As virtualization technology has advanced over the years, more and more businesses have ditched traditional end user computing options in favor of virtual desktops that are accessible on any device, and hosted in a central data center. But migrating from physical desktops to a virtualized end user computing environment is never an easy or straight-forward process. Generally speaking, the time to get from fully physical to your desired end-state (75-80% virtualized, typically) will be on the order of a few years. In some scenarios with complex use cases, tons and tons of users, and so on, that time period may be even three to five years. For those about to embark on the years-long journey, or ready to take the next step at least, there is one approach that can help to ease the transition to VDI – the use of full clones instead of linked or instant clones.
Before I get too far though, I should mention that there’s a bit of a “holy war” involved with one of the assumptions that I make in this article. That being, that there is a desired end-state where virtual desktops are completely stateless and user settings, files, etc., are managed by an external user environment management (UEM) solution. This is the stance that I take and will be writing to. If you don’t adhere to that position, never fear! All of the advice on managing full clone persistent virtual desktops still applies.
First, a little background on linked and instant clones vs. full clones. VMware Horizon 7 has multiple options for minimizing datastore disk space consumption by VDI desktops, those being linked clones and instant clones. These deployment mechanisms can provide an immense amount of storage capacity savings; however, operationally, they are very, very different from physical PCs. For use cases that require user setting and data persistence, UEM is a requirement. On top of that, typically newer and more complex application delivery methods are leveraged. Full clones, on the other hand, use the same operational processes as physical desktops. This can make the transition from physical to virtual much easier, and is often seen as a good first step towards the end-state mentioned above. This approach is not without drawbacks, however. There is no storage space saving mechanism inherent to full clone desktops. Additionally, all of a sudden the EUC administrator has to care about the state of each and every desktop.
During this transition period from physical to virtual desktops, and perhaps even after you’re finished, your business will need to maintain both a large number of physical desktops along side your virtual environment. The ability to manage all of those desktops with a unified solution, be that Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or newer tools like Microsoft InTune or VMware AirWatch to manage Windows 10, is absolutely huge for enterprise desktop management. To fully embrace that single point of management and ease transition, it’s often a good idea to leverage full clone virtual desktops with persistent user assignment. That is, the user gets the same desktop each time they log in, applications are thick installed into the VM, and user data persists locally. Essentially, we’re talking about the same overall data and application management as your physical desktops.
Now, earlier I mentioned that one of the the commonly cited drawbacks of full clone desktops is that they take up more space than linked or instant clones. With SimpliVity OmniStack and the underlying Data Virtualization Platform, we offer best-in-breed data reduction via in-line deduplication and compression, allowing you to store your full clone desktops as space efficiently as linked clones. This is a key consideration when planning your migration, as it allows you to plan for your end state. If this wasn’t the case, you’d end up overbuying on capacity for space-inefficient full clones, or worse, compromising on your migration strategy due to platform limitations.
When you move a user’s desktop out of their cubicle and into your datacenter, there’s an expectation that the virtual desktop will be both highly available and quickly recoverable. When you get to that desired end-state of fully non-persistent desktops, there are a myriad of ways to protect that redirected user persona depending on the UEM solution used. Until you get to that point, though, you need a rock solid method for protecting the individual full clone desktops themselves. SimpliVity enables you to protect these full clone desktops in the event of a major disaster in your datacenter, as outlined in our newly published SimpliVity OmniStack with VMware Horizon 7 Reference Architecture. Leveraging built-in backup and recovery functionality in the OmniStack platform, along with SimpliVity’s new RapidDR disaster recovery automation tool, you can quickly get your end users back up and running.
To bring it all home, using full clones instead of linked clones can be a good first step on your journey towards a fully virtualized EUC environment. Don’t let disk storage capacity be the only reason you complicate the journey – SimpliVity enables the use of full clones without compromising space efficiency. On top of that, you get the benefits of maintaining operational processes between physical and virtual desktops, along with all of the resiliency and data protection features that are built-in to SimpliVity’s platform.