above mentioned problems. Off course, if you tell users that their system may not perform well or have issues they may not sign up; and this is a risk you will need to take. I have seen some extreme cases where organizations decided to give bigger and better displays for user who voluntarily joined the VDI pilot. Guess if the adoption was high…
PILOT, PILOT, PILOT…
If you engage users from start the chances to succeed will exponentially increase. A colleague of mine provided pilot users with forms to evaluate performance and experience. Users felt they were part of the IT solution and committed to an outcome. The users engaged as if the project belonged to them.
PILOT, PILOT, PILOT…
Never, ever, skip the pilot phase. The pilot is the most important part of the VDI deployment because of the reasons I explained above. I have seen organizations that started with small POC (Prove of Concept) and rapidly have grown into a sizable production environment. Most of those organizations faced the growing pains of a poor technical design and lack of feedback from users to provide what they really needed.
In some cases phases of the project are skipped due to upper management pressure or time constraints. My word is FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS to design, test and execute a successful deployment.
POC, POC, POC…
Last but not least. Make sure you are selecting the right VDI solution for your organization and users. Don’t buy into vendor or independent analysis as they are all somewhat biased. Don’t buy into any report that compare features without actually explaining them and providing a real insight on what they do. Make sure you select a product the cater for the need of your users and make sure the product will have longevity and has right fit for your organization. The way to ensure all that is to run Prove of Concepts (POC), and vendors are willing to help you with that.