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Transforming Seattle Children’s Hospital with UCS and Desktop Virtualization

June 7, 2011
at 6:42 pm PST

One of the key takeaways I heard consistently at the recent Citrix Synergy conference was the fact that you shouldn’t just do IT for IT’s sake: Your top consideration should be the end user experience. That’s one of the key lessons Seattle Children’s Hospital learned when it recently deployed Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) blade to support a 3000-plus deployment of virtual desktops and zero clients. This deployment and Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) as a whole was the topic of a panel discussion at the conference.

The panelists included Aaron Cockerill, Senior Director of Product Management at Citrix; Doug Dooley, Director of Product Management for Desktop Virtualization at Cisco; Jake Hughes, the Chief Technical Architect at Seattle Children’s Hospital; and Harry Labana, VP and CTO of AppSense. Aaron and Doug offered up their thoughts on the Cisco-Citrix partnership, and how Cisco is leading virtualization charge with its end-to-end solution. Harry provided insights around desktop virtualization and AppSense’s role in creating flexibility and a rich user experience. Jake, as a customer who has implemented virtual solution, discussed the nuts of bolts of implementation, and talked about key points to take into consideration when contemplating a deployment.

I chatted with the panelists after the session, and they each offered up their top takeaways from the discussion.

Want to learn more about the details of the panel discussion? Read on for tips and lessons learned around implementing a virtual desktop solution.

Place User Needs First

End-users don’t necessarily care about virtualization, according to Doug from Cisco, they care about their apps and their data. When considering VXI, it’s key to get the user experience right. Jake echoed that sentiment, noting that in Seattle Children’s Hospital’s deployment, they took user expectations first, trying to understand their pain points. Jake also recommended that those considering deployments should really partner with users to understand what they do.

Harry from AppSense added on to that point, noting that if you take away the PC, and don’t have a consideration of the user experience, you will have unhappy users. And with more users logging on via multiple devices—smart phones, tablets—the user experience requires even more focus, otherwise users will reject the architecture.

One Size Does Not Fit All

According to Jake from the Seattle Children’s Hospital, one of the top killers of a VDI project is to virtualize everybody, so remember that one size does not fit all. At the hospital, they have users accessing via laptops, and radiology equipment that doesn’t qualify to run a virtual desktop. Planning a solution is really a workgroup-by-workgroup journey. Harry agreed, noting that you need to figure out which client architecture will work. Smacking a square peg into a round hole doesn’t make sense.

Not Just a Cost Conversation

Jake also said that making a buying decision requires strong leadership. He also said that the network and plumbing has to be rock solid, or no virtual desktop solution will work. Harry added that when considering a virtual solution, you need to have a capabilities conversation, not just a cost conversation—you have to balance both. You do want your solution to be cheaper and better managed, and you do want to keep the cost of operations down, but you can’t forget the capabilities of users—you really need to think beyond cost.

Consumerization is Driving IT

According to Aaron, from Citrix’s perspective, consumerization will drive the transformation of IT. IT will need to serve a myriad of devices, and users who want high-performance graphics. By embracing consumerization and giving users the tools that they need, IT departments will be more successful and can ensure the retention of talent that’s tied to the flexibility of working environment.

Doug concurred, and noted that video is not a luxury. It is here and will be in everyone’s personal and professional lives. Figuring out how to serve the video needs of users won’t be simple, but every IT person will need to figure it out.

It was definitely an informative panel—I came away thinking about how cool it would be to access my desktop from my iPhone or iPad. (Hopefully, someday soon!)

Have you implemented a VXI deployment? Got any advice from your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

And be sure to check out more of our coverage from Citrix Synergy—including video and virtualization, and a demo of a virtual desktop solution from partner MTM Technologies.

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