This content is part of the Essential Guide: Best practices guide: Making VDI deployment magic

How to stagger your VDI project rollout: Start with a VDI POC

Slow and steady wins the race. After analyzing a VDI POC, stagger your VDI project rollout so resources aren't overwhelmed and users can get used to the new technology.

The flick-the-switch method might work for some IT projects, but when it comes to a VDI project rollout, you're better off with a staggered method.

Flick-the-switch is a technique where a new service, capability or offering deploys in one fell swoop – either to the excitement or dismay of those affected most by the change. This method may work well for launching websites, new phone systems or even opening public highways, but it's a poor way to do a VDI project rollout. Such a quick change can cause confusion among end users, harm productivity and worse yet, expose unknown or unforeseen problems to the whole organization.

A better way to move virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) into production without major disruptions is to implement virtual desktops slowly. With a staggered VDI project rollout, you can gather performance and resource metrics along the way, so you're ready for success when it's time for the full VDI deployment.

Gathering data with a VDI POC

The proof-of-concept (POC) stage is the foundation of a staggered VDI project rollout. Ideally, the VDI POC takes place within the IT department. It's also good to include another department that exemplifies the organization's typical business process and suffers from the issues you want to solve with VDI. Participants may include users who work across several departments, such as those in accounting, human resources and so forth. Don't try to transform an entire department at once with VDI -- just focus on one or two individuals who perform a variety of functions.

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How to avoid common VDI deployment problems

The goal of a VDI POC is to generate data about the functionality of your virtual desktops and their effects on network operations, support needs and more, which you can then use to determine how a larger pilot program should proceed. With a VDI project rollout, the challenges are not usually on the technical side, but on the management and resources side of the equation.

Analyzing VDI POC results

After you gather data through a VDI POC, you need to identify the department or processes that will benefit most from VDI. The pilot project should focus on improving the end user experience, reducing support needs and ultimately lowering operational costs.

To achieve those somewhat lofty goals, it is important to measure results. Metrics such as the number of help desk requests, network congestion and license usage can help you plan for a larger VDI project rollout, even beyond the pilot stage.

Where to begin?

To start a staggered VDI project, determine where in your organization you should begin deploying desktops. That decision depends on many factors:

  • Physical location: If your IT resources are close to where the project is deployed, it reduces support response times and latency.
  • Skill level of the user: VDI often has less of an effect on employees who use only basic PC functions, for instance. It's imperative to consider who should be using virtual desktops.
  • Training needs: Those employees who already use the same applications and operating systems on physical desktops that are targeted for virtualization may not need training.
  • Usage shifts: Departments that operate during the same hours as IT are easier to support.

You should also consider department workload and replacement cycles when planning a staggered VDI project rollout. For example, if a particular department is due for application upgrades, OS updates or hardware refreshes, it may be a good idea to move that department to the top of the deployment list. If you don't have the resources available to launch a VDI project and an upgrade project simultaneously, or if that sounds too complex, it may be best to move that department to the bottom of the list. That way you can eliminate any bugs before deploying VDI in a department that also requires other updates.

As you start your VDI project rollout in the area of your business that will benefit most, you need to measure, manage and report on usage and functionality. Once you succeed with the pilot project, it's time to continue rolling out a full implementation.

Deploying VDI in bite-size pieces reduces teething pains and prevents IT resources from becoming saturated. No matter how prepared you are for the complete VDI deployment, there will still be some surprises. Use the data you've gathered in the VDI POC and pilot stages to forge ahead and resolve problems on the go.

Frank Ohlhorst
is an IT journalist who has also served as a network administrator and applications programmer before forming his own computer consulting firm.

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