Why do we see increasingly see cost concerns in VDI environments? As I mentioned, many of my recent customers already have an existing POC, pilot or (smaller) production environment in place and consider moving to their phase 2. Some of those also use it as external or internal desktop clouds and desktop as a service (DaaS) offerings. And yes, having proven that the concept technically works means that they are exploring to include more complex user categories. But more importantly, moving forward many realise that optimisation is needed to make the cost cases for desktop virtualization viable.
Typically pilots sacrifice optimisation or elaborate business models for the sake of simplicity in order to “make the concept a success” … the result …?
Typically pilots sacrifice optimisation or elaborate business models for the sake of simplicity in order to “make the concept a success”. Aspects like stateless desktops, sophisticated user profiling, application virtualization, storage alternatives, hybrid models with session virtualization, tiered charging etc are often afterthoughts or consciously targeted for “phase 2″ – resulting in challenges for the financial model.
One of the biggest mistakes that can be made upfront is to sell VDI as “cost saver”. One of my first questions in kick-off meetings typically is (it really is) “what is your main driver to adopt VDI?” and if the answer is “cost reduction” then I know we are off to a bad start.
But in the interest of time I will not go into the challenges of quantifying the “soft benefits” of VDI and how much more difficult this is than making the case for server virtualization where the consolidation ratio only typically makes it a “no-brainer”. I’ll rather describe what has been an underlying root-cause for many of the experienced cost challenges with VDI architectures.
Let me simply re-enact an actual conversation I had with a service provider in the Nordics (with a medium production environment – looking to increase capacity for the DaaS like offering but facing cost challenges).
He (client): “Our VDI environment is too expensive, we currently charge this particular client less than it costs us”
Me: “What’s costing you too much?”
He: “mainly our storage” (Enterprise NAS – no names)
Me: “Do you need it”?
He: “Sure! We are using it for our entire virtualization estate!
Me: “You mean server virtualization estate”?
He: Yes … and now also VDI.
Me: So let me ask you again, do you need it?
He: “As I said, yes … well … I think we need it … you tell me! Do we?
Me: “It depends … ” (his smile disappears hearing the “get-out” clause ) ”Do you use persistent or pooled desktops, how are your images delivered etc. … ?”
He: “Non-persistent, PVS delivered”
Me: “Really? 100% pooled?” (as not very common across larger estates)
He: “yes, this client is” (…ah, sub-set)
Me: “So yes, that might be possible then, we could look into DAS for the PVS write cache, swap etc. and eliminate SAN. “
He: “But my guys told me that we need the NAS with lots of disks to satisfy the user numbers.”
Me: “Yes, we’ll need to look into IOPS requirement and capacity. We could use SSD-based local storage to get the IOPS but also need to check capacity (as they run >100 images on a 4 socket server)
He: “But does that not mean we lose VMotion and VMware HA?”
He: (a defensive frown appears now) “We can’t do it then!”
He: “That would mean (planned) downtime and increased recovery time”
Me: (deliberately not explaining that you could achieve HA and VMotion-like uptime for VDI through broker and pooled images) – I rather made the point: “Do you provide higher uptime, quicker recovery time, faster deployment and faster reconfiguration times now than previously with physical desktops to these customers?
He: “Of course!”
Me: “Do you charge more for it?”
He: “Ehm, no, our clients said right from the start that they do not want to pay more than for their physical desktops”
Me: “Understand, but you currently lose money because you decided to offer a BETTER service for the SAME cost to them …”
He: (defensive frown disappears) “Hm, I suppose that’s true, so what shall we do?”
Me: “Do you believe your clients realize that they receive a better service?”
He: (pauses) “Actually… probably not … I mean it’s all working well, no outages, no downtime, but in reality they would only come to me if something failed, not because it’s working well”.
Me: 1) “Tier your offering”
“Create a base (e.g. bronze) offering which is providing at least the same level of functionality as their old physical environment. But do not add functionality if it costs you extra, you will probably find that it will be more flexible anyway. TALK to them about silver and gold offerings (that include those added levels of availability and flexibility). That will a) ensure that they understand what they get and b) tell you whether they are willing to pay for these benefits.
Based on the outcome create those offerings (or consciously not).
Common sense? Probably. But you would be surprised (I was) how many even larger clients fall into the trap. Yes, we all got used to eliminated downtime through live migration, recovery of failed workloads in minutes rather than days through integrated HA mechanisms, deployment and system reconfiguration times of minutes rather than weeks.
Most of us consider this (rightly or not) “standard” in the world of server virtualization.
Do NOT make the mistake and apply your server virtualization base-line automatically to your desktop environment – the challenging nature of VDI business cases does typically not tolerate this approach.
But do NOT make the mistake and apply this base line automatically to your desktop environment – not without understanding the implications – the challenging nature of VDI business cases does typically not tolerate this approach.
You can of course argue that there are various other (possibly more important) issues or maybe you just completely disagree with me here … if so, let us know what patterns and challenges you are seeing out there in the real world …
Interested in recent changes to the VDI landscape …? See Part 4 – Rethinking my view of VMware’s end-user capabilities – The Impact of VMware’s recent announcements…