Setting a Virtualization Strategy
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Organizations may initially consider virtualization technologies to address tactical concerns, such as the need to cut costs, but they should also consider how virtualization technologies can serve more strategic goals.
At Bank of America, Butcher isn't blind to the savings that can accrue from virtualization, but he sees that in the context of bigger-picture requirements to improve SLAs for critical applications and keep operations running in the event of a disaster. Virtualizing applications using Altiris SVS (recently acquired by Symantec Corp.), and streaming them to the desktop using AppStream, addresses the issues, he says. The application lifecycle delivery process is being crunched from two weeks to just days, and users have immediate access to their applications from any machine.
It's an advantage to be able to "virtualize the applications at hot or cold or makeshift sites, and have users provisioned for the application," Butcher says. "We don't need a one-for-one box that's maintained for the users."
Not everyone sees virtualization's potential at first, though. Forrester's Lambert says clients often come to her to discuss routine issues around client systems management or remote user access, but "then you start having these conversations where you talk about what virtualization brings to the table, and it really opens eyes."
Eyes were indeed opened at the Patent Office, where desktop virtualization is now a lynchpin of the organization's goal to expand telework initiatives. It's not easy to find the highly educated engineers needed to qualify as patent examiners, and offering the work-at-home option can strengthen the agency's ability to attract and retain staff.
"We need highly skilled people," Macy says. "If [desktop virtualization] helps recruitment and retention, that's pretty profound." The agency satisfies remote patent examiners' needs for high performance for their heavily graphics-oriented applications and high availability with its virtual desktop infrastructure implementation: Users (a maximum of 16 per server) connect to their standalone virtual machines running Windows XP; the virtual machines can be moved to other servers automatically if a box goes down.
At the Patent Office, thick clients remain the computing platform for remote patent examiners. That's in contrast to the Wyse thin clients that, by the end of April, were due to replace each of 700 desktops at the home and remote offices of Amerisure Insurance, in the company's Citrix Presentation Server-based computing environment (Amerisure started with Presentation Server v3.0 and is now on v.4.0). Jack Wilson, enterprise architect and assistant vice president at Amerisure, came on board three years ago to help set strategy in an IT department forced to manage layer upon layer of technology, from mainframe to midrange to Unix and Windows systems.
"The way Citrix is normally deployed is tactically, to solve a specific problem versus as a strategy," Wilson says. But that piecemeal approach just leaves another tier of technology to maintain, he says, and that's not an efficient use of the midsize business's resources. Amerisure uses Citrix as a complete strategy that removes physical dependencies on its employees' ability to access systems or data. Wilson designed the architecture so eight identical Citrix servers each can handle 70 to 90 individual desktop sessions, and are load-balanced so every new sign-on goes to the least used server in the farm.