Today, VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) is an evolving trend in the market as companies want to connect with their employees at any place and anytime, maintaining business continuity and operating costs.
The total cost of ownership for a desktop PC is around $5,400 per PC per year according to a study. The number increases as the PC depreciates. That said, due to high cost of managing and securing PCs, many companies are searching for good options. This is one of the reasons why NHS Shared Business Services went live with desktop virtualization in November 2015.
Why NHS shared business services opted for desktop virtualization
“The overall management of the assets and individual configuration of devices was time consuming and leading to high cost for the company. For example, if a system goes bad, a lot of maintenance is required,” says Archie Jackson, general manager - IT, NHS Business Services.
Moreover, the upgradation of applications and software was arduous. In a VDI environment, the IT department can save enormous amounts of time and money because everything is centralized.
In a VDI environment, each desk has a monitor, which is connected through a server to the main network. Importantly, the servers will host local drives and shared drives. “The desktops were managed with the standard domain called Nexus. In a VDI environment, we created a new domain called Aurora. This is a virtual LAN design. It goes to multiple locations in India and UK. The configuration includes core switches, so when a power outage occurs, we will move from one switch to another,” says Jackson.
In a VDI environment, the IT department can save enormous amounts of time and money because everything is centralized.
Then they created a SCCM (system center configuration manager) environment in Aurora domain. It is a package of all the applications like MS Office and other transactional applications.
Next, Jackson and his IT team did a baseline automated deployment mechanism. “If there were some gaps, we looked into it. For example, Adobe PDF Reader may conflict with Firefox and plug-ins might not work effectively. These things will impact the stability of the VDI. We will solve it by looking at which version of the Adobe PDF Reader or Firefox would be more stable and compatible with each other. This is known as target operating model,” says Jackson.
The company hosted VDI environment on Windows 7 and published CBT (computer based training) course to increase awareness. “With respect to desktops, we automated overnight deployment of Windows 7 with migration to Aurora domain. And then we prioritized the laptop users and moved them into a VDI,” explains Jackson.
NHS business services rides on the crest of a wave
“The productivity of employees has gone up by 35 percent. In a VDI, there are huge scalability options, whereas in a PC, there is only limited capability,” says Jackson.
In a VDI environment, it is easier to extract reports as compared to a standalone system. There is no need for license compliance. It eliminates risk of requirement to retrospectively license applications through more effective management of software installations.
For example, “If I have a desktop at my desk with Windows 7, then there are different licenses for applications. Moving into a VDI will be different because it won’t be asset based licensing, it will be user based licensing.”
Importantly, desktop virtualization allows end users to have the ability to access their desktops from anywhere at any time. And since all the data resides in the DC, it is more secure.
“In a VDI environment, a laptop user visiting another site will automatically be mapped to the nearest printer and web server. For instance, if I go to the UK for a week, I can login with my usual India credentials and map the nearest printer. In a VDI, everything will be automatic,” says Jackson.
Jackson has a strong message for CIOs who wish to jump into desktop virtualization: “You need to take risks and do strong project planning before taking the plunge. If this is not done, the entire project will go for a toss,” says Jackson.