InfoWorld just issued its Winter 2015 Digital Spotlight focused entirely on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. The 20-page supplement, "Solving the VDI Equation," includes commentary and lessons learned from real-world deployments. In the article "Vaulting VDI Hurdles," IT manager at Unidesk customer USF Health explains how layering technology has helped them achieve success. Here's an excerpt:
(Excerpted from InfoWorld Digital Spotlight Winter 2015, "Vaulting VDI Hurdles")
Two years ago, when USF Health embarked on an effort to streamline IT operations by moving its 3,000 doctors, clinicians, and staff to virtual desktops, it immediately ran into problems. USF Health brings medical staff together with a variety of students and experts from the medical and public health departments at the University of South Florida at Tampa. The sheer variety of activities conducted by the healthcare and education organization resulted in requests for tailored instances of the virtual desktop. Delivering a single “golden master” — the original goal of the project — quickly gave way to creating a variety of virtual desktop configurations.
The company had hoped to cut down the amount of work required to patch and maintain systems, but supporting the requested configurations resulted in more work for IT staff, says Richard Savage, system administrator for USF Health.
“The management [of the systems] quickly got to the point where it was an all-day affair to just deal with Windows updates or an application having to be configured and installed,” he said. “It looked like every different permutation of applications would result in additional overhead. It wasn’t necessarily a picture that was appealing.”
To solve the problem, Savage looked to application layering technology, which turns the operating system and applications — and the changes they make during installation — into software building blocks that can be added piecemeal to build a customized virtual desktop for a user. The technology allows users to personalize their systems, but each building block only has to be managed and patched a single time, dramatically cutting down the time and cost to administer the virtual desktop infrastructure.
“We have one gold image, a base Windows 7 image that we have to manage, and every application is a layer,” USF Health’s Savage says. “So our desktops have become a combination of the Lego blocks of application layers, and I don’t have to create a whole new image just to add an application that someone needs.”
Of course, Unidesk is the the layering technology Richard is describing. Wonder if InfoWorld had to get approval to use the picture of Legos to represent Unidesk layers!
Congrats to our partner Pure Storage, who is also featured in the story. Their all-flash array is credited with solving USF Health's storage challenge.
Today, with the help of Pure Storage and Unidesk, USF Health has 1,000 virtual desktops in production delivering over 130 applications as independent layers to doctors, nurses, and staff. This last excerpt summarizes the positive impact on them.
Initially, USF Health embarked on its VDI journey to save money and speed the provisioning of systems for its staff and students. Yet, the organization also wanted the capability for staff, especially doctors and nurses, to use applications quickly from anywhere. The ability for doctors to log in to a system in an exam room and have instant access to a desktop cuts down on the time a patient has to wait for an exam, delivering a better experience for the patient, Savage says.
"The doctor can come into the exam room, pull up a session and, within seconds, be talking to the patient and focus more on the interaction,” says Savage.