Design Discovery/Assessments; What and Why

If you haven't noticed I've been MIA for the past month or so.Where have I been?


If you haven't noticed I've been MIA for the past month or so.  Where have I been?  well I haven't been in Maui soaking up the sun or sailing on the ocean.  I've actually been engaged in a sort of anthropological field endeavor with clients doing what I call Design Discoveries.  You probably know them as Infrastructure Assessments or IAs.  They are a very key component in the methodology that I use and every other vendor like Citrix, VMware, etc have been following for many years.  Since they are such a key component, I wanted to share with you what they are, why you do them, and what you can expect to get out of one.  As a person that has done hundreds of these, I have come to have an approach that I formed after reading a paper a long time ago by Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi, whereby he stated that discovery "consists of seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one has thought."  How does that equate to Infrastructure Assessments?  Everyone has familiarity with their own environments, but having a third party that has never seen your environment before come in, they aren't subject to the same thought process that is ingrained in your specific organization and can add significant value to what you are already doing.

So what is a Design Discovery?  It's a component in the Analysis Phase within the methodology I spoke of above.  This is where a consultant conducts a series of interviews with key stakeholders and technical personnel within a customer organization.  These interviews cover both Citrix and non-Citrix related areas of a client's current environment. The information that is gathered in these interviews provides the required input for the next phases of the engagement.

Now like I said earlier, all vendors have their own methodology and they, for the most part, cover all the same phases.  I'll get to that in a minute.

This interiew/discovery process has a two-fold outcome:

  1. The consultant will analyse the findings and highlight issues requiring attention, provide recommendations on how to mitigate the identified potential risks and detail Citrix (insert your favorite vendor name here) best practices.  Finally a report titled "Citrix Design Discovery" is created and presented to the client organization before the end of the engagement.
  2. This process also provides the necessary information to create a "Conceptual" and later, a detailed design document.

So what kind of assessments are there?  There are actually three types of assessments that I do. 

  1. Full Lifecycle - this is where the client has no application delivery infrastructure in place, then a Design Discovery/IA is conducted as part of a full lifecycle project.
  2. Expansion - this is where some application delivery components exist in the current environment and a DD/IA is conducted as part of a full lifecycle project to determine readiness for growth in size, scope, or complexity.
  3. Standalone - this is an engagement where application delivery components currently exist in the client environment, but the infrastructure and users are experiencing issues.  This is where a 'health check/audit' is conducted outside of a full lifecycle engagement.

So why initiate an assessment?  I see many reasons for one.

  • clearly define business and IT drivers
  • evaluate readiness of the infrastructure for subsequent methodology phases
  • identify risks in the environment
  • examine methods and procedures the client organization uses to support the infrastructure.
  • gather design requirements
  • prioritize action items and next steps

The benefits that clients get out of this exercise is they are better able to identify risk areas so they can be appropriately addressed and they are able to develop a piece of detailed reference material about their infrastructure to assist in the proper design and implementation of an application delivery/virtualization infrastructure.

So I mentioned one of the deliverables that comes out of this first phase component, besides the discovery report, is the Conceptual Design document.  This document does four things really.  It outlines the high-level decisions for architectural components of the application delivery infrastructure including

  • identifying potential exceptions to a comprehensive corporate-wide strategy of application delivery via Citrix
  • assessing the potential impact of the conceptual design on existing application and other infrastructure servers and components and,
  • to determine potential load-managed group disposition and the resulting impact on the size of the XenApp farm

So like I said earlier, every vendor has their own methodology.  Here is the Citrix Methodology.

Now this has been the cornerstone of all my engagements for many years and I have tweaked it to make it my own.  Mine looks like this:


So as you can see there are many ways to view a methodology, but they pretty much cover the same topics. 

I always recommend some sort of Design Discovery/Assessment when a client is getting ready to move to a new version of XenApp, but they are always good to do a regular intervals as part of health checks/audits.  Talk to your local partner or call the vendor directly and get their Professional Services organizations involved.  You will be glad you did.

So I've got a break between these types of engagements, so I'll be putting some posts up soon around other topics including everyone's favorite topic; "cloud computing" ;-)

Cheers everyone

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