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Blog Post|10 minutes

“Under The Gun” – Planning Your VDI Rollout

February 12, 2020

For all its benefits, Virtualization Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) continues to be a massive headache for many enterprise technology teams. From improper personas and sizing, long logon times, hangs, lost sessions, freezes and crashes—often one small mistake in a virtualized environment can set your entire enterprise ablaze. Which makes VDI planning all the more important as you head into your rollout.

Inspired by real stories from 3 different customers, learn from these tales of woe and triumph to tackle your next VDI project!

Reader’s note: names and locations are anonymous but the business challenges and solutions therein are 100% real. For more information about these customer stories contact a Nexthinker today!

“Under The Gun”

Rapinoe was recently promoted to the position of Digital Services Director, and she had several ambitious IT initiatives planned for the following year. Her employer, Reign.7, created some of Asia’s top gaming apps but this year they wanted to expand into the American market. The only thing standing in their way was their own budget—they desperately needed to cut costs before they could invest in more innovation.

This meant that Rapinoe and her team needed to find solutions, and find them fast.

Supporting nearly 5,000 end users and with pressure from the CEO to deliver results, she had one more obstacle in her path: the company’s failed history with VDI.

Rapinoe put it to us plainly, “One small slip, and I can kiss this virtualization project, and probably my job, goodbye”.

Challenge accepted

The last time Rapinoe’s teammates deployed VDI they created a pilot group in one of their Asia offices.

Unfortunately, the project drew attention for all the wrong reasons.

Every Monday morning, employees would log in at the same time and inadvertently overload Reign.7’s server and freeze their desktops. It was later discovered that after a 3rd party agency came in, several pilot members used certain power-heavy applications that ultimately killed the company’s server.

Rapinoe confessed that nobody on the team could really defend why they picked certain pilot members over others or why certain applications were chosen for virtualization. In short, they hadn’t done the right VDI planning.

One small slip, and I can kiss this virtualization project, and probably my job, goodbye

Back then it was easy to poke holes in their VDI planning. But this time around it would be different.

3 Steps to Better VDI Planning

Despite the poor experience, one thing was clear: virtualization as a concept still made 100% business sense to everybody in her team because:

  1. They needed a more centralized system for storage, management and security patching.
  2. They needed to have fast, simple, on-demand desktops that they could give to external consultants coming in on the project.
  3.  Their users needed to be able to get to their standard desktop no matter where they were connecting from in Asia.

But without a solid plan in place, Rapinoe was dead in the water.

And that’s where we came in to help.

During the first week of working with Rapinoe’s team, Nexthink was able to identify exactly which users, applications, and devices were best suited for virtualization.

Here’s what we found:

1. Choose The Correct Users

The last time Rapinoe’s team picked a pilot group for VDI, they based their decision on a mix of volunteers and shoddy survey data—that approach obviously didn’t pan out well when it came time to migrate. So, my team at Nexthink set out to fix this problem by advising Rapinoe to first build user personas in the Nexthink Platform as part of their VDI planning process.

Within the first day of downloading the Nexthink platform, Rapinoe’s team categorized unique user personas as:

  • desk-bound
  • mobile
  • highly mobile

She then grouped these employees by their resource usage (basic users, standard users, and power users). From there, Rapinoe’s team was able to see the activity of these users in the Nexthink dashboard (with no plugins or add-ons) and drill-down to examine specific employee digital performance data.

This information gave Rapinoe a solid head start identifying her pilot group—but she needed a little more insight into her end users.

Luckily, the Nexthink Platform pairs powerful technical metrics with key sentiment data straight from the employee. Rapinoe’s team was able to quickly examine how users felt about their current digital environment and who those people were. In particular, Nexthink collected employee sentiment information based on which features they liked most and least. Features included the stability, speed, ease of use, number of applications, and the combination of applications that employees use at work.

After just a few days of using Nexthink, Rapinoe’s team could not only say that they identified the best candidates for VDI but they could also track the same data points they used to make her candidate list over time—an additional proof for her plan.

2. Select the Appropriate Applications

It was also imperative that Rapinoe identify which applications to migrate to VDI well before they moved ahead with the project. In the Nexthink dashboard she was able to quickly categorize the number of lightly-used versus heavily-used applications, the number of high CPU apps versus high memory apps, and exactly which of those apps were used the most by employees (based on execution duration).

Surprisingly, 3 of the top 5 most used apps at their company were never included in the previous VDI test phase. This time around they were certain not to repeat the same mistake twice.

Additionally, she could finally monitor her VDI landscape under the same KPIs with real-time data, each and every day. Previously, her team would have to rely on their data scientists to help extract these key metrics, and often they’d have to wait up to a week for answers.

3. Weed Out Problematic Devices

This was the final piece to complete Rapinoe’s puzzle. There were over 7,000 devices at play in Reign.7’s digital environment and she had little insight into how each of those machines were truly performing.

During their first week using Nexthink, Rapinoe’s team was able to see a clear breakdown for each and every one of her company’s devices. They had newfound insights into the average device CPU usage (high vs. low), device memory usage (high vs. low), and they were even able to see VDI stability by individual device model (based on the number of system crashes).

This last feature was extremely helpful for Rapinoe’s team because they were able to quickly identify a few device models (HP ZBook and HP Spectre to be exact) that were causing system crashes but were never reported by L1 support or from the employees on those devices. Using Nexthink Engage, her team was able to quickly investigate the root cause for these crashes and fix those devices before determining whether or not to include them in their VDI pilot group.

Planning for a virtualization project? Watch how Nexthink makes it look easy.

VDI Planning: Rolling with confidence

After just three weeks into our project with Rapinoe, she told us her team had more insight into their digital architecture than she had ever seen before. In her first internal VDI recap meeting, she opened up Nexthink’s platform to show her CIO and CEO exactly how her plan was shaping up—a deliberate move that gave her some breathing room and the ability to lead with confidence.

We are happy to report that Reign.7 remains a customer of ours. After our three-month planning period, she was able to migrate part of the company’s Asian offices to VDI without any major snags. We are now working closely with her team to help scale their current VDI transformation to other departments across the United States.

Based on Reign.7’s estimates, the IT team has cut costs by nearly 10% since we started working with them. Rapinoe also mentioned that there’s now room in their budget to test some new features with the Nexthink team, and we plan to roll out some of those initiatives next year.

Up next –

Helping customers build the right plan can be a challenge but imagine coming into a VDI project mid-migration!

Based in central Europe, this next story shows how even the brightest and hardest working minds in IT can still struggle with typical VDI digital transformation projects. Learn how Nexthink helped put order to chaos and gave one IT Department the freedom and peace of mind to leave work at a reasonable hour.