Virtualisation offers the opportunity to reduce costs and improve flexibility for businesses of all sizes. A key point in successfully planning and implementing desktop virtualisation is to recognise that it is personal: both to individual users and to each unique business. Robin Tapp of Molten Technologies shares recent research findings and their view on considerations when going over to virtual desktops.
Note: This post will shortly be appearing in Vital Magazine, http://www.vital-mag.net/.
What are companies looking for from virtual desktops?
Desktop virtualisation has attracted a lot of attention from businesses that are flush with success from their server virtualisation projects. These organisations are looking to achieve lower management costs and greater agility around providing desktop services to their users. This is rarely straightforward: while the technology exists to provide a virtual desktop to a user, how this is built and what it delivers remains challenging (and rewarding) to get right.
However, the demand within businesses for greater agility means that desktop virtualisation continues to be high on the agenda. Recent research we conducted showed that the biggest influence on end user computing strategy within organisations is this quest for business agility, along with providing tighter security and the need for cost control.
In order to meet these requirements, virtual desktops are a key part of the consideration set in an end user computing strategy. Our research and experience highlighted a number of considerations to make any virtual desktop project a success.
Firstly, desktop virtualisation is not straightforward. Within each unique organisation there are many unique users, all of whom will have requirements that change and evolve over time. This needs a different mindset to server virtualisation. The process of going virtual with your desktops takes longer and is more complex than virtualising servers.
Secondly, the method for how desktops are used within the organisation is changing. Business value is increasingly derived from the talent and unique functions that an organisation has at its disposal. A smart fit-for-purpose desktop virtualisation strategy is an opportunity to provide your key people assets with greater flexibility in how they can be productive, resulting in better business agility.
Rather than thinking about how to make everyone the same to fit a technology solution, the aim should be to support how people can work at their best first, and then fit the delivery of services to them using the technology available. This is an opportunity to create a user-driven PLUS business logic driven solution.
Different strokes for different folks
In the research we carried out, there were real differences in the prioritisation of desktop strategy drivers by organisational size and industry. This led us to some conclusions that aren’t rocket science – but are useful to consider.
Larger businesses were found to be focusing on increasing their business agility. Smaller companies are concentrating on the people and resource factors around the desktop, such as working flexibility and managing upgrades. This difference in priorities reflects both how far along the IT curve the companies were, but also the levels of IT skills that currently exist within those companies.
Effectively it was the age-old ‘grass is greener’ perspective, with each business looking for a solution to strengthen perceived organizational weaknesses. For smaller companies, they see the solidity and robustness of big company IT strategies as something to aspire to; on the other hand, IT professionals within large organisations are often only responsible for small areas of the whole stack, which makes it difficult for them to effect real change.
When IT decision makers from different industries rated their desktop strategy influences, the need for increased agility outranked the need to rationalise costs for finance organisations, with 52 per cent of those companies in that market ranking this as their first priority. This was a difference to the other industries covered – for example, cost reduction was the major driver for manufacturers.
When asked what support organisations are looking for in a desktop virtualization partner their priorities were again driven by the frameworks they use in their business. For example, manufacturing gave a higher priority to cost and the clarity of the design for the solution. This was as expected, as companies in the manufacturing sector have tended to focus on cost reduction strategies first and foremost as part of their wider business strategies.
By contrast, for the finance sector, the main requirement was for understanding of their specific business needs, and how technology could be applied to meet these goals. This ties in with the development of IT within finance companies as they are looking to exploit technology to support competitive advantage.
The personal touch
While the management of desktops may not be the biggest part of an overall IT function, it affects every single person using a computer in the business. While the CIO may think of desktops as hundreds or thousands of beige boxes that have to be managed, each individual user will see their own PC as an extension of their work environment and unique to them. The desktop is effectively the pointy end where both IT and the business-users meet. It is not just about business needs – it is personal too.
Over the years, there has been much talk about the integration of business and IT. For example, our research found that 96 per cent of respondents believed IT needed to be more business savvy. We have found desktop virtualisation can be a catalyst for this shift in thinking within an organisation. This can be uncomfortable as it may be new territory for both the IT and business sides, but also represents a great opportunity to consider how to best deliver cost savings, increased security and agility from both perspectives.
Changing the delivery model for the desktop
The next step for companies is not only to think about general IT requirements, but also the delivery mechanism for how these needs are met. We are already seeing a transition within pioneering IT organisations towards the development of IT-as-a-service environments.
At the desktop, the delivery of services to the end user is a prime example of how new IT models can be adopted to reduce costs and improve user experience. Virtual desktop computing models are enabling IT organisations to move away from the static PC model, giving enterprises the ability to run their end-user computing environments in a much more dynamic and cost effective way.
The Desktops of a Service (DaaS) model is based on the cloud computing principle of taking away the pain of managing hardware and back-end infrastructure, as well as the upfront cost. The desktop is a more complex asset than a single application or server environment, so many businesses choose to keep the management of their desktop assets separate from this underlying infrastructure.
Whereas desktop virtualisation is based on the ownership of the infrastructure required to deliver a desktop service, DaaS hands that infrastructure over to a service provider who then provides this as a service to the customer. At the same time, the business retains the management of its security, applications, user settings and data. This split of responsibilities gives the customer the ability to reduce their management overheads, but it also lets them keep control of the desktop and the user experience. This approach fits enterprise IT requirements, while still delivering the benefits of cloud to the organisation.
We believe in DaaS because for many users it is a fit-for-purpose solution with huge flexibility to evolve as the business and users need it in the future. Based on the research that we have carried out, DaaS is part of the wider shift in IT strategy that is seeing greater focus on how IT can provide business differentiation and agility through different delivery models, now and in the future.