Forrester: Desktop virtualisation demands detailed request for proposals

Forrester's Clarence Villanueva and Chris Andrews provide tips on how to build a successful RFP for desktop virtualisation

Clear goals for a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) project allow the service providers to craft a proposal that aligns with your strategy.

According to leading virtualisation service providers, a common problem of request for proposals (RFPs) is the lack of defined success criteria for the project. This becomes a client challenge because without it, neither clients nor service providers can gauge the success of their initiatives. Not only is it a challenge for the client, but without a documented goal, the suppliers won’t know how to propose an appropriate solution; or worse, they may provide an ill-advised proposal.

Forrester’s interviews of service providers which have received more than 100 desktop virtualisation proposals indicate that not enough information is shared about a client’s environment in the RFPs.

The lack of information presents a challenge to service providers attempting to propose a suitable solution for your environment. By packaging up the correct information on your environment in the RFP, you can help reduce cycle times on information requests and minimise the amount of time these suppliers must take to retrieve this information so they can respond quickly within your timeframe. Sourcing professionals who want to plan for this process – and eliminate some headaches – should collaborate with their internal stakeholders.
There are five pieces of information that are key to any VDI project.

The user environment

To capture this information, many companies conduct a user profile survey. The user survey needs to include form factors that are used and desktop applications, enterprise applications and enterprise data that users need to access. This survey will allow service providers to understand the desktop environment and propose the number of images to be managed.

Many request for proposals miss the mark when questions to suppliers cover just the basics

All of the service providers surveyed agreed that this was the most important piece of information that you need to include in the RFP. The higher the number of images that need to be managed, the higher the operational costs. Also, the higher the number of enterprise apps for each image, the costlier the solution.

Networking environment

The second factor is the wide area network (WAN). The support of virtualised desktops and delivery of a superior user experience hinges on the quality of the network.
Service providers will need to assess the WAN and may recommend changes in order to meet project objectives. This is important to IT professionals because it represents a potential cost component and internal and/or external service level agreements (SLAs) will be affected. Depending on your company’s WAN environment, an upgrade could lead to operational savings


Next is security. To find out about the security impact of VDI, collaborate with your security professionals.

Companies vary in the amount of flexibility and control they give users with respect to what they load on their desktops. Will this change as you migrate to a virtualised environment? Providing this information to RFP respondents will allow them to help build and configure the solution accordingly.

Storage infrastructure

Storage is another potential investment area for your company, depending on what storage resources are currently available and what your roadmap looks like for the future.
Providing an assessment of the overall health of your network, that includes saturation, latency and availability, is a critical component for the service providers to understand.#

Licensing information

Finally, it is necessary to assess how you manage your Microsoft licences and the type of Microsoft agreements you have in place, as well as a description of the virtual desktop access (VDA) licences you own (if applicable). This information will help bidding suppliers advise you on the appropriate actions to take on top of your licensing in a virtualised environment.

Selecting a supplier

Beyond these five areas, Forrester has developed a number of  questions to use in the supplier selection process.

Partner selection for both product and services (combined or separate) can be daunting. When soliciting proposals from suppliers, targeted questions on key differentiators can help you identify the partner of choice.

Many RFPs miss the mark when questions to suppliers cover just the basics (vendor financials, general implementation experience, and company history). Vendors’ answers to such questions are not enough for you to make an informed decision. You must ask for more specific information on product and service differentiation.

Product differentiation is another factor. How is/are your (proposed) product/s more suitable for this project compared with the alternatives? Questions such as this draw out answers from respondents that should inform you on why certain features in specific products would be best suited to your organisation.

Other questions should focus on service differentiation. How many implementations have you completed? What experience do you have working on projects similar to ours? Do you have special expertise in this industry? Questions such as these allow the suppliers to describe their capabilities in a way that helps you filter the numerous implementation partners in the marketplace to find the most suitable to partner with.

Assessing proposals

As service providers review your information, they may begin crafting a proposal requiring changes in your environment to support the new solution. For example, your current WAN infrastructure may call for additional investments for a high-definition user experience for your employees. Highlighting the changes allows you to visualise the transformation to the future state. It will also help you plan for the change.

Soliciting this information during the RFP stage can help build out the project plan for the statement of work (SOW) and prepare you for internal discussions on what you need to do (or invest in) before, during and after the implementation.

Another benefit includes defining any SLAs and operational savings. Some examples include

  • People – how will your proposal affect users?
  • To support the environment, what resources/skills will be required?
  • How would the solution increase manageability from what we currently do?
  • Infrastructure – what technologies and/or investments will be needed to support the future state?
  • Process – how will desktop management be affected? Provide a workflow proposal for various use case scenarios.
  • Service level agreements – will internal SLAs improve? If so, which ones and how?
  • If applicable, what are the service provider SLAs?

End note:

This is an extract from the Forrester paper: Building a successful RFP for desktop virtualization (December, 2011) by Clarence Villanueva with Chris Andrews

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