The VDI Admin Experience Matters More Than the User Experience - for ROI

Posted by Tom Rose on Sep 14, 2015

gartnerGartner analyst Mark Lockwood recently blogged that end user computing (EUC) vendors and customers focus so much on the end user experience that we sometimes forget about the VDI administrator. In his post "Administrator Experience Matters," Lockwood says "an often-overlooked aspect of all of these EUC platforms and tools is the effort involved from the administrator to deploy, configure, manage, and troubleshoot them."

It's hard not to agree. We would even take it one step further. Providing an administrative experience that makes virtual desktops easier to manage than physical PCs is critical to building a business case for VDI. While Microsoft VDI with Unidesk has finally made virtual desktops less expensive on a pure CapEx basis, most VDI solutions require OpEx savings to justify their higher cost.

Unidesk admittedly doesn't address every issue with the administrative experience. But our layering technology does solve 3 big ones that impact VDI ROI. Here they are.

App Delivery That Doesn't Require a PhD

Unidesk is a modern approach to delivering and managing applications using virtual disk "layers" that are created using a single, ordinary installation. Instead of tedious application install/uninstall operations, IT administrators simply assign Unidesk app layers to the virtual machines that need them. Unidesk merges all of the assigned app and Windows OS layers to form a unified C: file system and registry. This approach makes rollbacks and patches just as easy as initial app delivery.

Layering is also much simpler for administrators than traditional application virtualization tools that require complex sequencing and packaging procedures. In addition, Unidesk layering is compatible with many more applications than less robust, "above-the-OS" layering technologies. How does this translate into ROI?

If you have 100 apps that are updated, on average, twice a year, and it only takes 20 minutes to layer them with Unidesk compared to 4 hours to package them with other approaches, you will save 733 IT staff hours per year. Using an IT staff hourly wage of $50/hour, that's $36,000 annually.

Customers agree. Says Anthony Olvieri, CTO at Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, who is using Unidesk as the app delivery and image management solution for their 3,000 desktop VDI deployment, "We have a couple hundred apps. Calling some of them legacy is being too kind. We haven't yet found an app we can't layer with Unidesk. It's a huge time saver. And in many cases, our most junior administrators can do the packaging."

Get access to the full Montgomery County webinar recording here.

One - Yes One - Windows Image to Patch

Gold image sprawl is another source of complexity for VDI administrators. And another OpEx challenge that damages VDI ROI. It happens in most VDI projects because of the app virtualization issues mentioned above. Apps that cannot be virtualized, apps that require interoperability with other apps, and apps that are just plain too hard to package get baked into the Windows image. Pretty soon, you have multiple images to patch to account for unique user needs and to avoid licensing every app to every user.

With Unidesk, there is no longer any reason to bake apps into your Windows gold image. Every app can be delivered as a modular layer, so you can keep Windows clean. One OS layer can be the base for every virtual machine in your cloud. What does this save you?

patch tuesdayWe show you in our new Infographic, "How much is Patch Tuesday costing your IT team?" At the risk of stealing our own thunder, 25 images equates to about 1,000 staff hours a year. That's an average of $50K in unnecessary OpEx. Unidesk can eliminate that cost.

Says Richard Savage, VDI architect at USF Health, "With Unidesk as our management solution, we have one Windows OS layer to manage, and every application is another layer. Our desktops have become a combination of the Lego blocks of these layers, and I don’t have to create a whole new image just to add an application that someone needs. Unidesk does a great job of making sure that all the different layers work together as if they've been locally installed, so we don't have any interoperability issues with dependent applications or plug-ins. We've been able to achieve the install-once, patch-once efficiency that has previously been a myth, even as we've scaled from 100 desktops to over 1,000."

Read more about Savage's VDI journey in the USF Health case study.

Break/Fix with Tier 1 Help Desk Staff

When it comes to desktop break/fix, the choices have never been great:

  • Option 1: re-image the desktop to get rid of all the malware and DLL conflicts. This is easier for IT, but costs end users hours of lost productivity, as they try to re-personalize the desktop to get it back to the way it was.
  • Option 2: escalate to your senior IT staff to undo the user damage. Now, IT will spend hours trying to find and remove the offending registry keys and files. And the end user still experiences downtime while this goes on.

Unidesk offers a better way. The Unidesk Personalization layer is a writable virtual disk that captures all user customizations. This layer is separate from the read-only App and OS layers that are locked and controlled by IT. If a virtual desktop has any problem, your help desk or Tier 1 IT staff can repair it in a few minutes, just by assigning an earlier version of the Personalization layer. Unidesk will re-merge the OS and App layers with the older Personalization layer, and the problem is solved. No senior IT staff escalations. No downtime or productivity loss for the end user.

How much annual cost can Unidesk eliminate? Again, it's just math. If you have 1,000 users, with half calling the help desk once a year with a break/fix issue, that's 500 calls. Escalating to Level 2 IT admins who need to spend 2 hours diagnosing and fixing the problem will cost in the neighborhood of $50K.

Says Jarod Whittaker, Senior Systems Administrator at concrete product leader Dayton Superior, "With Unidesk, our help desk crew can handle everything - desktop provisioning, application delivery, patches, break/fix. It wasn't like that before. There was always something that would escalate. Best of all, we're getting that IT simplicity while giving our users a more customizable, personal desktop experience."

Read more about Whittaker's experience in the Dayton Superior VDI case study.

Gartner's Lockwood mentions other areas where the VDI administrative experience can be improved - security, monitoring, reporting, web-based access, scripting/extensibility. What did we miss? Let us know.

Posted by Tom Rose on Sep 14, 2015

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