TotalCIO

Aug 17 2011   3:14PM GMT

Contingency plan should be part of desktop virtualization strategy



Posted by: Christina Torode
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Companies that already have installed virtual desktops are considered trailblazers even now, and the technology wasn’t fully baked back in 2008 when Dustin Fennell, CIO at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, decided to use desktop virtualization to give 13,000 students and 1,000 employees anytime, any-device access to data and applications.

Desktop virtualization is still uncharted territory for many organizations and CIOs, such as Maytee Aspuro, CIO at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. That’s why she and Fennell both had backup plans in case their application and desktop virtualization projects blew up in their cutting-edge faces.

Aspuro and her team are virtualizing 1,200 desktops using VMware desktop virtualization and Unidesk virtual desktop management technologies. The pilot phase in 2010 called for hiring a new staff that could virtualize 350 desktops within eight months. The time frame unnerved her because she had walked into a freshly minted organization: The department was new, created by the merger of three government agencies, and it had 30 vacant IT staff positions.

So, while Aspuro’s team began building a platform for a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), she bought Lenovo laptops fully loaded with applications for employees in the field. Fortunately for her, the pilot phase went well, and the remaining 850 devices, old and new, will be repurposed as virtual desktops, including the Lenovo laptops.

“With such a tight timeline, and because we hadn’t done VDI before, we needed a fallback plan that we could put in place in only a few weeks,” Aspuro said.

Fennell calls his contingency plan a hybrid mode in which users could access their data and applications on his college’s Web portal, using VDI, application virtualization and provisioning technologies by Citrix Systems. The applications also were installed locally on college-owned devices so users could use the Web portal and compare it to their app performance on their college desktops.

This hybrid approach also “gave users a level of comfort that, if [the Web portal] crashed, they had their application locally installed as well,” Fennell said.

After a year, as students became comfortable with the Web portal’s performance, Fennell’s team began removing the locally installed applications, and all new apps became Web-portal-accessible only.

It wasn’t exactly a contingency plan, but more of a reassurance to users getting used to a new services delivery model. Still, phasing in desktop virtualization is highly recommended, whether it’s done to comfort end users or to make sure that the technology actually does what it’s supposed to do in a complex computing environment that has a lot of room for error.

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email Christina Torode, News Director

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