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Microsoft Cloud: Article

Meeting the Constant Challenges of Desktop Management

Provisioning Windows 7 Easily with Double-Take Flex

Desktop management is a constant challenge for most IT or call center managers. A new update, service pack or totally new version of operating system can cause headaches for even the most experienced IT professional. The challenges with provisioning new versions of operating systems for desktops haven’t changed over the years:

  • Do update and what is the incentive? Why should I?
  • When do I update?
  • How do I update hundreds of workstations across multiple locations?
  • How can I update without affective end user productivity?

With the recent release of Windows 7, many IT professionals are once again asking themselves these questions. Fortunately, there is a solution that you won’t loose any sleep over. Double-Take Flex technology has become a cost effective solution for provisioning and managing workstations as well as server images. It is incredibly more efficient than the old days of loading disc after disc for every single workstation in the company after hours. This process could take days if not weeks to completely upgrade and then that doesn’t even cover the time spend rolling back to a previous version should there be an issue. The great thing about using a Double-Take Flex solution to provision new workstations and servers is if there is a problem it is as easy as pointing the workload back to the original disc image to roll back. And this can be done on any scale from just a few workstations or server to hundreds at multiple locations.

Double-Take Flex is the latest cost-effective technology allowing customers to boot systems (desktops or servers) from images stored on industry-standard iSCSI storage area networks. Centralizing these workloads onto shared storage enables quicker provisioning, simpler migration and the ability to maintain operating systems and software on a handful of images rather than across hundreds or thousands of systems. It becomes a CIO’s dream and delivers significant lifecycle cost savings, improved data security, centralized management, minimal desktop support, support for current IT tools, and low deployment costs. Some of the features of Double-Take Flex solutions include:

  • Booting Workstations and Servers from iSCSI SAN
  • Centralized Data Center Management
  • Simplified recovery

Booting Workstations and Servers from iSCSI SAN
Whether you’re managing desktops in a call center, a campus lab or general purpose business desktops, your challenges remain the same. What most IT managers would like to have is the centralized management capabilities of thin clients with the power and flexibility of a desktop. Double-Take Flex solutions provide the ability to completely remove the disk storage from your desktops and centralize it on your SAN. Then individual computer images or groups of images can be assigned with a provided selection menu to the desktops. This type of technology will help the rapid adoption of Windows 7 workstations because of the ease of use and ability to rapidly provision workstations and quickly roll back if needed. Double-Take Flex will work with existing x86 or x64 operating systems and applications so there isn’t a need to start over from scratch with a new platform. Simply transfer the existing images to your SAN and then assign them to the computer that needs them.

Another nice feature of Double-Take Flex is the ability to test new applications, updates and compatibility with new operating systems.  With Double-Take Flex technology if there is an issue there is no need to spend hours trying to diagnose the problem, just reboot the desktop and the previous boot image is instantly restored to the pristine state before testing began. iSCSI boot images are stored in a read-only state and local processing power is used so the full compute power a desktop can be utilized rather than a wimpy thin terminal and an overwhelmed shared desktop server.

Disk imaging technologies have historically helped IT departments deploy new desktops and servers. However, they still require the time to copy new images to the computers making them increasingly unsuitable for the modern enterprise. Disk imaging can take a long time on a moderately sized network because of the contention for network resources between the imaging server and the image clients. Worst still is that the clients can’t be used while the imaging process is happening, (which can take hours to complete). Thus, many IT organizations resort to visiting each computer and replacing hard drives with updated images manually. If a hard drive image becomes infected or corrupt, then the computer becomes unusable until the drive is re-imaged or swapped with a new hard drive.

Centralized Data Center Management
IT departments are continuing to consolidate infrastructure at multiple sites in order centralize the overall data center management. However, the total number of workloads to manage is steadily increasing with the use of blades and virtualization technology. Therefore, the management burden is growing and it has become increasingly more important to streamline and manage the deployment and configuration process throughout the enterprise and reduce this growing total cost of ownership.

The Double-Take Flex allows you to quickly deploy system images on both physical and virtual hardware with the click of a mouse. It allows you to separate your workloads from hardware and proprietary virtualization platforms for fast deployment so your IT department doesn’t have to spend countless cycles moving workloads where they need to be. Simply select the computer system or VM and choose the image that it will boot and if those needs change over time then simply switch to a different image and reboot. You can even switch between physical and virtual server platforms at the click of a mouse without requiring complete infrastructure redesign to supported hardware and storage. Double-Take Flex provides flexible workload management with the hardware and systems platforms that you already own.

Simplified Recovery
All systems fail at some point but the risk is always higher when new updates, service packs or upgrades are made to certain systems. The ideal scenario is to be able to recover quickly from when those failures occur and revert back to previous boot images that remain in a pristine state. There are different protection and recoverability solutions to meet different failure scenarios, but each is divided primarily into human failures and environmental failures.

Logical failures relate to accidentally deleting files and database objects as well as attacks like viruses and Trojan horses. These types of failures are not easily correctable by failover solutions and must be recovered with point-in-time solutions that roll the data back in time to a good state. IT has long had the ability to perform point-in-time recovery using backup and storage snapshots, but advances in storage and continuous data protection strategies have made it possible to restore data with much more granularity than ever before.

Additionally the Double-Take flex allows you to recover those systems back to their original hardware, or to entirely different platforms. This gives you the flexibility of moving workloads to new platforms without concern for hardware compatibility since Double-Take Software patented technology removes any hardware dependencies and injects the new platforms hardware dependencies in their place. You can even protect and recover images using computer virtualization technology and take advantage of economies of scale to build a cost-effective yet flexible data center infrastructure.

More Stories By Brace Rennels

Brace Rennels is a passionate and experienced interactive marketing professional who thrives on building high energy marketing teams to drive global web strategies, SEO, social media and online PR web marketing. Recognized as an early adopter of technology and applying new techniques to innovative creative marketing, drive brand awareness, lead generation and revenue. As a Sr. Manager Global of Website Strategies his responsibilities included developing and launching global social media, SEO and web marketing initiatives and strategy. Recognized for applying innovative solutions to address unique problems and manage business relationships to effectively accomplish enterprise objectives. An accomplished writer, blogger and author for several publications on various marketing, social media and technical subjects such as industry trends, cloud computing, virtualization, website marketing, disaster recovery and business continuity. Publications include CIO.com, Enterprise Storage Journal, TechNewsWorld, Sys-Con, eWeek and Peer to Peer Magazine. Follow more of Brace's writing on his blog: http://bracerennels.com

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