From VDI pilot to production: Four tips for the move
Don't leave users out of the equation when you move from your VDI pilot project to the production environment.
Once you've made it through a VDI pilot and gathered volumes of data, what's your next step? You need to determine if your production rollout is a go and take a few steps to increase your odds of a successful VDI implementation.
Some common sense steps can help you decrease or avoid Day 1 difficulties (and beyond) of a VDI production rollout and underscore the value of VDI to both management and end users. Start by thoroughly evaluating your pilot project data, then check and recheck your storage requirements, plan for monitoring and get a comprehensive user training program in place.
Organize and assess pilot data
Use the results of your VDI pilot project to evaluate your readiness for a full-production VDI deployment. Evaluate resource usage statistics (CPU, memory, IOPS), specifications for hardware requirements (server, storage, networking and access devices), the type of applications you expect to offer plus their licensing requirements, and operational key performance indicators (KPIs).
Be sure to solicit feedback from everyone involved in the pilot while you condense and crunch data. Their insights might help you detect any underlying problems that aren't apparent in the numbers. This assessment should help you determine anticipated requirements, costs and whether you can achieve the TCO or ROI you need. The results point to whether the rollout is a go, and you'll need all of this data to support your decision to upper management.
Right-size your storage
As part of the VDI readiness assessment, make sure your core infrastructure is ready to handle the load. Let's say your pilot included 100 desktops but your production rollout needs to support 500. Your storage has to be ready to serve the expected number of simultaneous logons and their typical workloads. If your storage area network is undersized, bottlenecking will occur and can greatly affect user performance, even crashing when the load exceeds a threshold.
You can do a quick-and-dirty needs calculation by determining the average IOPS for each set of users, then multiply by the number of users in the environment. Use that calculation as a rough estimate for the amount of storage you need. For a more detailed estimate, ask your VDI vendor to point you to a calculator it provides, or search for one online. That calculator should walk you through metrics such as login boot time, login duration, percentage of users expected to log on simultaneously and expected IOPS load, among others. (Note that IOPS calculations vary depending on workload and take into account random performance, sequential performance and a combination of the two.)
Once you understand your storage requirements, be prepared to spend time and money upgrading your core infrastructure before implementing a production rollout. Also consider the short-term future of your organization's needs: Can your current or proposed infrastructure support VDI over the next year or two? Do you plan to scale beyond the current number of VDI users?
More on VDI implementation
Guide to VDI project planning for beginners
How to stagger a VDI production rollout
Assessing your VDI needs and goals
Plan for monitoring
Monitoring goes hand in hand with right-sizing your storage system. It helps you see trends in load spikes and other performance issues that signal when a change is appropriate. A VDI pilot project can't test for every possible workload, and user activities and requirements change over time, so monitoring can help you see if your implementation is performing optimally or needs tuning, or if you need additional infrastructure upgrades. Reports from your monitoring software can also help you justify additional expenses with upper management. Make sure you have a solid monitoring system in place prior to the production rollout and that IT staff knows how to use it.
User training is important to ensuring a smooth rollout. Create an immersive training course for users that teaches them what they need to know to perform their jobs using VDI. The best choice for training delivery is a hands-on session or two with a highly knowledgeable instructor, which can be someone from the VDI pilot project who knows the system inside and out.
Topics should include logging in and authentication, accessing resources and an overview of some common performance and system issues that can occur and how to get past them. If your VDI implementation supports disconnected VDI, show users how to use VDI while disconnected from the network. This is a big deal to users who travel, assuming your organization puts mobile users into the VDI pool.
You should also point out any functionality users may have had in the traditional desktop environment that no longer exists in your VDI environment. For example, if users aren't allowed to save to an external USB drive for security purposes or you’ve disabled printing, be sure to point out those limitations and explain why.
Encouraging user feedback and responding to it professionally will further user acceptance in a big way. As you monitor and fine-tune the production environment after implementation, keep users in the loop on those changes as well.
Finally, keep in mind that no VDI implementation is perfectly executed. You should expect some challenges during the transition. However, if you stay on top of infrastructure needs, monitor user performance and go the extra mile to ensure that users are prepped and ready, you can avoid a lot of problems during the VDI implementation process.