We all compete in the IT marketplace, a space continually being crowded by shiny new bobbles. And right alongside them are the equally shiny rebranded and relaunched technologies that generate new buzz words and plenty of client confusion.
Among these technologies is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI. VDI seems to always be suffering from a terrible disease only recently discovered by professionals. It’s called, gulp – Bandwagon-Jumping-Customer-Base-itis, commonly brought on by an equally virulent sickness, VDI Naysayers’ Disease.
The VDI Naysayers’ Disease is most commonly the result of firsthand experience or an opinion built on information shared through corporate and personal media channels. The IT marketplace is littered with countless VDI implementations that have failed to meet the demands of the production environment, but we have the opportunity to address the Naysayers. We’re here to talk about the prescription for success.
To understand the intricacies of VDI, let’s first take the cloud as an example. Consider all the recent buzz and gold rush surrounding the word “cloud.” But what exactly is it made of? Is the cloud storage? It can be. Is it infrastructure? Sure, that’s a component. Is it software? Yes, in all forms of computing there is software.
Out of this virtualization revolution came (annoyingly unending acronyms included) Desktop as a Service (DaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), Network as a Service (NaaS), Software as a Service (Saas) or, wait… perhaps Storage as a Service (Saas)? We can let Gartner decide that one. Encapsulate all these components, and you have the foundation of VDI.
Inside of each one of these components, there are countless configurable subsets. When used in combination, they can cause failure, a poor user experience, or both. This is an extremely important point in overcoming the naysayer, and it’s exactly why they need an experienced vendor. The solution? Standards, experience, and proven product set.
Let’s talk about the objections first.
Critics of VDI fall mainly into two groups: Those with objections focused on the technology, and others who’ve been burned by bad experiences or seen bad press.
It’s always a good idea to begin by understanding their objections, being prepared with facts, and frankly discussing the reality of VDI’s benefits in today’s IT world.
Within the infrastructure-related objections, the concerns we hear the most are about complexity, performance, cost, and security. But VDI has an answer to each of these! We can break these technology-based concerns down.
Because it includes several infrastructure components, along with the application layer, VDI is inherently complex. Servers, storage, network, and applications each have their own proprietary configuration requirements. So yes, VDI is complex. But that’s really no reason to shy away from implementing the technology. You don’t take the stairs because the elevator’s too complex, do you? Good exercise aside, we benefit from complex systems because we trust the experts in that discipline.
The takeaway: Complexity is inherent to any system, but to the client, you’re actually reducing it. By bringing together all the elements, you can simplify things for the client while still allowing them to retain control. Standardization and automated provisioning (with related reporting) gives clients what they really want without traversing the complexity.
Historically, that littered landscape of failure was often due to performance issues, issues that were difficult to diagnose, and when discovered, difficult to correct. But Server Infrastructure has seen costs go down and density increase.
Additionally, processor core costs are down while speeds have increased, and densities have grown. Storage IOPS and SAN networking backplanes have improved, too. Rotating disks are being replaced by solid state (memory) drives. Network technology has matured with bandwidth no longer an issue from hosting facilities. For the application tier, general interoperability has greatly improved with standardized API methodologies and publication. Combine these improvements with VDI standardization, and MSPs will equate to better performance and increased confidence in meeting those corporate SLAs.
The takeaway: Performance impacts the user experience, and any bad user experience causes loss of confidence. Be proactive in your offerings to help squash these concerns.
You often hear that VDI is too expensive. But when you add up the elements and analyze cost, it’s likely to be cheaper than the alternatives. This is really the foundation of managed services– lessening the time and money spent by your clients on things outside of their strategic direction.
The client does not have to purchase, provide for, and manage all the infrastructure elements. Examine the ratio of IT staff to users and the incremental cost of managing the tasks of licensing, deploying, patching, and basic help desk services to your user community. Add to these the costly tasks of of finding, developing, and retaining good talent in a difficult and shorted marketplace. Many clients are constantly recruiting talent for these lower level tasks because, while important, they’re just not attractive. The best talent will quickly advance or leave for greener pastures, and again, these tasks are not part of the strategic IT initiatives that are necessary for a growing organization.
The takeaway: Cost, as we all know, is a constant pressure in IT. There are far too many good project requests with a fixed budget. Your job as an MSP is to demonstrate how you free up resources for strategic projects, help retain talent, and simplify the mundane.
It’s certainly a tall order to ask your client to transition the security portion of their business to an IT-as-a-service VDI model. Given the current climate of cybercrime, you’re looking at a nearly impossible request. Their concerns can be especially understandable when even leading politicians and government have recently had breaches of their information.
You can ease clients’ concerns by explaining that trustworthy software stacks include the best-of-breed antivirus, anti-spam, encryption, and spyware components. We’re talking constantly reviewed and automatically updated and patched. Care for their security is of utmost importance, so it should be continuously monitored.
The takeaway: Security is paramount – we all know it. Your success is based on your protection of clients’ data from the physical to the virtual. It’s essential to build a trusting relationship so clients know their data and their customers’ data is as safe as possible.
Everyone has read about project failure or experienced one firsthand Your client could’ve had trouble with a product they were sold, or had a failed proof of concept. Worst of all is the failed full project. We all know a client who’s done a DIY IT project with confidence, trusting their team (who may be very talented), and still failed. Hey, we’ve all been there.
You need to learn about the client’s past experience, then individually tailor your response and proposal to address their objections and conceived notions.
Let’s understand a few common reasons for your clients’ past failures:
“ABC consulting sold us (Xen App, XenDesktop, Horizon, Quest, Wyse, etc.), and it just never worked.” Sound familiar? The key word here is sold. The client’s environment was shoehorned into a single product offering or a combination of products, expecting to meet their need by consolations. They were expected to adapt to what was sold, an occurrence that happens too often in our industry.
Unless the client is considering application and work process modernization, this approach is doomed. Additionally, the reseller and support behind them, often large organizations, find excuses when the project fails – even pointing blame on the client or users. Not good.
You’re more likely to run into this on the smaller side of SMB. We refer to it as a classic case of VDI and the novice. It’s the client with a limited, sometimes over-confident IT staff who are excited to try new things but shun outside help. And their confidence, admirable as it may be, can get them in over their heads. Think back to the complexity objection. VDI is very complex, and unfortunately for the novice, it’s a minefield of potential failure.
Be careful here. IT management is probably a small, close knit, and stressed out group, and we have a sneaking suspicion that they aren’t the most trusting of managed services. POCs or moving a department is often the best approach. Get them hooked first, then moving the rest of their users to VDI will be much easier.
Users will not tolerate any negative impacts to their productivity. Always remember that your clients have a business to run. IT is most likely not their primary business, and to many C Level executives, IT is just a necessary evil.
The client may have tried some form of VDI technology with a vendor, and they may still have a relationship with that vendor, especially if it is a reseller of hardware. Find out why their previous VDI attempt failed, then assure them that your services will be a success.
You should feel comfortable entering a relationship with the client, confident that you offer the best solution. Success and reference-able accounts are not about replicating what others in the industry do, but about knowing, communicating, and delivering the best of VDI products and managed services to each client, every time. To do so, be at the forefront of the VDI services space, a proven IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) platform with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology at its core.
VDI offerings that are designed, created, tested in wide production, and contained within a set of standards take the risk out of deployment. Remove complexity and test the hard and soft components, thus eliminating the issues that have traditionally arisen from combination configurations. Plan carefully for a repeatable process, which is made possible through provisioning tools, supported by a methodology.
Managing the routine IT tasks is not where companies want to spend their time, money, and talent. They want to use their IT resources toward strategic initiatives. In other words, you want to drive your car, not change the oil. VDI allows organizations to “drive their car” more efficiently and productively.
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