VDI – Adding new life to aging desktops

Around 5 years of age, desktop computers may begin to lack the processing power required to meet the ever-growing demands of operating systems and applications. By this point, many people are looking to swap out desktops. With Windows XP finally reaching it’s final end-of-support date, a lot of organizations are finding themselves with a large number of desktops that are unable to upgrade to Windows 7, due to the age of the hardware.

This was the situation for one of my first VDI projects. Almost 4 years ago, a school district was facing a required hardware refresh to move to Windows 7. This was a requirement for some of their curriculum, and they had thousands of desktops that were over 7 years old and could not be upgraded. However, using VMware View as a VDI solution, they were able to repurpose those old PCs as VDI end points. Their preferred endpoint is a Teradici-based zero client, as they are easier to manage and offer improved management. However, the plan was to use zero clients for all new purchases and to replace the existing desktops through attrition.

They were early adopters in education, and had a very savvy IT group that was up for the challenge. Today, I received a report from this customer that wanted to show off how VDI was allowing them to reach outrageous lifespans on their old PCs. When I saw these numbers, I just had to share them. These are the numbers that make VDI work, and why I love working with VDI technologies.

With over 5,000 desktops in the district, 57% are between 6 and 9 years old. Many of these do not meet the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 7, yet they run it on a daily basis. But what’s more impressive is the fact that 32% of their desktops are over 10 years old and still in use to serve up Windows 7 desktops on a daily basis.

Wow, talk about return on investment! Our initial ROI analysis assumed that almost all of these desktops would have already been upgraded to zero clients by now. Ever year they are able to delay that, they are leaving money in the budget for other projects.

A strategy that was meant to delay desktop replacements for a year, to offset the costs of the initial VDI environment, has paid off better than we could have imagined. We have a happy customer, and their technology department has been able to improve the educational tools within their district while lowering costs. #winning

Blades rule! But don’t ignore the value of rack mount servers.

I have always liked blade servers, since I first began deploying blades on HP platforms. Then, when I was introduced to Cisco UCS blades, I saw that the data center world was being reinvented. In fact, when I left the corporate world for consulting, being able to work with UCS was one of my requirements. Not to knock other blade platforms, I just saw something truly innovative in UCS and wanted to be associated with that kind of technology.

Now, some years later, I have come across a new innovation that is causing me to look back at rack mount servers…while I wait for blade manufacturers to adjust to this new trend. The trend is one of grouping local storage together into a centralized and highly available storage pool. There are many options to achieve this, and I discuss this further in my recent TechTarget article “Cutting the other direction: Why blade servers are losing their appeal“.

To be clear, I am not turning my back to blade servers. Blades are still my preferred platform. However, I see this new storage trend as one that can take off, and blades will need to hold more than two hard drives to play in that world.

As always, please come back here and leave any comments on the article. I look forward to the conversation.

Orchestration: The Marriage of IT and Business

With a graduate degree in business, and 20 years of experience in IT, I am often frustrated to see these two organizations at odds with one another. While it is nearly impossible to conduct business, today, without IT…IT does not exist just to make pretty lights blink in the data center. IT exists to serve the business and to ultimately aid the business in achieving their goals. These should be complimentary goals, not contrary ones.

For the IT strategists and engineers that “get” this concept, there are two core technologies that you need to be exploring. The first is automation, and the second is orchestration. Automation will make routing processes more reliable and their outcomes more predictable. Automation is not easy. It can often be much more difficult to automate a task then to simply execute the steps individually, but the outcome is more valuable.

The second concept, orchestration, is where IT and the business meet. With orchestration, you add intelligence to automation, allowing tasks to be triggered by predefined conditions. These can be technological conditions or even business conditions.

To end 2013, I wrote a two part series on these topics for TechTarget. The first article is Car assembly plants can teach a valuable lesson in IT automation“, dealing with automation and a great experience I had at a GM plant. The second article is IT orchestration can help bridge gaps to unite divided business units“, building on the previous work on automation.

I hop that you will take a minute to read these articles, and then come back here and leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Heads Up! Avoiding Seagull Consultants.

In my 20+ years in technology, I spend roughly 16 as a customer and the last 4 as a consultant. Those can be two very different roles, while dealing with very similar challenges and solutions. However, they do not have to bee that different. If you know what to look for, you can find consultants that are focused on your business, and not just their technology.

Have you ever heard the term “seagull consultant”? It is a humorous term, but one that can be outright terrifying for your business. To learn more about this term, and how to select the right consultant for your business, read my latest TechTarget article Meeting long-term business goals, avoiding seagull consultants“. If you would like, feel free to come back here and leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.