The Unspoken Technical Debt

By Rory Monaghan

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During the EUC Masters Retreat we had an app delivery session that was awesome. During the session the topic of app delivery to non-persistent machines was brought up and then countered with the fact persistent desktops are gaining visibility thanks to Windows 365. This provoked someone in attendance to bring up the fact that while persistent virtual desktops CAN be managed like persistent physical desktops, you end up just bringing forward the same problems you had on your persistent physical desktops of old. Now, I’m being more verbose than the individual in attendance was but that was the crux of the point and that spurred me on to go on a short rant of my own at the event, which is something I have tweeted about a couple of times before and I want to dive into again in this blog post.

Escape Legacy Problems

When you look at traditional IT teams and the hierarchy at play it is often assumed that your desktop team of 6 people manage thousands of endpoints with 10 of thousands of users. Then you may look at your Citrix team for contrast and they may have 3 people who are managing far fewer machines and users. This may lead management to conclude Citrix engineers who often command a larger salary support fewer machines and users and to scale a Citrix environment for more users would require more Citrix Admins at a higher cost but there is a problem with that conclusion. Most orgs do not keep a close track of support tickets and the tickets being resolved by the service desk and field techs. 

In a previous IT job, I looked at my organization’s entire tickets with a view to automate fixes for some of the more common ones within my team’s remit. I was part of an End User Computing team, not just Citrix. What I discovered was that tickets related to Citrix were more likely to be sent to the EUC team than other non-Citrix EUC related tickets.

So in the context of say a Windows 365 where the virtual desktops are persistent, the idea that you can manage it with a few lower paid staff is a stretch. You likely don’t see that your service desk and field techs are doing Trojan work to help keep your physical endpoint users productive today. If you assume that will continue when moving to persistent virtual desktops, you may be in for a surprise.

Old habits, die hard

The next wrinkle here is that in some environments if a problem takes more than 15 mins to resolve, a tech may opt to just re-image the machine. It is not their fault, they are usually understaff, overworked and measured on how long they take to resolve their tickets. The problem is, if you try to apply the old playbook to cloud pcs where you don’t have some sort of product persisting the user profile this has the potential to be very disruptive. Today, you probably don’t even hear about all of the instances of desktops being re-provisioned but if you intend to do that going forward, you are going to encounter challenges.

If your hope is that the ability to restore your virtual desktops quickly from a restore point or snapshot on a 1:1 persistent virtual desktop will save you, think again! This can lead to problems caused by cached credentials which is exasperated in a world of rotating passwords that can take longer to iron out than just figuring out what the root of the user’s was and fixing it.

What is more, a migration to a new modern workspace should not be an endeavour to merely bring forward the same old desktop experience users already had, you should strive to make improvements which requires thinking outside of your comfort zone.

Conclusion

The way we have managed Windows desktops for the last few decades has always fallen short. If you do a deep dive into your service tickets, I am confident you will find a lot of issues the field techs and service desk engineers protected your EUC team from. All kinds of fun issues like applications that didn’t work so they uninstalled and re-installed the app or an application updated failed to install because the previous version did not uninstall successfully so they forced a re-image etc. You may think you are achieving more than you are and you may believe your end-users are having a great experience but in reality, they may have low expectations because they have become accustomed to dealing with quirks throughout their work day caused by technical debt that hasn’t been fully realised and certainly never addressed! This is why many organisations are now embarking on transformation projects and frankly, it is about time!

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

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