Of all the challenges faced by today’s increasingly under-fire CIOs, perhaps the greatest is managing the increasing proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace. Today’s IT departments have never been under more pressure to deliver value to the bottom line, through increased efficiency and productivity in the workplace.
There’s no doubt that the move towards Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in recent years, driven by increased adoption of powerful mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, has caused a number of well documented headaches in this respect. However, what’s perhaps less well known is the extent to which it can also cause even greater challenges by adding layer upon layer of complexity to virtualised environments.
The BYOD/VDI challenge
For many organisations, the only way to get to grips with the BYOD phenomenon is to implement virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) programmes. As many CIOs will tell you, it’s a common and logical path to a secure BYOD policy that ultimately reduces costs and the need for additional resources. Of course, and despite the fact that these programmes are usually implemented with a view to saving time and expense, the issues they can cause to an organisations’ IT infrastructure can be significant.
There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest problem is that testing time prior to deployment is always finite and often limited. This may sound like an obvious point to make, but it does mean that it is impossible for an organisation to introduce a virtualised environment that has taken into account all potential pitfalls and challenges.
Because the testing period prior to deployment cannot, for this reason, ever be 100 per cent accurate, many organisations don’t factor in the extra expense – both financial, and in terms of time – that adding this into the mix can provide. All too often we see CIOs having to pay extra or spend more time to troubleshoot unforeseen difficulties or issues, simply because they weren’t able to anticipate them at the testing stage.
Of course, there are a number of reasons why these problems can occur, not least the fact that the complexity that BYOD brings to these environments can be staggering. Almost overnight, a company can see twice as many devices brought into their environment, requiring more support for more diverse form and operating factors than were ever required before. The knock-on effect of this is that IT departments also have to worry about how their network is performing under this increased strain.
Clearly, network management in a VDI environment is a key concern for CIOs as it means that business critical applications are increasingly accessed via the virtual desktop. As a result, the IT department must plan and manage how BYOD converges with the virtualised enterprise. In order to achieve this, it must ensure high availability of applications and all resources required by end-users, at the same time as providing secure data protection. All of which adds yet another layer of complexity!
To maintain control of each of these different elements, IT organisations require a significant amount of insight into the behaviour of their users. To stay in control, it’s imperative that they are able to get a feel for how users’ applications are performing on different devices and operating systems, and how it is impacting on network resources.
Of course, the IT department needs to have the right tools in place to predict and manage the environment before it can achieve this. Only by utilising these tools to analyse the behaviour of users can they predict and manage the VDI environment, and strike the required balance between maximising network assets and ensuring that user performance is not compromised.
Some IT managers choose to use these tools to monitor overall performance, and some to ensure that specific applications run smoothly. An IT department may choose to introduce a Citrix VDI environment in order to minimise the strain that BYOD has on resources. It may then choose to use monitoring tools to check on overall impact of the deployment, or use them as a safeguard to ensure that its SAP applications for example, are still running effectively within this new environment.
It’s clear that the success of safeguarding end-user performance depends on a great deal of visibility into the existing network infrastructure. There are very few computing problems that match the frustration caused by the delay of basic desktop functions, or ‘transactions’, such as keystrokes. However, one of the benefits of being able to monitor each transaction is that it also helps to verify if contractual commitments have been met and to identify outliers, which can be important when looking at SLA compliance.
When all’s said and done, it’s important to remember that VDI does not operate in a vacuum. In the age of BYOD, it may at first appear to be an easy solution to implement in order to save both time and money, but the truth is that it can take a lot of work to make sure it is serving the IT department in the right way.
To do this, VDI solutions must be viewed in the context of the applications that run alongside it on the network, and not in isolation. Let’s not forget that the deployment of VDI is supposed to make the IT department’s life easier. Perhaps the best way of ensuring that this is the case is to ensure that the right tools are in place to monitor and control performance of applications and the network to ensure that the complexity is reduced.