Tips for modernizing client computing in a post-PC world
Advice for IT managers considering a client computing solution
Centrally managed client computing alternatives can deliver cost savings and more efficient management, but deployment must be well planned. Here are some tips from expert industry-watchers aimed to help agencies cultivate virtual client computing as a way to run more efficiently, boost security and reduce costs.
• Embrace consumerization instead of fighting it. Consumerization is here to stay. Government IT executives must accept that and shift the role of IT from maintaining end-to-end control to being more of a facilitator. Using virtual client solutions as a cost-effective, scalable delivery platform will enable IT to tackle the centralized management and control of all devices users bring in for work.
• Don't expect to see immediate cost savings. Although every organization wants to save on IT expenses, don't look to client virtualization for a quick return on investment. ROI will depend on how much the organization needs to upgrade its IT infrastructure to prepare for a virtual client implementation. Also, don't overlook added costs for software licenses. Client virtualization might require changes to the organization's current contracts.
• Plan to upgrade the network. Client virtualization will put constant stress on the network with data, applications and images flowing from data centers to client devices. Before a deployment, map out the capabilities of the existing network and create accurate estimates of the performance levels required after implementation. Start with a detailed inventory of existing traffic volumes. Pay close attention to differences seen in various departments. Evaluate technologies designed to accelerate throughput to get the most out of the organization's available bandwidth. Then look for gaps and areas where bottlenecks are likely to exist once the increased demands of a virtual client implementation take effect.
• Take a closer look at storage. Client virtualization lets organizations replace many desktop PCs with low-cost thin-client devices without hard drives. Along with network upgrades, storage investments might also be required to realize the full benefits. Storage-area networks (SANs) are a good choice for virtual client environments because they can accommodate fast response times and the need to maintain performance when large numbers of people access data resources simultaneously. SANs let IT staff allocate capacities on the fly without incurring costly downtime for end users.
• Prioritize the applications to be virtualized first. Identify which departments will most quickly see the benefits of virtualization and then gradually roll out the new architecture to other areas. A good place to start is a call center or administrative office whose staff members use the same types of applications. By allowing those people to share applications running in a central data center, the organization will more likely take advantage of virtualization's benefits without significantly disrupting established work routines.
• Focus pilot testing on delivering quick wins. Examples of situations that work best for testing include providing remote users access to virtual clients from their own devices at home instead of deploying laptops; piloting with users ready for a new PC to secure participation and user buy-in; and creating a test lab of server-hosted virtual PCs to test a new app or operating system upgrade.
• Build the implementation from back to front. To address heightened storage, network and processing requirements that go along with client virtualization, agencies must address capacity planning, monitoring and infrastructure support. For instance, an investment in network storage will not only provide capacity but also enable higher availability/recovery in the virtual desktop environment. Organizations must make sure the SAN is ready for the added burden of hosting virtual desktops. The back-end infrastructure — memory, processing power, storage and bandwidth — all build the foundation for a successful deployment and require attention before decisions about which thick-, thin- or zero-client platforms are best.