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Administrator Experience Matters!

by Mark Lockwood  |  September 10, 2015  |  1 Comment

In the world of end user computing, the refrain that everyone – including VDI vendors, DaaS providers, ecosystem partners, and even thin client manufacturers – is singing at the top of their lungs is about user experience.  And for good reason: good user experience is the foundation for not only user satisfaction, but also user productivity.  With anything less than an optimal user experience, enterprise IT is directly responsible for productivity loss, which is a bad situation for all.

However, an often-overlooked aspect of all of these EUC platforms and tools is the effort involved from the administrator to deploy, configure, manage, and troubleshoot them.  It is true that your IT administrators are used to deploying and maintaining difficult systems, but it is time to push our software vendors for ease of use not only from the user side, but from the administrator side as well.

As an example from the datacenter infrastructure world, traditional storage platforms require what I have typically called a “storage PhD” to manage and operate, and for that reason, silos of storage administration popped up in enterprises everywhere.  But over the last three years, something very interesting has happened: the democratization of storage – or maybe more accurately, the democratization of storage administration.  With today’s hyperconverged infrastructure platforms as well as all-flash array technology, storage administration has become incredibly simple.  You suddenly need to know very little or nothing about front ends, back ends, disk groups, and tiering; the storage software and design just take care of it for you.  That means that you can deploy one of these new storage models, hand over the administration of it to your desktop team, or your application team, or your janitor – and that team or person can run it.

Now there is no question that hyperconvergence and all-flash arrays have dramatically improved user experience due to performance improvements; but an almost equally important reason organizations are interested in these technologies is that they can help those companies save tremendous time and effort in installation and management of storage.

 

 

How does this relate to EUC?  For too long, the management of VDI in particular has been strenuous and at times veered into the same “PhD” category as storage used to.  On top of the complexity of setting up images, pools, sizing, brokers, security gateways, entitlements, etc., the administrator has always tried to find that one extra tool that will finally make VDI all it can be.  You need an assessment tool; you need a monitoring tool (or tools); you want a user personalization management tool; you probably want to consider a layering tool; the list doesn’t seem to end.  What happens when you start adding all of these items together?  You introduce complexity and fragility into your VDI environment; one wrong move in one of your half-dozen consoles and boom – people are standing in the hallways of your building talking to each other about how much they hate VDI.

The ecosystem of VDI exists for a reason.  Though they may try, the big VDI vendors are not able to completely cover all of the supporting software needs of a large enterprise VDI deployment.  However, the ecosystem partners that fill in those gaps should avoid at all costs their product being “yet another console”.  The management console(s) in use for VDI must be simple, intuitive, and broadly available.  Above all, the overall management of VDI should be getting easier, not more difficult and more complex. How can all of these things be accomplished?

 

 

I present to you the VDI Administrators’ Manifesto.

 

  1. VDI vendors must strive to include basic aspects of profile management, monitoring, and reporting in all available SKUs of their VDI product.  As an example, quick, canned reports about user concurrency, types and quantities of endpoints connected, licenses used, system health and usage, and growth should not require a higher SKU or a third party product.

 

  1. Any VDI administration console must be accessible from any HTML5-compliant browser without need for Flash, Java, Silverlight, or other add-ons to properly control the VDI environment.  Requirements for these add-ons severely limit the administrator’s ability to manage the VDI platform from anywhere on any device and therefore, when required, indicate a level of tone-deafness (at best) from the vendor in question.

 

  1. The VDI vendor management platform must be fully extensible. By allowing the ecosystem to plug directly into the VDI platform itself via API, scripting, or SDK, the major VDI vendors will allow a tremendous reduction in the number of consoles the administrator must use to manage his or her VDI environment.

 

  1. Ecosystem vendors must be willing to write into this extensible management platform. Extra consoles mean extra management complexity – and complexity is the enemy.  Of course, this is not extra complexity for the end user – but what is your administrator’s time worth?

 

  1. Each new release of a VDI platform or a third-party VDI tool should strive to eliminate complexity and save time and effort for the administrator. Without question, this cannot come at the expense of a degraded user experience, but vendors must continually focus on ease of implementation and management of their product.

 

  1. New features introduced in either a VDI platform or a third-party tool must be made easy to implement and simple to understand and use.  If a new feature requires PSO help to implement, it should not be included in the product until its installation and use has been simplified.

 

 

 

There you have it: six core principles that should be followed by any vendor involved in VDI in order to head off complexity and increase the productivity (and sanity) of VDI administrators.

 

 

What did I miss?  If you are a VDI administrator and could add to the manifesto, what would you add?

 

Category: 

Mark Lockwood
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
20 years IT Industry

Mark Lockwood is a Research Director in the Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) team. He works in the Cloud and Virtualization Strategy group, specializing in end-user computing. Current areas of focus include hosted virtual desktops, application delivery and virtualization. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Administrator Experience Matters!


  1. JH says:

    As a recovering VDI admin, I appreciate your concern and agree on all points. Some additional suggestions:

    – VDI products should have robust delegation of administration to support multiple teams performing different types of support.

    – VDI venders should perform QA at scale in complex environments that simulate an enterprise, not a small business.



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