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FCW : August 15, 2013
tion and its template-based approach, it s easy to clone a speci c type of desktop environment, use it for hundreds or thousands of users, and easily replace it if something needs to be changed." That method also applies to traditional desktop com- puters, but agencies often make exceptions for users with needs beyond the standard con guration. Those agencies end up maintaining multiple images, each of which must be secured and updated. Proliferation, however, can also occur with virtual desktop images if IT departments don t actively avoid it. "If you don t maintain some kind of control over gover- nance, you will nd yourself with the same thing in the virtualized envi- ronment," Adcock said. "You will quickly nd yourself [with] multiple images that have to be maintained and accounted for and tracked." IT personnel managing virtual desktops should also take security into account. Ken Liska, a virtual- ization specialist for NetApp s U.S Public Sector, said organizations might have security policies and systems in place that add overhead and cost but don t provide extra pro- tection for virtual desktops. Some security measures, such as antivirus software, are unnecessary for zero clients because they lack an operat- ing system. The need for remote control in a VDI setting also has security implica- tions. "Many client security systems are in place speci cally to prevent the remote control of a client oper- ating system," said José Padin, a systems engineer manager at Citrix Systems. "VDI...is inherently about remotely controlling the virtual cli- ent operating system. The two systems are diametrically opposed." To remedy that issue, most security systems provide the means to "containerize" client operating systems and apply different security policies to each container, Padin said. Host-based intrusion-prevention systems, for instance, can be con gured to permit remote control for virtual desktops while preventing remote control of a physical endpoint. The hurdles The task of getting everyone up to speed on the new environment could prove the main obstacle to effective virtual desktop administration. "These are newer technologies, so the agency skill varies depending on how long the agency has used this technology and how far into the process they have gone," said Jim Leake, vice president of the end-user comput- ing portfolio at Unisys. "For agencies just exploring the concept, the learning curve can be steep." Virtualization vendors offer help in that regard. Mes- trovich said VMware, Citrix and Microsoft all offer cours- es that focus on virtual desktop administration skills. Technical certi cations are also available. Citrix, for one, offers a certi ca- tion program for its XenDesktop 5. In addition to sending people for training in VDI, DIA also looks for people --- both contractors and federal employees --- who have experience and certi cations in virtual desktops, Mestrovich said. Help-desk employees should also be included in virtual desk- top training. Help-desk personnel need to be aware of the hosting infrastructure and desktop pro- visioning technology to do their jobs effectively. Liska cited a case in which the support staff was left out of the education loop and, as a consequence, ended up troubleshooting virtual desktops as though they were physical machines. Virtual desktops add to the complexity of the triage stage from the help desk s perspective, Leake said. When users call in to report that their machines have become sluggish, there are several elements to consider. "The help desk must determine if the issue is being caused by a thin client, the network, the hosted machine or the app," Leake said. The good news, he said, is that the x is typically easier to apply in a virtual setting than it is on a physical desktop. ■ Organizations that are putting a virtual desktop plan into action might want to consider the fol- lowing tools and technologies: • Remote control. These tools let help-desk staffers and systems administrators remotely log into a virtual desktop to troubleshoot problems. • Virtual infrastructure monitor- ing. These tools can help admin- istrators track virtual desktop performance metrics and trace problems back to the data center. • Storage optimization. Special- ized software or appliances can boost shared storage and address issues such as boot storms. Resources for administrators 28 August 15, 2013 FCW.COM ExecTe c h
July 30, 2013
August 30, 2013