Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) can greatly simplify managing individual machines, but isn’t always popular with end users. Andrew Dimech, head of IT at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), offers some simple tips on how to ensure VDI is widely adopted.
ANSTO worker picture: Getty Images
Dimech, who has worked at ANSTO for two-and-a-half years, shared insights into how the rollout of VDI has been managed at a VMware media event last week. He said the setup has been an “IT nightmare” when he began, and that the need for the nuclear agency to ensure tight compliance meant that process needed to be improved. VDI has been an important part of this process.
Don’t rely solely on cost
One common argument for VDI is that it’s cheaper: you can use cheaper thin client hardware and management costs are lower. That’s true, but selling the project solely on cost savings won’t drive engagement.
“When I sold this to the executive, it was cost-efficient but more about enablement. It also readied us for the cloud,” Dimech said.
A common concern about VDI is that performance will be poorer than on stand-alone desktops. That isn’t necessarily the case, and explaining that to staff is vital. “I guaranteed their virtual desktop would match their physical desktop,” Dimech said. That helped convince some “box huggers” that the switch wouldn’t impact them.
It isn’t necessarily exclusive
Approximately 45 per cent of ANSTO staff are researchers, who need to be able to control and administer their own machines. Rolling out VDI gave them secure and managed access to core corporate resources such as email, but didn’t restrict their ability to run their own apps.
Sell travel as a key feature
An added benefit of VDI is that it made travel access much easier, while ensuring confidential data (we are talking nuclear science here, after all). At any one time, typically between 50 and 70 ANSTO staff are on the road. Performance is also a concern here, but Dimech says there have been no issues. “On a 3G connection, you smash it.”
Don’t use if it doesn’t suit
Recognise that even with the flexibility to allow booting to a regular desktop, there might still be circumstances where VDI doesn’t work. “Not everyone is a VDI candidate,” Dimech said.