I remember my first IT job. My company had a unique business model. We’d take over all aspects of a client’s IT infrastructure and remotely deliver it. When we did, user access came through their internet connection and Citrix’s Metaframe Desktop Publishing. Everything was "virtualized" (although this term wasn't used at the time) and they worked 100% from the published desktop (Cloud Computing).
Great model when we were only supporting 100 users! But before we knew it we had 80 servers supporting 1500 users and we constantly experienced some sort of hardware failure, a windows patch that broke half the environment or user requests for applications that needed to be updated. Additionally, every new client required some sort of unique desktop or image, followed by applications (some standard...some proprietary) and of course additional hardware.
If two clients had the same application - say QuickBooks - and it needed to be updated, we’d need to update all instances of the application. To make matters worse, if the update broke a critical function of the application, users were unable to work until it was fixed across the board. A restore process could take 4 hours…with users unable to work throughout.
I’m now working with a consulting company and simply amazed that businesses, healthcare institutions, and even schools have the same problems I was working through seven years ago! Here’s a perfect example of my one my recent trips…
Joe down in IT pushes out a patch (which had gone through limited user testing) to all the desktops late one evening. The next morning none of the users can access the company’s CRM. The only way to return to a functioning product: remove the patch from each desktop and repair the CRM application. Downtime for the organization was more than a week as multiple technicians had to go to individual PCs in order to properly repair the product. One change - by one person - cost the company hundreds of lost man hours and thousands in lost revenue.
The truth is that this is 2010 where words like Virtualization, Desktop Cloud Computing, and Image Provisioning are standard on almost every IT ‘to-do’ list. The problems arise as businesses try to tackle those to-do’s without causing these and many other problems while at the same time watching the budget. Although many think it can be difficult, a few easy changes can mean the difference between total disaster and perfect harmony with the right tools in place.
This four part series will focus on utilizing today’s technology to solve today’s challenges.
1. The first problem was 80+ servers managed by only a couple of engineers
2. The second problem was maintaining the desktop images and failback procedures if something occurred to break the image
3. The third problem being the tons of application updates and maintenance that had to be completed on a weekly basis
4. The fourth being how to properly test the application updates before rolling them out to the users in a production like environment