User Classification Analysis in VDI Implementations

By Kaysel Adrover
Posted in Virtualization
On February 14, 2012

If you’re one of the many IT managers considering a move to the next generation Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and have begun your research, you’ve already realized the potential savings to your company in the long term. There are two key points you’ll find as you progress further. First, there’s a multitude of virtualization technology in the market place today, such as those by Citrix, VMware and Microsoft, and choosing the right product for your business is very important. Second, VDI is not a small or simple undertaking. There are many steps to take and considerations to make along the way. A well-defined strategy, with proper planning, analysis, and design, will avoid many pitfalls and loss of revenue, and put you on the road to a successful implementation.

Of the many stages of a project (planning, analysis, design, pilot and roll-out), the user classification analysis is one of the most important steps. However, it is often overlooked because it’s either deemed not important enough or too time-consuming and costly. This step is essential because this is where fundamental data is gathered. From this data, a determination can be made as to how to adopt the available VDI technology. The resulting information provides insight to the type of users, application requirements, as well as the physical environment and what can be virtualized. It’s also the first step in determining the best mapping of users to the virtual technology.

Breakdown of a User Classification Analysis

The user classification analysis can be broken down into three steps, which assist in the development of a virtual desktop strategy solution from all the possible combinations:

I - Determining the Available Technologies

Organizations are faced with a large number of choices when it comes to application, server, desktop, and presentation virtual technologies. The right choice will often require multiple solutions to satisfy the use case requirement of an organization and leverage the technology the organization already has.

II - Defining Use Case Scenarios and Their Requirements

A use case is the specifications of a set of actions performed by a user on a system that yields a desired result. A use case will help identify, clarify, and organize the user requirements into the different scenarios needed. This use case analysis is intended to provide an understanding of the users, the logical groupings, and their requirements. It defines the users, taking into account their everyday functions and requirements.  For a VDI implementation, a use case analysis should comprise three parts: application profiling, access profiling, and user privilege profiling.

Application Profile: An application profile can best be divided into two parts. The first part is the basic use case, where users are grouped into logical type and requirement. The logical groups can be divvied up in different ways, such as by department (Legal, Marketing, HR) or user function (Office user, Admin User, Road Warrior). The group divisions are usually guided by their requirements or daily functions.

The second part of the Application Profile is the Application Use Case, where the applications for each user group or type are identified and analyzed. This includs application information such as version, OS, RAM, hardware and software dependencies, special license, network or connectivity to backend server requirements, etc.

Access Profiles: An access profile defines the user group, the devices it uses, and the types of network connections it requires. The access profile is created to understand the access requirements for a particular user and application. For example, applications with sensitive data should be kept from local installations and centrally controlled within the corporation at all times.

User Privileges: User privileges define the level of local administrative rights required for the user to perform their normal job function. This is particularly important in multi-user environments, where a change affects all users and the system’s integrity. Users with elevated rights requirements should be considered for a physical or virtual desktop.

III - Mapping Use Cases with Technologies

Because of the many virtualization options available today, it’s important to understand your use case and the technologies that can be employed. As an example, an organization may already have a VMware server virtualization infrastructure that can be leveraged to implement a XenDesktop VDI. They can also apply XenApp technology to stream or virtualize most applications, or use Citrix Provisioning Server to stream the operating systems of both workstation and desktops. Many companies like Citrix, AppSense, and triCerat offer profile virtualization software as well.

The steps taken to create a use case give you a starting point on how to manage applications, whether they be part of a XenDesktop vDisk, published via XenApp, streamed, or installed locally on a workstation. This is where you get a sense of what combination of technologies will work best in your particular environment. For example, some applications cannot be virtualized via an application virtualization technology because they require to be registered with a specific desktop, either by MAC address or workstation name. They must then be installed on a dedicated virtual desktop assigned to a specific user or kept on the physical machine. Certain users, like the development department, might require full administrative rights to their local machines in order to install third-party tools. These users would need a private virtual desktop, or to be kept on their physical workstations. Users who do not require special rights can be virtualized and can even be given a thin client from which to work. Laptop users, however, would require their virtual desktop to be streamed locally.

Tools for User Classification Analysis

Software and IT companies are realizing the importance of the user classification analysis and have begun creating assessment tools to help with the desktop virtualization planning. Although a manual process can be used to gather all the necessary information, software such as monitoring applications or network and antivirus agents can provide this information quickly. Specialized VDI assessment tools will gather a comprehensive set of data used to generate reports that provide a full picture of users, applications, and the environment. This information is then used to better assist consultants and customers with their planning.


Hopefully, I have demonstrated the importance of the user classification analysis in conserving resources and avoiding costly mistakes. IT needs to understand the full picture, including the user’s perspective, not just the technology. Ultimately, if the VDI infrastructure implemented does not work for the users, then it cannot be called a success.

Kaysel Adrover

Kaysel Adrover

Kaysel has over 10 years’ experience in systems consulting and Citrix operations management. He implements virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions utilizing Provisioning Virtual Server 5.6 farms, XenDesktop 4.0 and XenDesktop 5; integrates XenApp application farms with VDI on XenServer, ESX, and Hyper-V environments, and configures Web Interface and Citrix Profile Management.