The 3 Golden Rules of Customizing Your Golden Image

March 13th, 2018
George MalecCloud Server & Infrastructure Manager

Virtual desktop infrastructure has long been seen as an opportunity for IT leaders in nearly every industry to beautifully streamline their efforts in a wide range of different scenarios. A user suddenly adopting a new device no longer means an unfortunate level of disruption, as the mission critical apps and other resources that they use are no longer dependent on the device itself. The new employee onboarding process becomes exponentially easier. Even desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) can make software updates and other security concerns a thing of the past.

But so much of your success in regards to the virtualization ultimately comes down to a simple-yet-critical concept: the golden image. Also commonly referred to as a clone image, a master image or even a base image, the golden image is essentially a template for a virtual machine — think of it as the rock-solid foundation from which everything else is built. If you truly want to make sure that this foundation is as stable as possible, there are three golden rules that you must not forget when customizing your golden image.

Golden Rule #1: Never Lose Sight of Your End Goal

One of the essential things for you to understand about customizing your golden image is what it is that you’re trying to accomplish in the first place. Yes, you’re trying to streamline your processes and enjoy all of the benefits outlined above. But all throughout this process, your two major concerns are and will always be 1) maximum usability, and 2) maximum stability at all times.

This means that every step of your golden image customization must be purpose-driven. Build the operating system of your choice completely, and make sure it is patched and up-to-date BEFORE installing any additional software. If patches need to be installed, make sure you do so in the appropriate order. Every time you are asked to reboot, do so — end of story.

end of story

Losing sight of these goals will ultimately lead to mistakes that affect both usability and stability for a huge number of people, so it’s safe to say that this is one rule that you do not want to forget.

Golden Rule #2: Be Mindful of Your Applications

Because one of the major benefits of a VDI in the first place is that it removes the dependency on hardware from the essential apps that you and your users are running, it stands to reason that the apps themselves must become a priority when creating your golden image.

Prior to the creation of your golden image, make sure that your teams have updated to the latest versions of ALL applications that will be included. Everything from employee onboarding (during which new hires will be trained on software) to patching and other security provisioning will be far easier if everyone is working from the same version of each program.

While making these updates, however, ensure that you go over all application licenses that are in play before you pull the trigger. You should always check with the vendor of each application that you want to include as part of your golden image to make sure that this is actually a cost-effective practice in the long term.

Golden Rule #3: The Art of Keeping It Simple

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, one of the key rules for you to adhere to during the creation and customization of your golden image is to keep things as simple as humanly possible at all times. Never forget this one truth in the world of virtual desktops: The more you add to a golden image, the more you (and your team) will have to manage.

keep it simple

Because of this, start with the needs of your end users and work your way back from there, determining what needs to be included as part of the golden image as you go. Think about the number of people that will be affected, the applications they’ll need and the tasks they need to perform.

If you take the “kitchen sink” approach to customizing your golden image “just to be on the safe side,” you won’t find out until it’s far too late that an invaluable resource has become bloated and, as a result, ineffective. Anything that doesn’t NEED to be included as part of the golden image should NOT be included for the best results.

In the End

If you’ve kept these three golden rules in mind when creating your golden image, you’ll find that your organization is able to enjoy all of the benefits of a VDI with as few of the downsides as possible. Having this single, thoughtful desktop image makes everything from patching to upgrading to managing and even securing virtual desktops far, far easier than it would be otherwise. Likewise, it’s easier for your team to make necessary system changes when there is one master image to work from.

Following these golden rules also makes it easy for your organization to develop a collection of slender golden images based on the specific roles of each employee, or even the tasks that certain groups of employees need to perform. The end result is a series of machines that can almost effortlessly be customized for each and every user — streamlining all of your IT efforts and saving you a great deal of effort in one fell swoop.