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Blog Post|10 minutes

“4:00 in the Morning” – Managing a VDI Migration

“4:00 in the Morning” – Managing a VDI Migration
February 18, 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.

Inspired by real stories from one Nexthinker’s time spent with 3 different customers, learn from these tales of woe and triumph and learn how Nexthink can help you 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!

“4:00 in the Morning”

For 45 minutes Mr. Neuer painstakingly explained the function of every node, icon, and connection drawn on his chart.

The conference room was already stuffy, a dozen or so mostly burly German men huddled around a small table, all blankly staring at the power-point presentation before them.

‘How We Measure our IT Infrastructure’ sat atop the slide, and below it his beloved masterpiece, that infamous chart, stretched out like a series of intricate spider-webs woven together by a mad-man.

With the faintest of grins, Mr. Neuer finished, “So, as you can see, we track every part, down to the last bit!”

In typical IT fashion, he opted for meticulous detail rather than brevity, but that was to be expected—he was of course the Head of End User Computing for Schalko, one of the largest financial services firms in Central Europe, and in charge of supporting nearly 25,000 end-users in their newly launched Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

But he needed help, and lots of it.

So he invited us in.

Removing the barriers to digital work

Neuer and his team were under a lot of pressure, both from above and below. Executive leadership wanted them to reduce the costs coming from their service desk and improve the quality of IT service overall in the company. His CIO also wanted to know if the existing VDI migration would be valuable enough for their other departments, whether it could become a talking point for the CEO’s wholesale strategy to boost productivity and employee morale.

The IT Help Desk serving Neuer was running on fumes responding to hundreds of support tickets, and they were visibly frustrated trying to predict and respond fast enough to network outages. They also struggled to properly measure the impact each application change and release was having in their VDI environment—a sore spot that seemed to rear its ugly head every quarterly review.

After Neuer finished his presentation, my colleague asked “It sounds like you have a very detailed setup but I’m curious about the most recent outage you mentioned—how long did it take you to fix?”.

With a mix of pride and embarrassment, Neuer responded, “it took us nearly two days… we were up until 4 a.m. last night but we eventually found out that the problem came from one of our application updates in the Master Image for our accounts department!”.

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After that first meeting my team and I categorized Neuer’s objectives into 3 buckets:

  • improved problem management
  • improved visibility into the VDI landscape
  • improved change management.

After just the second week of deploying the Nexthink platform, we identified up to 15 use cases for quick fixes. By the end of our discovery period, we identified several key IT issues in Schalko’s VDI landscape that were previously hidden or inadvertently ignored—most of which emanated from the end-user.

A sample of our work is below:

Improved problem management

Neuer’s team struggled to quickly isolate the applications that caused most crashes in his VDI environment. From Nexthink’s application perspective dashboard we quickly compared all active applications in play and found a single identity agent (will remain nameless) to be the main culprit behind those crashes. Neuer’s team was able to redirect this issue to the appropriate business services team, freeing up his team to take on bigger IT initiatives.

The Nexthink platform also helped Neuer’s team prevent hundreds of calls to the service desk. They discovered that most calls emanated from the same issue: employees were connecting directly to one of the application servers in the farm and not going through the load balancer to choose the least used one. This resulted in one server becoming hopelessly overloaded and the desktop sessions for the connecting users to slow, thus triggering calls to the help desk. Detecting this root cause helped Neuer’s team give precious hours back to his employees.

My team also found early indications of a network outage a full 90 minutes in advance of the actual event. Previously, most outages would seemingly spring out of the blue after the fact, now Neuer’s team was proactively squashing them before they ever boiled up to the surface.

Improved visibility

Like most technology leaders, Neuer assumed his elaborate charts and processes showed a complete VDI picture, when in fact we found several blind spots there. Without true end-to-end visibility these gaps would have taken them years to identify.

Within the Nexthink platform, Neuer could isolate a specific server that showed larger than normal average response times attributed to a specific IBM managed device—he reported this to his IBM service owner and they were able to quickly patch up the issue.

Even with certain architectural limitations for this project (for example, we couldn’t connect to the physical device itself) our team still devised an ingenious way to fill in Schalko’s missing end-user data. We set up network latency and round trip time data monitoring, which was pulled in directly via alerts in the Nexthink Finder console. Now, Neuer and his team could immediately view trends with end to end performance for things like network response time (per physical and virtual device) and successful network connections (per physical and virtual device). They could also see if and why certain employees experienced high network and app latency—all in the same Nexthink platform.

Like most technology leaders, Neuer assumed his elaborate charts and processes showed a complete VDI picture, when in fact we found several blind spots there. Without true end-to-end visibility these gaps would have taken them years to identify.

Change Management

Neuer’s team also struggled to test the performance of changes and releases in their various VDI delivery groups. Depicted in Nexthink’s out of the box dashboards, we were able to easily plot for him comparison metrics for his desired VDI state. From the pilot group and existing production perspective, Neuer’s team could compare key stats like application crashes, not responding incidents, and login times—all with the ability to quickly drill-down and remediate those specific apps, users, and devices that were causing issues.

Making up for lost time

The Nexthink platform helped Neuer’s team make plenty of other fixes that year, too many to list here in just one article. Schalko is still a customer and we continue to help them improve their existing VDI environment. Since those first few months together, Neuer’s reported he’s less stressed and more confident communicating with both executive leadership and his junior analysts. Schalko has saved somewhere north of $500,000 USD thanks to improved Nexthink VDI actions and they are looking to go full-virtualization across the company come 2021.

The point that will always stick with me is that Mr. Neuer and his team were clearly competent and ambitious IT engineers. They put in the grunt work, stayed up late when needed, and mapped out every technical road-map and process chart they could, but there’s so much out there in end-user computing that even the best of the best will never see. His team needed the right platform at the right time, and that’s what they got with Nexthink.

Up next –

Last week we shared a story about a customer that needed major help rolling out their VDI plan.

In the next story, learn how one customer was able to manage and improve multiple VDI environments all running at the same time.

Supporting some 60,000 devices, this global international law firm uses Nexthink to gain unique visibility into their digital landscape and iterate on projects that ultimately make their workers more productive and engaged.