Value of VDI Assessments

Disclaimer: This is a copy of the post that I made for TechTarget recently.

The past eighteen months has seen huge investment by VMware within the EUC space, with the arrival of Sanjay Poonen and Horizon (with View) 6 which introduced application publishing in the Advanced edition.  Finally we had an emerging contender to the heavy weight Citrix XenApp.

With this investment from VMware, the past twelve months have seen an increased number of customers looking at virtualising desktops and applications.  The first part of the engagement process is to access whether or not a physical computer is a virtualisation candidate.  To do this we undertake a desktop assessment.

What Is a Desktop Assessment?

First of all, I want to define what is meant by desktop assessment?  From this blog post perspective it is a piece of centralised software that collates information from remote agent’s installed on end user devices which are perceived to be candidates for VDI.

There are plenty of tools on the market from providers such as:

So the question is what value do these assessments bring to a business that is contemplating a move towards VDI?

Different VDI Guest Operating System

The first question is are we staying with the same operating system or moving to a new one?

If you perform a VDI assessment on a desktop operating system which is going to be replaced with a newer version, what value are you really obtaining? Not a lot, the applications will most likely require updating to support the new OS and this in turn leads to different requirements for compute and storage requirements.

Same Operating System

If you are going to have the same operating system you will get more value from the desktop assessment.  However it’s worth bearing in mind that the results from the desktop assessment often over inflate your compute metrics for example:

  • Compute resources used by in guest Anti-Virus are likely to be offloaded to a host based alternative
  • Compute and storage resources for Windows updates will often be negated by VDI tools such as PVS, MSC and Linked Clones
  • Applications installed by the end user will most likely be removed from the ‘master image’
  • VDI ‘master image’ will be optimised with services, widgets and applications being disabled or uninstalled

This can be viewed as a good thing as you can often show a slightly higher consolidation ratio per physical host.

What about Peripherals?

This is where desktop assessments come into their own.  Most IT departments I have spoken to always say ‘yeah we know what applications and devices our users use’, yeah right!

Desktop assessments will inform you what Parallel, Serial and USB devices are connected to the user’s computer.  This gives you the visibility to determine whether a particular user’s device is appropriate for VDI.

What about Licensing?

Desktop assessments are good for capturing what applications are used by users and what devices have what software installed.  However they often fall down in a number of areas:

  • Application dependencies, to determine why you have five different versions of Java installed
  • Often look to see if an executable is launched not whether an application is used to read or edit a document which can have a huge effect on license cost
  • Application readiness and/or virtualisation assessment, will the application work on Operating System ‘x’ and is it capable of being virtualised?

Often this area is overlooked and requires a large effort from a separate workstream outside of the desktop assessment.  Use the information from any desktop assessment as a starting point.

Group Policy

Most desktop assessments rely on an in-guest agent on the end device to capture metrics and pass them back to a central collection repository.  So what happens when you are waiting for that agent to start? The answer is simple nothing, you miss collecting data on anything that happens prior to the agent starting.

When the agent does start, the metrics collected for login time or log off time can be skewed by group policy applied to the computer object.

Ask yourself the question how often is a new OU created for VDI deployments?

What about the storage?

We have already established that the in-guest agent doesn’t start until when the operating system is ready so we have missed boot metrics IOPS.

Desktop assessments have the ability to capture steady state information which is OK as long as there are no other bottlenecks skewing the provided information.  For example:

  • Is paging occurring which is causing disk I/O to increase?
  • Is the limiting factor the hard drive itself and if unleashed from a 7.2K SATA hard drive, what IOPS would be consumed?
  • Are Anti-Virus scans causing peaks in provided disk I/O information?

What is the value?

For me, the value in a desktop assessment for VDI is in the following items:

  • Enables you to take a ‘bird’s eye’ view of what users are virtualisation candidates when items such as peripherals are taken into consideration
  • Provide user classification into different classes for resource consumption e.g. low, medium and high
  • Enables you to determine concurrent login and logoffs which can help determine storage sizing requirements
  • Gives you an insight into what applications are used by users

Final Thoughts

The desktop assessment does have some value in the VDI world, it is not a panacea to provide you everything you need to know on your journey to VDI.

Do I use desktop assessments, yes is the answer.  However it should be mentioned with a limited use case.  Most of the value comes from a pilot and load testing with products such as LoginVSI to determine the density of users per host.

Pre-Sales v Post-Sales

Versus-ModeThis is a post that I have been meaning to do for a while now, infact since last year! It follows on from the topic I started in a previous blog post, ‘What’s in a Job Title‘ and also ‘What’s This Pre-Sales Thing All About?

So the question is who is better?  To answer this, I will go over a number of categories that are used during a customer engagement to determine the winner.

I will be using the following two job titles, one each for pre and post sales.

Solutions Architect – Assist sales people across a broad range of products and are subject matter experts in a particular field.  They help translate business needs into technical solutions.  Commonly Solutions Architect guide the customer to use a particular piece of software or technology to meet the business requirement.  Some Solutions Architects can Lead Architect a project if required.

Technical Architect – Are focused in a particular discipline and are often the subject matter experts in this area.  These are the people who are engaged to create the ‘low level designs’ in there area of expertise, such as networking, storage, Exchange, Active Directory, System Center, Windows Desktop, vSphere, View etc.

Disclaimer: This is from my experience in which pre-sales and post-sales roles are clearly separated.  Your own experience will naturally differ depending on the size of the environment you work in and your own skill set.

1. Initial Customer Engagement

This is when the sales person engages a consultant to understand the business requirements and then translate them into a technical proposal.

The consultant will most likely be pre-sales.  They will qualify the opportunity to determine if this is something that the company they work for should spend their time on.  Ultimately, even though the pre-sales person is seen as a ‘cost of sales’ they take on the responsibility of what opportunities to pursue.

Responsibility: Pre-Sales 10 Post-Sales 0

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 10 Post-Sales 0

2. Customer Meeting

The opportunity is qualified and a meeting is held which is attended by the pre-sales person.  The purpose of this is to understand the business requirements of the technical solution in terms of Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security.  Also they gather details on the existing environment along with any issues that the customer is experiencing.

At this stage, a number of factors come into play and I’m afraid these are all pre-sales.

  • Understand whom you need to engage with at the customer as what IT want isn’t always what the business needs!
  • Rapport building with the customer, I know it sounds corny, but they have to believe in your ability to deliver the goods/services you represent.
  • Soft skills, are you able to listen and put across your point to C level and or technical people?
  • Can you understand exactly what the business issue is and what the customer is asking you to solve?

Responsibility: Pre-Sales 10 Post-Sales 0

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 20 Post-Sales 0

3. Technical Proposal

The creation of a proposal to match the requirements gathered in the customer meeting.  This document dictates the hardware, software and professional services effort that will be used to deliver the solution.

The pre-sales person is responsible for putting together the proposal ensuring that everything is interoperable and supported in the proposed configuration.

The proposal should be validated by multiple post-sales individuals to ratify the proposed solution and confirm the professional services effort (normally ends up in a tug of war with post-sales wanting more and the sales person wanting less.  With pre-sales being the referee!).

The solution is then presented to the customer, usually by the pre-sales person.

Responsibility: Pre-Sales 8 Post-Sales 2

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 28 Post-Sales 2

4.  Customer Workshop

Depending on the size of the project which has been won will determine the number of workshops that will be held with the customer.  The initial workshop is usually to determine the ‘project definition’ and is attended by the Project Manager, Solution Architect, Technical Architects and customer.

The Solution Architect takes the lead and covers items such as whom the customer is, what they are trying to achieve, the overall vision for the solution detailing Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security requirements along with existing infrastructure.  It’s important to note that the post-sales people who reviewed the proposal are not usually the same ones in the workshops.

The Technical Architects will then lead their own workshops based around their subject area such as network, storage, anti virus, backups etc.

Responsibility: Pre-Sales 5 Post-Sales 5

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 33 Post-Sales 7

5. Low Level Designs

Each Technical Architect will create a low level design for the area that they are responsible for.  The document will include every aspect of the implementation such as firmware versions, diagrams and test plans.  They will also confirm exact requirements for the bill of materials.

The Solutions Architect generally reviews these documents to ensure that they are in the same format, the customer is referred to in the same name, the overall requirements are met and that any mistakes are rectified before customer release.

Responsibility: Pre-Sales 2 Post-Sales 8

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 35 Post-Sales 15

6. Implementation

This really is the realms of post-sales, who install and configure the solution and test it with the customer for sign off.

Not much more to say, apart from either it does what it is suppose to or it doesn’t!

Responsibility: Pre-Sales 0 Post-Sales 10

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 35 Post-Sales 25

7. Technical Ability

Expectations should be that post-sales technical skill set should be higher than pre-sales, although pre-sales will often have the same level certification with a vendor.  Pre-sales often lack the implementation experience, meaning that even though they could perform the installation and configuration it would take them a couple of days longer compared to their post-sales comrades.

Ability: Pre-Sales 4 Post-Sales 6

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 39 Post-Sales 31

8. Hidden Ability

I wasn’t entirely sure what to call this section, but these are the hidden things such as appearance, timekeeping, getting back to people, being able to word an email without offending the recipient and communicating to a customer when they are wrong without calling them a plonker!

This part is very subjective.  It is my personal experience, that pre-sales dominate in this area.  Not to say that post-sales are not good, they just seem to be far between.  Overall I have encountered far more post-sales people who are awesome technically, but you would only wheel them out in front of the customer when the deal is done.

Ability: Pre-Sales 7 Post-Sales 3

Overall Score: Pre-Sales 46 Post-Sales 34

Final Word

So the winner is pre-sales, why is that?

Pre-sales are the key to obtaining, winning and keeping customers.  Without pre-sales we wouldn’t need post-sales.  However if we take this full circle the actual winner is sales as without them we don’t have a requirement for pre or post sales.

Have your say, who do you think are better?

2014 – It’s A Wrap

2014 was a rollercoaster ride of a journey with tremendous highs and terrible lows.  One of the things I focused on during 2014 was to be ‘more’ concise.  With that in mind, this is what happened in ‘my 2014’.

Blog

  • Posted 34 blog posts
  • VMFocus received just over 375,000 visitors
  • VMFocus enters vSphere Lands Top 50 Bloggers list at number 42
  • Passed 200 overall blog posts (this being 206)
  • Entered my third year of blogging
  • Didn’t post in November 2014
    • First time I haven’t blogged in a month since VMFocus’s inception in May 2012

Community

Education

Fitness

  • Body Fat 8%
    • Achieved and maintained throughout 2014
  • Metabolic Age 22
  • Basal Metabolic Rate 1907 kcal

What’s In A Job Title?

Job TitleWhilst at VMworld Barcelona I had lots of conversations with colleagues, peers and strangers.  One item that cropped up was ‘pre-sales’ versus ‘post-sales’ and who was better.  Quite an interesting topic, which I want to discuss on an upcoming blog post.  Before that happens I wanted to cover job titles in IT, and what they generically mean that a person does.

In this context I’m focusing on the personnel involved with winning and delivering a project, not IT support and ‘business as usual’ operations.

Before anyone gets a bit upset about what they do specifically, this is meant to be a broad stroke blog post.  You will always find some businesses that call a job by another name.  Let me know if you don’t agree with my interpretation and I will update the post accordingly.

Pre Sales Job Titles

Bid Manager – Bring together a group of subject matter experts to write a tender response.  Play ‘tetris’ with words and make sure the tender response is coherent and flows.

Enterprise Architect – Works with clients to formulate a technical business strategy.  Often deeply engaged in business process and understands the internal politics of a customer.

Systems Engineers – Assist Sales people across a broad range of products and help guide clients up to a degree before handing in depth questions to subject matter experts

Senior System Engineers – Sames as System Engineers but normally focus on the ‘key client accounts’

Solutions Architect – Assist Sales people across a broad range of products and are subject matter experts in a particular field.  They help translate business needs into technical solutions.  Commonly Solutions Architect guide the customer to use a particular piece of software or technology to meet the business requirement.  Some Solutions Architects can Lead Architect a project if required.

Note Solutions Architects is fairly new in the infrastructure world, commonly used with computer programming.

Technical Account Manager – Typically a technical person who has become less technical (through choice) but has the ability to create a proposal for a customer which will form a sound basis for further discussion.

Post Sales Job Titles

Project Manager – Focused on deliverables and governance.  Ensuring customers are kept abreast of issues and risks that could affect the project outcomes.

Programme Manager – Are used on larger projects that have inter dependencies between workstreams and involve business transformation projects such as Enterprise Resource Planing solutions.  Responsible for ensuring that the business benefits of the programme are realised.

Technical Architect – Are focused in a particular discipline and are often the subject matter experts in this area.  These are the people who are engaged to create the ‘low level designs’ in there area of expertise, such as networking, storage, Exchange, Active Directory, System Center, Windows Desktop, vSphere, View etc.

Lead Architect – Are used on larger projects that use a wide number of Technical Architects.  Understand how everything ‘fits together’ and use this knowledge to ensure that design documentation is consistent from Technical Architects.  Plus they are responsible for guiding the Technical Architects for the duration of the project.

 

 

Top 3 Horizon View Flings

viewclientWhat Is A VMware Fling?

A fling is an application that addresses a specific need which isn’t found within a core VMware product such as Horizon View.  It has been created by a VMware employee to resolve or help with an issue.

VMware Flings are not supported so run at your own risk!

Top 3 Horizon View Flings

1. First place goes to Horizon View Event Notifier , when I was implementing a couple of small Horizon View environments, they didn’t have syslog facilities and this came to the rescue.

This tool connects to one or more existing Horizon View Event Database(s) and allows the user to customize which types of alerts to be notified on. It can be run from any Windows based system and it collects and sends the alerts via email (SMTP) to users that are specified during the configuration process. It allows aggregation of alerts across multiple Horizon View Pods and for near real-time alerting of Horizon View alerts that are otherwise very difficult to be notified on.

2. Second place goes to ViewDbChk, if you have used View, then I can almost guarantee you have had some type of provisioning error!  This fling scans for these errors and allows you to choose whether to remove them from the View Database.

The ViewDbChk tool allows administrators to scan for, and fix provisioning errors that can not be addressed using View Administrator. Provisioning errors occur when there are inconsistencies between the LDAP, vCenter and View Composer databases. These can be caused by: direct editing of the vCenter inventory, restoring a backup, or a long term network problem.

3. Third place goes to XenApp2Horizon, not used this yet, but what a useful tool to save the manual migration of apps from XenApp to Horizon!

The XenApp2Horizon Fling helps you migrate published applications and desktops from XenApp to Horizon View. One XenApp farm is migrated to one or more Horizon View farm(s).

The GUI wizard-based tool helps you:

Validate the View agent status on RDS hosts (from View connection server, and XenApp server)

Create farm

Validate application availability on RDS host

Migrate application/desktop to one or multiple farms (new or existing)

Migrate entitlements to new or existing applications/desktops. Combination of application entitlements are supported

Check environment

Identify incompatible features and configuration

Final Word

These flings take time and effort to create, most of which I would guess are done in the VMware Engineers own personal time.  Therefore, i would like to thank the following people for their efforts:

Keep the good work up chaps!