Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock to Making Your FlexCast Decision

We all wish picking FlexCast was as easy as playing Rock-Paper-Scissors.

In reality, the FlexCast decision is more like Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock.

Unfortunately, many people go down the path of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Gun-Ligntning-Devil-Dragon-Water-Air-Sponge-Wolf-Tree-Human-Snake-Fire

There is a lot of anxiety with making the FlexCast decision because it directly impacts the capabilities of the assigned users. When should I pick

  • Pooled VDI vs. Hosted Shared
  • Streamed VHD vs. Streamed VDI
  • PvD vs. Remote PC

This decision is even more challenging because there is no single question that can be asked to decide the appropriate model. So let’s not ask a single question. Let’s ask 6 J

Let’s say you have a user group that must be locked down so that they cannot make any customizations to their virtual environment. Which model would I use?

Seems easy… Hosted Shared.

Not so fast. This might not be the best option.

First, what models can support a “No personalization” requirement (I talked about the personalization requirement in a previous blog)? All of them, D’oh! Even a dedicated desktop “would” work, but seems like a bad idea. Why give users a virtual desktop that is based on a use case of complete personalization when they need no personalization?

If we narrow this down, our best option would most likely be Hosted Shared desktops (just like we originally said), but a Pooled VDI and Streamed VHD are just as capable and should be considered as good options.

What if the organization has already deployed XenDesktop to some users and currently has no deployment of XenApp? Is Hosted Shared still the best option? Not really. I would probably opt for Pooled VDI because the organization already knows how to deploy/manage. If we go for Hosted Shared, that is a new environment, a new thing to learn and support.

What if this user group is local and has applications that run pretty hot (lots of CPU, RAM or graphics)? Is Pooled VDI still the best option? Maybe, but Streamed VHD looks pretty good too.

What if solution must be cost-conscience? I’m now moving further into the Streamed VHD camp. Use local hardware instead of purchasing a lot of servers, definitely cheaper alternative.

This is how Project Accelerator determines FlexCast. It gathers information across many different categories and ranks the FlexCast models appropriately as Good, Better, Best and Bad. The one “scoring” the highest is our recommendation. Any FlexCast model receiving a single “Bad” rating in any category is removed from further consideration.

So you might be asking, what are the categories you use to rank each FlexCast model?

At the user group level, we have the following:

  1. Personalization
  2. Security
  3. Mobility
  4. Risk

At the organizational level, we also use:

  1. Technical Skillsets
  2. Business Priorities

The user group level allows us to rank FlexCast models based on capabilities, while the organizational level helps us break a tie. The model must fit the user requirements first.

If you want to learn more, then look at the “Assess-User Segmentation” section of the Citrix Virtual Desktop Handbook.

Daniel – Lead Architect
Follow @djfeller
Project Accelerator
Citrix Virtual Desktop Handbook


The importance of user personalization within your virtual desktop

I just got off the phone with Citrix helpdesk because I finally messed up my virtual desktop. I have a dedicated virtual desktop and I guess I installed/uninstalled too many things over the past few years. The same thing always happened to me with a traditional desktop. The good thing is that it only took the helpdesk a few moments to reset my virtual desktop to a base image and I didn’t have to sit and install Windows 7 and Office for the 100th time.

This experience got me to the next question from Project Accelerator: The importance of personalization.

We all know what personalization is. What rights you, as a user, have in altering the initial state of the desktop/application environment. Can you change a setting in an app? Can you install apps? Can you change OS-level settings? Can you even change the background (seriously???)

Why does personalization matter? We need to align the technical solution with the user requirements. In Project Accelerator, we break this down into three levels:

  1. No personalization: User cannot modify any desktop or app setting (similar to a kiosk)
  2. Basic personalization: User can modify user-level settings within desktops and apps
  3. Complete personalization: User can make any change, including installing applications

Easy, just pick the one most appropriate for your users group. Let’s think hard about this because if you get this wrong, your users will be ready to revolt. Imagine you gave a user a pooled desktop. They installed an app. The next day, the app is gone. User thinks this is strange. Maybe I was under severe medications yesterday and I only imagined myself installing the app. So they do it again. Bam, next day, the app is gone. Now they start to get angry and they let you know about it.

This scenario plays out all the time. If you assess your users, you should understand what level of personalization they require. The “No Personalization” item is usually the easiest to identify as these users typcially make up a very specific use case.  However, we often get into the debate between Basic and Complete.   I say when in doubt, go with complete. Your users will be happier in the long term, which will probably make you happier as well.

As you can imagine, this one decision plays a big role in determining what kind of virtual desktop the user gets, but it does more than that. This one question influences:

  • FlexCast: what type of virtual desktop the user receives
  • Deployment order of your user group
  • Which folders to redirect
  • What type of profile to use
  • What type of XenClient image to use
  • XenClient backup storage requirements

Choose wisely.

Daniel – Lead Architect
Follow @djfeller

An Architect’s Guide to Desktop Virtualization

What does it take to be a desktop virtualization architect?

Being able to say “It depends” in twelve different languages is a great start.

  • English (American): It depends
  • English (Australian): It depends
  • English (British): It depends
  • English (Canadian): It depends
  • German: je nachdem
  • Spanish: eso depende
  • French: elle dépend
  • Dutch: het hangt ervan
  • Italian: dipende
  • Swahilli: inategemea
  • Chinese: 视情况而定
  • Japanese: それは場合による

Translations courtesy of Google Translator. For all I know, I just said “My hovercraft is full of eels” in many different languages. 

Seriously, the reason why an architect says “It depends” so much is because we don’t have enough information to make the best decision, or even an educated guess. To put simply, it depends on the circumstances. Unfortunately, “It depends” isn’t the answer; it is the start of a longer discussion meant to uncover the underlying challenges and goals. And because a true desktop virtualization solution can take on so many different forms, the time to develop the skills as an architect can be quite long.

How do we shorten this timeframe? It starts with gaining an understanding of the information one needs to gather, how that information goes into defining user groups and virtualization models and identifying/selecting the appropriate design decisions.

This is a huge undertaking, and one we are excited to take on. As you might have seen, we recently released the Citrix Virtual Desktop Handbook, which grew out of the successful Citrix XenDesktop Handbook (we are creative with names ). We wanted to focus on more than XenDesktop because desktop virtualization is so much more than VDI. We want to create an all-encompassing guide for an architect.

Version 1 of the handbook focuses on the Assess phase, which identifies what you need to know and do to successfully start your project. This is only the start. We are getting close to releasing version 2, which will include portions of the design section (this is the part that excites most architects).

If you haven’t already, download the handbook, find a comfy chair, and let us know what you think of the initial release.

Stay tuned for more

Daniel – Lead Architect
Follow @djfeller