Typical Desktop Configurations
In many organizations, the desktop is delivered using a monolithic approach with tight dependencies between layers of the desktop technology stack.
This approach can cause significant challenges as each layer is dependent on the other layers in order to function properly. Changes at one layer have the potential to impact the other layers.
User personalization of the OS and applications creates a unique desktop for each user in the organization. With local profiles, the user state is tied to the OS (which in turn is tied to the hardware) and this creates inflexibility, the inability to roam, and risk of data loss. These challenges are addressed with roaming profiles but new challenges are introduced: profile bloat, corruption, increased logon times. A disruption at this layer can cause significant impact to users – a lost or corrupt profile may mean hours of work by the end user to restore the user personalization settings that were lost. Also, by using a user state delivery model (local profiles) that directly modifies the OS (by writing data and registry values to the local system), each desktop becomes a unique and unpredictable entity which makes it difficult to manage.
Locally installed applications modify the OS directly. This creates a tight dependency between the OS and the application and also creates the potential for app-to-app incompatibility as each app may modify shared dependencies within the OS.
Driver dependencies between hardware and the OS pose a significant IT management challenge. Many organizations address this by creating and managing multiple gold images with the necessary drivers baked into the image. The continual hardware refresh cycle and introduction of new platforms creates a constant driver management challenge and requires significant IT resources to maintain.
Each desktop is an asset that must be purchased, deployed, managed, tracked, supported and decommissioned. A monolithic desktop delivery approach creates an unbreakable bond between users and their hardware. This adds not only significant resource requirements in order to keep the hardware tied to the user, but also significant risk in the event of hardware failure. If a users’ whole world lives on their desktop and the hardware fails, restoring service to that user can become a major undertaking.
The Strategy: Reduce the Dependencies
By leveraging virtualization technology to reduce the dependencies between these layers, IT organizations can address these challenges and move to a dynamic, well-managed desktop while adopting a user-centric approach.
Insert User Virtualization between the User State layer and the Application layer.
This allows IT to isolate and centralize user settings and data. By abstracting this layer and centrally managing it, user data and settings can freely roam between devices and applications. By virtualizing the user state, nothing is written to the local OS, keeping it clean, predictable and easily managed.
Insert Application Virtualization between the Application layer and the OS layer to isolate and centralize application management and deployment.
By decoupling this layer from the OS, applications are contained in their own virtual environment and are able to interact with the OS and leverage local resources without directly modifying the OS. This ensures that the OS remains clean and stable and reduces app-to-app incompatibility issues. By creating individual virtual application packages, IT administrators are able to include multiple dependencies within each package, even if those dependencies are incompatible with another virtual application package. Because they execute in an isolated virtual environment, each application is able to see and use their own dependent components without impacting other applications or the OS itself.
Insert Desktop Virtualization and Systems Management technologies to isolate and centrally manage OS management and deployment.
Centrally manage and automate driver collection, categorization and deployment within a systems management tool in order to maintain a single, hardware independent gold image. By automating the OS image creation and capture, the OS deployment process and post-imaging configuration tasks, and the driver management processes, IT administrators can reduce the administrative overhead and continual challenges involved in getting the Operating System deployed to the multiple hardware platforms in the environment.
To further reduce or eliminate the hardware challenges present in any IT organization, various Desktop Virtualization technologies can be leveraged. Full VDI, which involves virtualizing the desktop and pulling it into the datacenter, can eliminate hardware to OS dependencies altogether. By virtualizing the entire desktop and running it as a VM in the datacenter, then providing access through multiple endpoints (thin clients, personal computers, smartphones), all of the challenges of hardware to OS driver dependencies can be eliminated. Also, by centralizing the desktop infrastructure in the datacenter and allowing multiple device types (thin clients, personal devices, smartphones) to access the Virtual Desktop, the hardware itself is less of a challenge to manage and users have greater flexibility to roam across multiple devices and locations. For instance, IT organizations could grant users a technology allowance and provide the appropriate network ports and hardware (monitors, keyboards) in each office, allowing users to connect their personal device to a guest network that connects them through an access gateway to their virtual desktop. Users would have the flexibility to move from office to office and always access their own desktop, and IT would not have to continually ensure that the hardware stayed tied to the user. If their device failed, they could simply grab another one.