Jason Poyner, Technical Director, Deptive
Given my position, I’m used to hearing great feedback from Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop users, but it’s true to say myself and the Deptive team do come across negativity from time to time. It’s high time I addressed these concerns in this blog – we can only talk to so many people!
So, why the negativity?
Complaints we’ve heard include: “I worked somewhere where it was crap, our users tell me it’s crap, it takes ages to log in, there’s a lag when typing, it looks like Windows XP, fuzzy display, slow to scroll images, video/audio is terrible. Are these features of XenApp? Is that just the way it has to be? No way! Citrix is the market leader for a reason: no one can rival their end-to-end suite of products and they have strong vision.
Were not disputing these complaints are based on real user experiences; it is absolutely possible to deliver a bad user experience if things are not done right in the first place and/or managed effectively once operating.
To add some balance, I’ve heard comments from users in traditional desktop environments that they would only turn off their laptop/desktop when absolutely necessary, because it took so long to boot up and log in!
Lets look at the facts
Here in New Zealand, there is a growing base of innovative organisations that are very happy Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop users, including Icebreaker, Flight Centre and Mainfreight.
Globally, adoption of desktop virtualisation has doubled in the last four years, with the largest amount of that growth having occurred in the last two years. Citrix XenDesktop is used by more than 100 million active users around the world. XenDesktop transforms desktops and applications so that users can access them from any location, via any device and at any time.
According to a new Enterprise Management Associates Research Study on Desktop Virtualisation: Keeping pace with emerging requirements for improved application and data mobility, security, and high-availability, desktop virtualization is enjoying a new renascence in adoption and technological advancement.
Some of the key findings in this study include:
- While all survey respondents indicated their organisation had achieved some business value from the adoption of desktop virtualisation, the most frequently noted advantage was an increase in business agility
- 95% of survey respondents reported their organisation had achieved measurable cost savings since the introduction of a desktop virtualisation platform.
Five key benefits of desktop virtualisation (or virtualization!)
If an organisation isn’t seeing these benefits, then something isn’t right:
- Improved Security: With the desktop in the data centre, your sensitive data also stays in the data centre.
- Productivity: Easy file sharing, synchronisation and collaboration, with a secure, branded workspace on any mobile device.
- Easy BYOD: Desktop virtualisation is a great platform for enabling BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).
- More Agility: New desktops in the company can be brought into the fold with ease.
- Radically simplified desktop management: Application deployments, operating system updates and migrations become simple tasks which are easily reversed.
It needs to be done right to get the benefits
Its vital to take the time to plan out and adequately resource your desktop virtualisation implementation. Below are six key pieces of advice that we give our clients:
- Understand your users, their apps and how they work: I’ve seen large projects in serious trouble because IT assumed they knew how the business worked. Without the upfront analysis, you risk failure. When all you have is a hammer, everything becomes a nail a single flavour of desktop doesn’t suit everyone, but when you’ve only got one desktop offering – it becomes your hammer. Don’t force a solution on your users without understanding them. Use Citrix AppDNA for app compatibility testing as a Citrix Gold Partner, Deptive has access to AppDNA licenses to perform this work for you.
- Take a fresh approach/carefully review your infrastructure: Delivering desktops and applications from your data centre is NOT the same as hosting infrastructure services. Just because your team did a great job virtualising all those servers doesn’t mean they have the right skills and/or background for virtualising desktops. Likewise, the server and storage platform powering your server virtualisation may not be a good fit for desktop virtualisation.
- Get the rights skills in the project team: While the workloads are running in the data centre, they are desktop/app workloads, which is a different skill set to a server engineer/virtualisation geek. Part of the team must be end-user experts – the guys/girls who understand the end user and their needs, and EUC technology.
- Don’t under spec the client: The best designed and built desktop virtualisation backend will mean nothing if the client device doesn’t have the horsepower to render today’s graphically intensive workloads. It’s all about the user experience! That $100 thin client is $100 for a reason.
- Communication/marketing: Don’t spring this on your users, communicate and get them involved. An internal marketing campaign exploring the benefits of the solution and the reason for the project will start the project off on the right foot. One project even created a cartoon character named Cedric to bring some humour to what most staff consider dull comms from IT (meaning they don’t read IT comms at all!)
- Ensure you have the BAU team to support your users: Either in-house or outsourced to Citrix specialists. Having the right IT support team will keep your users happy, and ensure your investment continues to deliver the benefits of security, productivity, and agility.
Stop the complaints!
Enough crawling; it may only take some minor tuning, or something more substantial, but Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop can most definitely sing and dance.