Today, Leostream is celebrating 15 years in the VDI space. In tech years, that is nearly a lifetime of watching new technologies come and go. 15 years ago, VDI was barely more than a proof of concept, and many thought the tech would never go mainstream. Our founders thought differently, and here we are, 15 years later, still managing thousands of VDI and DaaS implementations in both the private datacenter and in the cloud, with a wealth of knowledge of just about every VDI or DaaS use case you can dream up. In honor of those 15 years of VDI greatness, here are the top 15 things to consider when deploying a new VDI or DaaS solution.
1. Know Your Users
As a techie, VDI is easy to get excited about. Using virtual machines as desktops to deploy an entire environment with remote access, maximized hardware utilization, and simple management? Now that’s a cool idea! However, for the average end user, VDI sounds like some weird tech black magic, so don’t be surprised if your explanations meet with some glazed over expressions
To get your users on board to your new VDI or DaaS initiative, you need to meet them where their needs are. They don’t care how much you reduced capital expenses by maximizing hardware utilization if they cannot get the performance they require, or their desktop is not available when they need it. Architect a VDI solution with their workflows in mind.
2. Choose Your Infrastructure Wisely
Your infrastructure is the backbone of your VDI deployment, so consider all your options carefully before making a decision. Do you have an existing datacenter that you can repurpose for virtual machines? If not, does it make more sense to skip the capital expenditure in exchange for an operating expense in the cloud? Do you need to support high-performance computing? What are the security implications for your organization?
Be sure you’ve thought through these questions before selection, and remember if you are using a vendor-neutral connection broker, you are not limited to one! Consider a hybrid environment (a mix of cloud, private datacenter, and physical machines) to vary your options depending on the use case.
3. Don’t Underestimate the Display Protocol!
At Leostream, the number one mistake we see first-time VDI architects make is underestimating the importance of the display protocol. The display protocol handles display and performance of the virtual or remote psychical machine on the end-users client device.
All the GPUs in the world will not matter a bit if your display protocol cannot handle the level of performance required by a graphics-intense power user. A high-performance display protocol can be the difference between user acceptance of your VDI deployment, or an angry mob beating down your office door. For high-performance use cases, consider Teradici PCoIP, HP RGS, or Mechdyne TGX.
4. Unstack yourself
Since the early days of VDI, a few major players have dominated the space by creating “full stack solutions” A full stack solution includes all the parts of a complete VDI solution including the hypervisor, connection management, and display protocol. However, they are a one size fits all solution that only works in a homogenous environment, and comes with such hefty licensing costs you end up wondering if VDI saved you any money at all (hint: it didn’t).
Get out from under the thumb of the big guys by building your own DIY VDI solution. By selecting your own infrastructure, operating system, connection management and display protocol, you are free to create an environment that perfectly fits your organization’s needs and actually saves you a couple bucks in the process.
5. Choose a vendor-neutral connection broker
A vendor-neutral connection broker, such as the Leostream Connection Broker, is the key ingredient for managing a DIY VDI solution. Because we are vendor-agnostic, you have the flexibility to choose the infrastructure, hypervisor, operating system, display protocol, and client device that is the perfect match for your users and their needs. Mix and match until you have created an environment that is both high-performance and cost- effective.
6. Manage physical and virtual machines from the same pane of glass
Resist the urge to think of your VDI deployment as separate from the rest of your IT environment. Sometimes, physical machines are your best (or only) option to meet your end users’ needs. For example, macOS cannot be virtualized, but a fleet of Mac Minis could be the answer for offering remote access to macOS users. Manage your entire environment, physical and virtual from a single pane of glass with the Leostream Connection Broker.
7. Make the most of Public Cloud
These days, it seems everyone is looking to the cloud as the next frontier for VDI and DaaS. However, the prospect of putting sensitive data into a public environment, or accidentally racking up thousands of dollars in compute cost by a high-powered machine left on all weekend by a careless user has left many organizations a little gun-shy.
With proper connection management to control compute costs, as well as a mix of private and public infrastructure or a VPC, you can put your fears to rest and take the cloud plunge. There are huge advantages to using the public cloud for your VDI or DaaS infrastructure including anywhere, anytime access, trading CapEx for OpEx and global availability. Moreover, many cloud providers such as AWS and Azure offer high-powered instances with the CPU and GPU capabilities to handle even the most graphics-intense applications such as Adobe Photoshop and CAD
8. Maximize your hardware resources
One of the biggest advantages to a VDI or DaaS deployment is making the most of all your hardware resources, particularly the expensive ones. Without dedicated hardware, you can think of your total hardware costs covering the number of desktops you need running simultaneously rather than the total number of desktops in your environment.
For example, in a VMware vSphere environment, it’s easy to simply vMotion a machine over to a new ESX server installation once a graphics card GPU is maxed out. In other words, if your environment calls for 15 unique graphics-intense desktops, but only eight will ever be running at the same time, you will only need enough GPU to cover those eight machines. Neat!
9. Consider client devices
You have a wide variety of options when it comes to how your users will connect to their virtual machines. Thin clients, fat clients, mobile devices, and even repurposed old laptops are all great options for keeping hardware costs low while providing your users with an “at desk” VDI experience (i.e. the desktop looks as great as it would if it was sitting right at the user’s desk!).
10. Support a BYOD policy
While BYOB to the office is often frowned upon, BYOD aka: Bring Your Own Device is the wave of the future. Like it or not, your employees are coming to work with their smartphone, tablets, and other personal devices and they are working with them. Don’t fight the trend, embrace it! With VDI or DaaS you can still allow your employees to use their own devices while keeping all sensitive company data off of them.
11. Consider open source options
Speaking of getting out from under licensing costs, be sure to consider open source options for everything from infrastructure to operating systems to display protocols. Far from being your basic or cheap versions, open source software is the backbone of some of the most innovative technologies of our time including macOS, Android, and WordPress.
OpenStack has taken the VDI space by storm as the first viable open source option for hosting virtual machines. Additionally, Linux, no longer a terminal and cursor, now comes in many varieties that are user-friendly enough for the average task worker, while still being the favorite OS of your fellow geeks. For display protocols, you have a wide variety of options.
12. What to do about Directory Services and Authentication
Deploying a new VDI initiate doesn’t mean you need to manually create new user accounts for all your hundreds (thousands!) of users! Leverage your existing active directory authentication with the Leostream Connection Broker.
Key considerations include – Do you need to integrate more than one type of directory service, such as Active Directory, eDi OpenLDAP, NIS, etc? Do you need to support multiple domains and multiple authentication servers within one domain? Do you have multiple untrusted domains? Do you need to integrate existing hardware-based SSL VPN devices? Do you need to integrate smart cards, fingerprint readers, or other multi-factor authentication solutions? Be sure you have asked yourself these questions before launching your new deployment
13. Manage your users with Policy Assignments
Once you have authenticated your users, they are a cinch to manage with policy assignments. Assign policies based on authentication server properties or client device locations. Define the length of time a user is assigned a desktop to share resources across your organization. Create one user identity and log in from multiple client devices, such as in a classroom or lab setting. Policy assignments are the key to supporting all your use cases and workflows automatically.
14. Gain complete control over your desktops
Especially in the cloud, control over your desktops is paramount to the success of your VDI or DaaS initiative. Controlling the power state of your virtual machine automatically (starting, stopping, suspending) is the key to keeping compute costs in check, as well as handling the 9 AM login storm.
Controlling your desktops also means assigning specific display protocols (remember your high-performance display protocol for your high-performance desktop!), supporting multiple monitors, and granular control of the use of USB devices on remote desktops
15. Orchestrate your deployment.
Orchestration is a fancy way to describe the end-to-end automation of deployment in the Cloud, and there are many, many tools out there to make it happen. Chef, Puppet, Juju, OpenStack Heat, and AWS CloudFormation to name just a few. These tools can save you some sanity while you are deploying your cloud VDI or DaaS environments, as these tools often allow you to deploy your desktops along with your favorite VDI tools with just a couple clicks.