Omaha InfoTech 2012 Conference
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Who is Black Hills Corporation?
• A diversified energy company based in Rapid City, SD
• 201,300 Electric utility customers in South Dakota, Wyoming
and Colorado
• 561,500 Natural Gas utility customers in Wyoming, Colorado,
Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska
• Fleet of power generation facilities in Wyoming, Colorado and
South Dakota
• Black Hills Exploration & Production produces oil and natural
gas in New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota
• Wyodak mine in Gillette, WY supports BHC’s mine-mouth
BHC Office Locations
• Corporate offices in Rapid City, Denver and Papillion
• Most utility service offices are in rural communities
• Branch offices are not well connected. T1 MPLS (if available)
and VPN connections through local ISP (cable and dsl)
• Low bandwidth, high latency connections present challenges
delivering a good user experience to remote offices
What is VDI?
• Often referred to as Hosted Virtual Desktops
• Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is an alternative desktop
delivery model that allows users to run a Windows desktop
inside a virtual machine running in the data center.
• VDI is the evolution of server virtualization taken to the client
level, and uses the same underlying principles
• VDI has the same look and feel of a traditional desktop
computer, but all actions are happening remotely in the data
Why is BHC Deploying Virtual Desktops?
Centralized management
Enhanced security and compliance
Deliver a managed desktop to unmanaged devices
Efficient bandwidth utilization
Support for mobile devices – Blackberry, Android, iPad
Virtual Desktops offer options for both flexibility and control.
Finding the right balance will be our priority
• Positions us for much simpler future desktop upgrades
• Hard dollar cost savings may not be attainable
• Persistent Desktop
Each user has full desktop image
Individual applications can be installed per desktop
Separate storage is required for each individual desktop
Managed the same way as traditional desktops
• Provisioned Desktop
Golden image of desktop environment
Streamed to users on demand
Greatly reduced storage requirement
Protected from unintentional changes
Requires unique anti-virus configuration
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
• Benefits
– Much greater control for Policy enforcement (users can’t unplug NIC to
prevent policies from applying)
– Centralized patch management and software distribution on fast
– Access to data is much improved as it is happening over fast networks
within the datacenter
– Security and regulatory compliance: data never leaves the datacenter
– Recoverability: VMs and data are backed up & snapshots occur in data
center so local desktop data can be easily recovered.
– Mobility: Users can connect from any device anywhere and have same
desktop experience.
– Control over application licensing compliance
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
• Benefits, continued
– Reduce field support travel. Thin clients with no moving parts are less
likely to fail.
– Strong competition in this market means vendors are actively
enhancing and improving their products
– Live migration of VMs for availability and similar High Availability
solutions like we use with servers.
– VDI can offload Flash and Windows Media content to render on local
device. This creates a much improved user experience at remote sites.
– Reduces power consumption by using thin clients on the desktop and
energy efficient servers in the Data Center
– Additional Advantages for Provisioned Desktop
• Single image to manage
• Fast deployments with on demand provisioning
• Relatively easy upgrades
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
• Challenges
– Requires additional MS licensing through Software Assurance or VDA
– Virtual Desktop technology is dependent on a highly available and low
latency networks
– User support model changes significantly. May require realignment of
IT resources
– Windows mobile devices create a challenge. Users need the ability to
work in an offline mode. This will be Phase 2 for us
– Must get management buy-in in order to be successful
– Ensuring we have identified all the user applications that will need to
be available as published applications outside of the standard
Windows 7 & Office 2010 image
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
• Challenges, continued
– Must be connected
– Offline capabilities are immature
– User experience around multimedia can be unpredictable. We are
actively working to address this concern.
– Additional Challenges for Provisioned Desktops
Limited control for users. Users cannot install applications
Roaming profiles are essential for provisioned desktops
Limited personalization of individual settings and appearance
Non-standard drivers for printers and USB devices need to be installed by
system administrators
• No immediate image updates. After an image is updated, user needs to
logoff for changes to be applied
Supporting Infrastructure Components
• HP BL490c Blade servers – Dual 6-core, 144GB – Sized to host
50 desktop sessions per server
• NetApp v3240 storage, 1TB cache, 600GB 15k drives
• Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 with Provisioning Server
• Desktops configured with 2 CPUs and 3GB RAM
• Citrix XenApp delivers applications to VDI desktops
• All Citrix servers built on XenServer 6.0
• HP t5740e thin clients
• Citrix Netscalers for external access
• Silver Peak WAN accelerators at T1 locations
• QOS implementation to prioritize ICA traffic
Virtual Desktop Deployment
• Part of Windows 7 and Office 2012 Deployment
• 2200 Users across 7 states
• VDI will be the preferred desktop delivery method for nonlaptop users
• Base image contain Windows 7 Enterprise, Office 2010
Professional and basic plugins only
• All other applications are delivered with Citrix XenApp
• Goal is 40% adoption across entire user population by year
• 2 Systems Engineers support Citrix infrastructure full-time, 2
VDI Deployment Progress
• Used for Office 2010 training for all users.
• Used for Office 2010 compatibility testing. Provisioned BH
Desktop assigned to 615 users (so far) for testing
• Used for application compatibility testing with Windows 7
across enterprise
• 130 users of Provisioned Desktop daily as primary desktop
• 40 users of Persistent Desktop daily as primary desktop
• Current environment built to support 550 concurrent users
• Can failover to secondary site for maintenance or DR. This site
currently built to support 300 user desktops