More and more enterprises are looking to VDI to solve the challenges of managing the interdependencies of physical devices, operating systems and applications, while still keeping users productive. Desktop Virtualization is the process of separating and isolating all of the physical components – hardware, software, and users – from one another, allowing them to be managed separately in a targeted and focused way. But while VDI reduces complexity by eliminating these interdependencies, it also introduces its own challenges when integrating it with your client management system.

So that being said, imagine this scenario. Your manager calls you up and says, “The CIO wants us to do VDI. What does client management need to do? What can we do?” In our experience on the ConfigMgr product team, we’ve had more than a few ConfigMgr admins email us in a bit of a panic over what the considerations are for an implementation of VDI that includes client management. We always find ourselves explaining two key things. First, you do need client management for virtual desktops. The benefits are clear, and using ConfigMgr provides one administrative experience that allows you to manage any desktop regardless of whether it is physical or virtual. Second, there are different types of virtual desktops and each type requires different considerations in management.

Let’s discuss these foundations a bit more. Virtual desktops that persist changes (personal virtual desktops) are managed very much like a physical desktop. There really is very little you need to do differently or think about differently in this case. If you’re a ConfigMgr 2007 customer utilizing personal virtual desktops, you can think about client management much the same way you do with physical desktops. You probably have put in place a few workarounds so that deployments are staged and inventory collection doesn’t happen for thousands of these personal desktops all at once. But overall, the client management mindset is the same.

The other type of virtual desktop is known as a pooled desktop. Pooled desktops don’t persist changes and are very transient in nature. Therefore they need special client management considerations. It’s tempting to think that you may not need client management for these pooled virtual desktops, since the desktops are just copies of the base image. But before you write off client management entirely for pooled virtual desktops, consider your antimalware compliance SLAs, your regulatory compliance SLAs, and any software metering/asset intelligence needs. These needs will be no different whether the machines are physical desktops, personal virtual desktops or pooled virtual desktops.

With that being said, it hasn’t always been easy to manage pooled virtual desktops with ConfigMgr 2007. In order to manage pooled virtual desktops appropriately, you have to figure out a way to keep the ConfigMgr 2007 uniqueness saved through the VM shutdown process, most likely by utilizing the VSMT tool to service your base images. This work around prevents an explosion of obsolete records in your ConfigMgr system that can be unwieldy.

Well, in ConfigMgr 2012, we’ve worked on improving the efficiency of managing VDI environments by focusing on two major areas. We’ve worked to 1) expedite VDI deployments to eliminate the common workarounds we mentioned above and 2) ensure the admin can understand what type of desktop they’re managing. The improvements that we’ve implemented in ConfigMgr 2012 were developed with our Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) team and a close external partnership with Citrix. Those features include:

  • Reporting and Compliance. Gathers discovery information from Guest VMs for Broker Site Name, Desktop Type and Pool Name which become attributes of a system that can be used for compliance monitoring and inventory reports. The new CCMPropertyName values are "IsVirtual", "IsMachineChangesPersisted", "IsAssignedToUser", and "HostIdentifier". As an example, the “IsMachineChangesPersisted” property enables you to tell a Pooled vs. Personal desktop apart from one another in your management environment.
  • Application Deployment. Delivers new conditional rules for application deployment based on VDI specific attributes. For example, you can build requirement rules to evaluate Desktop Type and Pool Name that make tracking the exact origin or the desktop much easier.
  • User and Admin Experience. Persists uniqueness throughout multiple Pooled VM shutdowns and startups. This prevents an explosion of obsolete client records, keeping your environment clean and manageable across VDI sessions, and eliminates delays in user application delivery.

We’ve also had a long standing request from ConfigMgr customers to offset the scheduled time for common client management activities to help lighten the load on your infrastructure. We’ve listened to you and have implemented this change in ConfigMgr 2012 as part of our VDI improvements. So now, native to all ConfigMgr clients (and therefore regardless of VDI solution provider), ConfigMgr 2012 has offset the scheduled time for the execution of hardware inventory and software inventory scans. Software update scans, downloads, and installs are also randomized. But wait, there’s more! We didn’t forget about definition updates either. System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection also offsets the scheduled time for scanning and updating definitions tasks.

With the new features we have coming in ConfigMgr 2012, we have worked hard to make managing VDI easier -- especially for our ConfigMgr 2007 customers! We hope you like what you see when you install ConfigMgr 2012. Make sure to get the appropriate Citrix and RDS releases to support the complete set of functionality in ConfigMgr 2012.

Bryan Keller
Lead Program Manager

Deb McFadden
Group Program Manager

System Center Configuration Manager

Update: You can hear Bryan discuss this topic further in the Nov. 18 TechNet Edge segment.