Punk’ed: How to Sell Virtual Desktops to Your Users

The inherent problem with virtual desktops is:  Change.

A change in the core principles that people have been using, arguably, since the Windows 3.11 for Workgroups days.  Processes have been fundamentally similar in a vast majority of private enterprise and home consumer computing for 20+ years.  Sure the technology has advanced, the graphics has gotten better, and the desktop has been “webified,” but you still double-click on a desktop icon to open it.

So why has virtual desktop not taken off?  You’ve heard me say it before (here, here, and here) and I’ll say it again…

People, Process, & Politics.   We’ll discuss this more in depth in a later post.

What I wanted to hit on specifically today, was the People part.  So, without further adue, here’s that DatacenterDude HOWTO guide to get your power user’s on-board, willing to give up their clunky workstation, and truly understanding what virtual desktops means to your company.


  • You’re going to need to be willing to run through this a few times before executing your BlackOp.
  • You’re going to need to be willing to “do whatever it takes.”  Lie, cheat, and steal your way to success.
  • You’re going to need some spare hardware parts in the closet.
  • You’re going to need software tools to do things such as P2V conversions.

I’m sure there’s more, but let’s get started.

Step 1…

Survey your user base.  Talk to your helpdesk, unless you’re already intimately familiar, and find a particular user that you would label as somewhat troublesome and demanding usually about their desktop and workstation experience.  This is the user that is always demanding a new workstation every time Outlook and Excel don’t open their 20MB+ spreadsheet or email instantly.  This is the user that is always complaining when you want downtime, because, seemingly, they work 24 hours a day, and they can never be down.

In my experience, Accounting/Finance people make excellent targets.

Step 2…

Identify the hardware they’re using. Find out what tower they have, how much CPU/RAM/HDD space it currently has, and make notes.  You’ll need this later.  Once you know the model of their tower, go find a spare one in the hardware parts closet, and core it out.  Empty.  Take all the pieces and wiring out of it.  We want an empty shell.  Also, grab a View-compatible thin client while you’re in there.  If you don’t have any, call Wyse, 10ZiG, or any of the other various vendors, and get a few trial units.

Step 3…

Pick a weekend, and do a dry-run P2V on the target’s desktop.  Maybe eavesdrop and find out when they’re going on vacation.  This can be risky.  What if they try to access it remotely?  A better option is to let them know that there has been some new hardware/firmware released that addresses some of the things they’ve been complaining about, and you would like to take their box and get it updated over the weekend.  Lie.

Use this time to take the tower back to the lab or your desk/workspace and install your P2V tool/agent of choice.  Kick off a P2V job.  It’s likely to take a few hours.  Go get some dinner.

Once you get back and notice that the P2V has been completed, power down the tower.  Leave it off.  Boot up the newly created VM, let the hardware discovery happen, update VM Tools, solve any driver issues, etc (make sure you’re logging in as THAT user, btw, so that you see the same experience the user will).   Also check your notes from before.  Make sure the new VM has the same amount of RAM (or more) and that the CPU performance is above par.

Step 4…

Once you’ve gotten the VM to look identical to what the desktop tower did prior, power down, and take the thin client and empty case back to the user’s office.  Take the monitor/mouse/keyboard/ethernet/usb cables and feed them through the slots of the back of the empty shell.  Place the thin client INSIDE the tower, and cable everything up, power on the thin client, and put the lid on the case.

Step 5…

You’re almost there.  When the user’s thin client comes up, go ahead and connect it.  Make sure that the thin client is configured to autoconnect to the user’s VM so that they skip all of the thin client login dialogues and end up straight up at the Windows/AD login that they’re used to seeing.

Step 6…

When the user walks in, you want them to not even notice that anything is different at their desk.  Make sure cables are run the same.  Make sure you reorganize anything you may have shifted out of place.  Once you’re happy with it, let the user know you have completed working on their machine, and let them know if there are any problems, to alert you ASAP.

Step 7…

By this point, your user has returned, and is likely trying to use their machine.  You’ll know pretty quickly if you screwed up.  Then you just apologize, say someone must be screwing around, and get their desktop back to them.  Your mission has failed.

However, if you’ve done your due diligence, the user shouldn’t notice a single thing being different (disclaimer: of course there are unique scenarios, so give me a bit of leeway here…)

Step 8…

The Reveal.

Let the user work for a week.  Two, if you’re ambitious.  Go and grab a few things: the IT Director, the CIO/CTO, and the user’s original workstation.  Walk all three over to the user’s office.  Interview them about how their experience has been since you “updated their memory/firmware” last week.  Then show them their workstation.  Open their current tower and show them that it is empty and only running a little thin client inside.  Ask them again if they have noticed anything different about their experience.

Ideally, you would get a good reception of this reveal, but it’s not unlikely that you’ll be met with some raised eyebrows.

Step 9…

Take your IT director and CIO into a room IMMEDIATELY, and explain to them what you did, and why you did it.  Explain to them that this has the same benefits of the server virtualization effort you’ve likely already completed in the datacenter.  Use words that are CIO-friendly like:

Lower TCO.
Less Helpdesk calls.
Lower Operational overhead.

Step 10…

Profit.  If, after your explanation, your executives are not sold enough to at least allow you to POC to a core set of test subjects at this point, abandon ship.  They never will be.  Focus your efforts on continuing your ITaaS effort in the datacenter.

People say all the time that:  “A picture is worth 1000 words.”

I 100% agree with that statement.  And your exercise in deception has just shown a pretty damned big picture.

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Matt Cowger
06/27/2012 19:17

…and hope you dont get fired :)

Nick Howell
Reply to  Matt Cowger
06/27/2012 20:28

It’s the risk-taker’s of the world that get somewhere.  And the world is lacking, in my opinion, in risk-taker’s these days.

06/29/2012 15:49

I hope this is meant to be taken as a joke.

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