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Blog Post|11 minutes

Supporting Citrix Customers Through the Desktop Virtualization Lifecycle

Supporting Citrix Customers Through the Desktop Virtualization Lifecycle
February 5, 2021

We recently achieved Citrix® Ready verified status for Nexthink Experience. The completion of this rigorous testing and verification process serves to validate the tremendous value our joint customers enjoy across the entire lifecycle of Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops projects. This value proposition holds true for on premise deployments as well as migrations to Citrix Cloud. In this blog, I intend to break down the current state of the market, as it relates to virtualized desktop delivery, and demonstrate how Nexthink is uniquely positioned to help our joint customers through the entire lifecycle of their virtualized desktop projects.

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Virtualized Desktops for Remote Workforces

As we have all experienced, this last year saw global workforces migrate from corporate offices into home offices. Organizations of all sizes have been forced to quickly adapt and find ways to support these remote employees. Desktop virtualization technologies – in the form of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), session-based computing (SBC), and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS), have seen substantial growth over the last 12 months. There are many reasons for this, but the reasons I have heard most are the ability to centrally manage and patch desktops, the need to better meet compliance drivers, increase security through data centralization and control, improve access to cloud applications, and reduce hardware costs. Across each of these desktop virtualization options, DaaS is currently seeing the highest rates of growth. In July, 2020, Gartner published research showing that DaaS was expected to experience 94% growth in 2020.

The rise of Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)

As was previously mentioned, the shift to remote workforces was the primary driver for the growth in desktop virtualization, but what are the reasons why DaaS has been outpacing the other options?

To answer this question, consider that many organizations, even prior to the shift to remote working, had already embarked upon cloud-first initiatives. The rapid increase of remote workers was a catalyst to drive those cloud-first initiatives even faster. In addition, many organizations consider the security stacks of the cloud providers as more robust than their own security technologies and processes. In addition, DaaS provides the opportunity to abstract physical devices from the desktop experience, allowing anyone to access their desktop from any device and from anywhere. This delivers an additional degree of flexibility for remote workers. Also, by placing the desktop experience in the public cloud, there can be a closer “proximity” to the cloud-based applications that employees are accessing.

Delivering the best digital employee experience

Considering that employees are now, more than ever before, accessing business applications from virtualized desktops, the question is how does IT ensure that the employee experience with virtual desktops meets or exceeds the experience they had with their physical devices?

When it comes right down to it, organizations of all sizes care about the employee’s digital experience, regardless of whether their desktops are delivered virtually or directly from a physical device. An employee’s ability to accomplish their work stems directly from how well the deployed technology is meeting their needs. The hurdle to broadly understand this across all employees has been that IT has historically needed distinctly different vendor products to monitor, visualize, troubleshoot, and remediate problems across virtual vs. physical desktops. This has led to different teams supporting break/fix, and these different teams have had access to very different types of data.

With Nexthink Experience, there is a single platform to collect telemetry from every type of desktop (VDI, SBC, DaaS, and physical) and then correlate those metrics with employee sentiment. While many tools collect lots of data, gathering data for the sake of “fact collection” does not empower IT. What truly empowers IT is the context and understanding of how those “facts” relate to the experience of the user. For IT to gain that knowledge, they really need to get input directly from employees about their experience. To understand how Nexthink accomplishes this in more detail, check out this blog about Nexthink Engage.

Delivering continuous value

Another area of tangible differentiation for Nexthink is our ability to deliver value to organizations across the entire lifecycle of virtualization projects. Very often when organizations take on a virtualized desktop project, they break it into different segments, or phases, such as assessment, pilot, migration, and ongoing operations.

In many cases, IT will engage with different vendors and deploy (and then remove) different vendor products for these different phases. There are vendors that specialize in assessment, and vendors that specialize in troubleshooting, however Nexthink is the only solution that empowers IT to successfully navigate each phase, which ensuring optimal employee experience at every step.

Nexthink for Assessment

Before the start of a desktop virtualization project, organizations need to understand which users, devices, and applications are a good fit for virtual desktops. There are many factors to consider when identifying the personas that are well suited for desktop virtualization, such as work styles, CPU requirements, memory requirements, mobility needs, and many others. Nexthink gathers all the required telemetry and leverages powerful out-of-the-box Power BI analytics. Insights gained inform the team on the best decisions for who and what is appropriate for desktop virtualization, as well as providing guidance for which form factors may be best (VDI/SBC/DaaS).

citrix assessment

Nexthink for Pilot and Migration

Once the assessment is completed, the next step of the process typically involves the creation and kickoff of a pilot program. The pilot is intended as a test bed, to verify the plan and validate that the transition is successful. The pilot phase generally consists of a small subset of users that are the early adopters. In this phase success can, and should, be measured from the perspective of the employees.

Are your employees satisfied?

All too often, IT manages the pilot program without robust interaction with the end users that are participating. Often, IT relies on machine data and waits for dashboards to turn red at the sign of a problem. This approach, although prevalently used, can lead to major disconnects between IT’s perception of success, and that of the employee. It is well documented that roughly 50% of the time, employees do not report problems to the help desk.

Most employees believe the pain of engaging in troubleshooting with IT will be worse than the pain they are experiencing. At Nexthink, we offer IT the ability to use Nexthink Engage to proactively gather employee feedback in a simple-to-use and non-intrusive manner right on their desktop. The sentiment data is correlated with machine data and populated intuitively in the UI. We also allow IT to compare the user experience before and during the pilot, allowing IT can make sure the pilot experience meets and/or exceeds what it was before the pilot began.

With Nexthink, IT has full visibility and confidence in the success of the pilot program and can continue with the project to user migration and then production. Additionally, throughout the entire migration, real time data and employee sentiment are gathered allowing IT to ensure the continued success of the project.

pilot and migration

Nexthink for Virtual Desktop Operations

Once the full scope of the employee population has been migrated, IT transitions into ongoing operations. This consists of real-time monitoring of employee experience and problem resolution workflows for when trouble arises. Nexthink continues to excel here for our customers. The contextual telemetry collected, data visualization, AI-driven investigation, workflow integrations with tools like ServiceNow, and automated remediation capabilities make Nexthink the best solution for delivering consistent and ongoing user experiences.

In today’s complex, digital world, it is inevitable that problems will arise, and virtualized desktop environments are no exception. There are many common problems that can arise, and Nexthink allows IT to intuitively visualize the right metrics to identify root cause, mitigate the issue, and in many cases automate remediation.

A few of the common problems we see are:

1) Slow application load time is often caused by insufficient IOPS, slow storage devices, and network latency. Nexthink visualizes metrics like storage IOPS, session network latency, Citrix RTT, CPU and memory usage, and CPU queue length to allow IT to understand why load times are slow.

2) Lagging application response times can occur from insufficient VM resources, network latency, and application server problems. Diagnosing these issues requires visibility into session network latency, Citrix RTT, CPU and memory utilization, CPU queue length, and storage IOPS.

3) Poor session response times will often manifest as lagging mouse movements, slowness when opening start menus, poor response when doing a desktop search, along with many other problems. Understanding when there is latency in remote protocols such as PCoIP, ICA, and HDX is required. Other factors that IT needs to recognize include when there is high resource utilization, storage latency, and under-optimized desktop settings. Seeing storage IOPS, session network latency, Citrix RTT, CPU queue length, and CPU/memory usage are needed for root cause analysis.

4) Long logon durations create delays in employees seeing their desktop after they login. This is often caused by misconfigured user profiles and group policy (GPO) settings, network latency, and over-utilized virtual machines (VMs). Recognizing why logon durations are prolonged requires visibility into session network latency, Citrix RTT, storage IOPS, and CPU/memory usage, and GPO impact on startup times.

5) Connectivity problems will often look similar to other problems, so the ability to quickly distinguish between network and virtualization issues is paramount. Discerning where the problem lies requires visibility into session network latency and Citrix RTT.

virtual desktop operations

Desktop virtualization is growing in popularity, with DaaS seeing the fastest growth. Embarking on, and succeeding with, desktop virtualization projects requires a platform that can help throughout the entire lifecycle of the project, from the assessment to pilot, and from migration all the way to ongoing operations. Nexthink is uniquely positioned to deliver exceptional employee experiences across both physical and virtual desktops.

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