Desktop Virtualization solutions aren’t new to today’s organizations; countless IT teams have implemented some form of virtualization to provide better and more consistent experiences to employees. But during the rise of remote and hybrid working, virtualization has become even more ubiquitous.
We recently sat down with Teodor Olteanu, Senior Delivery Manager, Workplace Technology Engineering at Flutter Entertainment, a leading global sports betting, gaming and entertainment organization. Teodor spoke to his team’s success with virtualization, the challenges of VDI implementation, and how to best support Desktop Virtualization users no matter where they work.
What is your team at Flutter responsible for?
We work in Workplace Technology, which means we manage all the different systems that Flutter UK and I division employees are using. We have a service desk function and an engineering function, and that’s where my team manages everything around the endpoint – Windows 10 and Mac OS, iOS, office 365 suites, hosting systems, and everything that supports the Flutter UK and I divisions.
How are you supporting your Desktop Virtualization users?
We already had a use case for VDI, where we had some apps that developed internally which were hosted in our data centers…This was done a couple of years ago using technology that was right at the time, but the environment started to age and was having a lot of issues. So we started a project to look at where we could host these services with a better technology.
During the trial, we also had to prove to the business that the new solution was actually far better than what we were using before – because the previous solution for VDIs was something we were hosting ourselves internally, whereas this new solution was cloud-hosted. And obviously there was a difference in the budget.
This is where we were able to use Nexthink and use the Digital Experience Score to show that the metrics we were capturing on the old VDI environment were far inferior to what we were seeing with users running the new solution. We gathered sentiment data as well from the users, but we wanted to support that sentiment data with hard metrics. Showing that to management made it far easier to get the budget and get the project approved.
Were there VDI use cases related to remote work?
During the pandemic we had to issue a lot of laptops to our customer service agents because they were working in the office, hot-desking and using desktops that were set up for them. But now they were working from home and we had to issue them laptops. The fastest way to do that was to give them the high-spec expensive laptops we had in stock for our product engineering developers.
We realized that would be a waste of money, and we felt like we needed another solution that could scale up quicker. This is where we thought about VDIs being a possible answer. So now we’re doing a project to set up a VDI environment for customer service agents and give them VDIs they can use on cheaper hardware, while getting access to company resources much faster. That way we’re going to save money because we don’t need to provision expensive hardware unnecessarily.
Did VDI create any tension between standardization and personalization?
Yes – with any of these projects, you’re making some assumptions around the sizing of VDIs and around the apps we’ll be running on those VDIs. In order to validate those assumptions, you need to have a mechanism to measure the user experience of the employees actually using those machines. You need to see if you need to adjust anything around the specs, or if there’s an issue with an app running on a VDI environment that might cause a high CPU usage.
So that’s where you need something like Nexthink, for example, where you can monitor the services that you’re running for a particular group on particular devices. That will make the project successful, because quite often when we make assumptions, we deliver a service and then suddenly there are issues with it. And we have a hard time investigating where the issue comes from.
You’re able to take a much better approach by having that visibility in terms of the user experience. It satisfies users more because you’re able to quickly adapt to their needs. Because users – especially non-technical users – often won’t be able to tell you what’s wrong. You’re just going to get vague sentiment around the system being “slow”, etc.
It’s important to have the visibility to dig deep and see what’s actually wrong, looking at the application level and the hardware level at the same time.
Cost is always a factor in VDI projects. How much did this play into consideration in terms of measuring success?
So we have a couple hundred customer service agents – we’re firstly going to save on the cost of hardware. But then we’re going to have to pay for the hosting of the new VDI environment. When you draw the line, we still expect a significant saving. The expectation is to deliver savings, but at the same time improve user experience. Especially nowadays, it’s not all about the money.
The budget side of things is important, but businesses understand they can’t really deliver value to their customers without focusing on the employee first. So in terms of Flutter, the primary driver is ensuring that our users have everything they need to do their job.