Should my desktop team or my server team manage VDI?

I have had customers take different approaches in determining who manages the virtual desktop infrastructure.  Enough customers have asked that you should consider these things when making a decision:

Politics and budget often determine who owns VDI

Well, yes of course… politics.  I’ve seen this many times.  Let’s be clear, politics is the number one killer of VDI.  If funding from one team drives the need of VDI, then it pushes you into a project. Just know that lots of communication can solve any problems before they become problems.  Otherwise, you will become Customer A or Customer B.

Customer A: The desktop team owns VDI

This is by far the most nightmare situation.  The reason is that desktop admins have little experience in managing servers and the least amount of experience with all the other technologies that the VDI will need to function properly.  To name a few things: DHCP, DNS, Active Directory (Specifically AD Sites and Services, GPOs), network routing, and switching.  Before I get all the hate mail this isn’t necessarily true for every organization,  this post is about a real world customer(s).

Pros:

No one knows how to provision and manage a desktop like the desktop team, period. Seriously, no one!  This includes a virtual desktop image.

Cons:

The desktop team lacks experience managing enterprise services.  There are way too many things that go into VDI outside of the desktop and user devices to leave the entire VDI project to a desktop team.  Not to mention, I’ve seen so many instances where a server team or enterprise team is reluctant to help out.  This leaves you in a bad situation if, say, the problem is networking related.

Customer B: The enterprise team owns VDI

As a former enterprise architect, I am a little more at ease, but we aren’t completely out of the woods yet.  A server or enterprise team has the least amount of interest or experience managing a desktop.  Even with four or more years as a desktop admin that was eventually promoted to a server admin, etc. it’s still a few years since they’ve had hands on experience as a desktop admin.  We haven’t even mentioned the apps yet.  There are so many customizations to make applications work for compatibility reasons, patch reasons, etc.  Only the desktop team knows of these fixes.

Pros:

Enterprise server teams typically have more years of experience and will be able to troubleshoot and fix issues as they arise that are beyond the desktop.

Cons:

With more years of experience comes a higher price tag.  You now have more expensive resources managing desktops.  Any hope of ROI goes out the window.  You’re not completely better off either.  You still need that desktop admin!  They know where all the bodies are buried when it comes to application provisioning and fixing those troublesome apps that your users have to have.

I heard lots of stuff but what do I do?

You are already doing what works best in your environment today.  Desktop admins manage desktops, server admins manage servers, network admins manage network issues.  How does this translate to VDI? You can’t do business as usual so let’s put that out of your mind.  You need a few members that are from all aspects of the environment to be your VDI team.  Having a dedicated team to manage VDI is a good idea, but not always practical given the size of the environment.  If you have a large deployment, a dedicated team with all areas of expertise is needed.  You need a lifeline into your network, desktop, and server teams.  It can’t be done in a silo, otherwise all the problems you’re trying to solve with VDI just create other problems.

Conclusion

You need someone with experience as a desktop admin, server admin, and network admin to be successful at VDI.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone.  You will lack one skill set or another to do this in a vacuum.  Get everyone involved.  All the best and brightest will have plenty of opinions.  Listen to the opinions.  Get a VDI SME or a consultant to assist you in building your environment and you will be much better off.