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FCW : August 15, 2013
Finding new ways to manage virtual desktops Virtual desktops have transitioned from an interesting idea to a technology strategy that agencies embrace for increas- ingly large deployments. Consider the following: The Energy Department s desk- top virtualization pilot has expanded to 500 seats and could grow well beyond that. The Navy kicked off a 7,500-seat desktop virtualization project last year, and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has installed about 18,000 virtual desktops on two networks so far. That s a signi cant shift from the small-scale demonstration projects that emerged ve years ago. The technology and deployment methods behind such projects are now well-de ned and familiar to IT depart- ments. With application virtualization, an organization streams software to desktop computers to run on the locally installed operating system. The virtual desktop infrastruc- ture (VDI) approach, on the other hand, hosts desktops as virtual machines running on a central server. Applications, operating systems and data reside in the data center. Large-scale virtualization projects often compel agencies to revisit security policies, pay closer attention to con gura- tion management and assess the types of technical expertise they need to have on hand. Therefore, a key consideration for adopters has become virtual desktop administration. "We are seeing a shift in the skill set and in the experi- ence needed," said Donald Adcock, deputy CIO for energy IT services at DOE. Why it matters The fundamental differences between physical and virtual machines drive the need for a new desktop administra- tion regimen. Virtualization moves the key components of the desktop to the server room, leaving little to manage on the client side. Indeed, a zero-client box provides the ability to connect with a desktop-hosting server and not much beyond that. So although traditional PCs required considerable desk-side support, that s not the case for the minimalist hardware devices used in a virtual desktop set- ting, and the bulk of the management activities thus shift to the server side. Furthermore, with server-oriented computing, users par- take of a shared resource --- and that changes the adminis- tration game because what a user does on his or her virtual desktop could affect what other users experience on theirs. "If one person is watching full-motion videos on their particular virtual desktop, it will have an impact on those sharing the same [computing] resources," said Michael Mes- trovich, senior technology of cer for innovation at DIA. The agency has deployed slightly fewer than 12,000 vir- tual desktops on its top secret Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System and about 6,000 virtual desktops on its secret network. Mestrovich said desktop virtualization has enabled the agency s thin clients to support a range of activities, from viewing video shot by unmanned aerial vehicles to partici- pating in town hall meetings via streaming video. But to make virtual desktops work, organizations need to under- stand the types of applications customers run and how those applications affect the CPU, network and storage resources of the underlying infrastructure. The fundamentals Government and industry executives point to a number of administrative issues agencies can expect to encounter ExecTe c h BY JOHN MOORE The move to virtual machines requires a fresh look at security, standardization and the skills of your IT employees 26 August 15, 2013 FCW.COM
July 30, 2013
August 30, 2013