Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI): What's real today, what's not, and what's needed

Over the last several months, the concept of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has become the buzzword in a lot of IT shops. Organizations are using (or looking to use) VDI to solve a number of issues they are facing.

Over the last several months, the concept of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has become the buzzword in a lot of IT shops. Organizations are using (or looking to use) VDI to solve a number of issues they are facing. Of course, for the last year I’ve been talking about what VDI is missing in order to make it a real solution and why it can’t beat Terminal Server in a lot of cases. Well, maybe I have seen the light. I mean for some problems, VDI is a perfect fit. For others it’s not so perfect but is still being crammed in nonetheless because someone hates Citrix or TS (or just loves VMware).

In this article, we’ll quickly go through an example use case that a VDI solution will fit almost perfectly and the types of use cases where it doesn’t fit. (When VDI doesn’t fit it’s generally for cost reasons. I mean it would be great to have multi-node clusters for every server on the network but we don’t do it because of cost.) Once we look at the history of SBC and when to use VDI, I’ll then draw a “pie in the sky” VDI solution from the bottom level (the VMs) all the way to the top level (the management tools). I’ll note the components of the solution that are already available and, more importantly, describe in detail the components do not exist yet that are being looked at by numerous vendors.

Before we get started, I want to point out that a number of organizations are implementing or have already implemented VDI solutions. For the most part, these solutions have been cobbled together with scripts, snips of custom code, hacking of existing products, and of course good old duct tape. This article describes a theoretical solution that could be implemented by a single vendor or two with a couple of core technologies, I am NOT saying that the items I say don’t exist can not be accomplished with hacks and tricks—it’s just that no solution on the street has been developed as a package to address specific VDI shortcomings.

What is VDI?

First let’s describe VDI from a high level and compare it to more traditional server-based computing models.

The image on the right shows a traditional SBC model. The users all have access to a desktop GUI via an individual session on the terminal server. This server has a single OS installed; an instance of Terminal Services to provide the sessions and session management, and a set of applications that can be used by all the users on the server.

In the VDI model on the left, a single server is used again, but a hardware virtualization layer is added to this server in place of a more traditional OS like Windows Server. The Virtualization layer provides numerous Virtual Machines that are each supplied with an operating system, applications, and a unique GUI / desktop environment for each user.

As you can tell by the image, a VDI solution provides the same basic functionality of a traditional SBC solution. This functionality is (primarily) to provide a centralized desktop via a protocol like RDP or ICA. Besides the Virtualization layer and numerous OSes, the two solutions look almost identical. (The key word is ’almost’.)

With VDI you gain a couple of benefits that you cannot achieve in a SBC environment, including things like:

  • The ability to provide a unique environment for each and every user.
  • Each of these environments can be completely customized with different apps and settings without impacting other users.
  • Users can be granted more control of their own “virtual” desktop to allow them to install and modify applications if needed.
  • Applications that were not multi-user friendly (i.e. “we cant get this to run on Citrix”) can be run in this environment since each instance is just like installing the app on a new desktop.

The problems start when you think about the solution from its very basic components. Let’s say your boss decides that you need to provide 100 desktops to developer users in India. Each developer needs local admin rights, the ability to reboot the machine, install apps, etc. Basically every one of them must have their own machine. A few years ago the only way to do this would be to buy 100 desktops, stack them in a room or in the datacenter, load up PC Anywhere, Dameware or some other remote control solution, and tell them to go to town. Of course right now you’re frowning at the thought of this, but really is a VDI solution that much different? You still have the same number of OSes, you still have the same number of application installs, you still have to use some type of third party software to get your users connected to the machines, remote printing is going to be an issue and so are peripherals, etc... Starting to sound kind of lame, huh?

The truth is it’s not that lame. Virtualization has allowed you not to have to buy a hundred new boxes and instead get maybe 4, 5 or 6 servers and create the target machines as virtual machines. This, of course, could drop the solution cost pretty significantly.

This leaves you with several issues that need to be solved, including the connectivity, application installations, application upgrades, OS management, VM provisioning, load management, and of course performance monitoring/management and maybe even a number of peripheral issues. Also (with today’s virtualization technologies) you need to put those VMs (encapsulated in files) onto a SAN if you want redundancy. If not the loss of a single server can create the loss of a large number of VMs and their customizations from the users.

As you can see the basic infrastructure is available to provide the platform. The connectivity and management and other surrounding pieces are missing in order to make this a really competitive solution.

<Preachy Rant>
Before I get too far I should note that I believe that VDI is NOT a Citrix replacement in 95% of the use cases, but instead is a solution that fits specific needs and most likely will run side-by-side with terminal servers to fill these needs. VDI is a powerful/useful technology for UNIQUE desktops or apps that will not run on Citrix or on Citrix via an application virtualization software like Softgrid or Citrix’s AIE technology. If you want to host a call center and all the machines/desktops should be identical with little to no modifications possible, buy a terminal server, have it set up correctly, and save the money by using VDI for unique PC deployments or those “no way it runs on Citrix” applications.
 </Preachy Rant>

Okay, so you’ve decided that you need to get these 100 desktops done, but PCAnywhere is so 1999 that you just have to jump on the VDI bandwagon. What issues / needs are you going to have to address, and where can the software come from to address these needs?

Let’s start with a “pie in the sky” view of a perfect VDI solution:

 

In the perfect VDI solution, you would see an easily managed (one or two tools) environment. If you use Citrix and Terminal Server as your starting point then it’s easy to see what you need. The Perfect VDI solution would have or support the following:

  • Session load balancing of “pooled” VMs that are identical.
  • Capabilities to have unique VMs for specific users and still allow them to connect to pooled VMs if needed.
  • A secure way to access these desktops remotely.
  • A management tool that would allow you to see/manage the following:
    • Locate users (which pooled VM are they connected to)
    • Show connection information (where are they coming from how long have they been connected)
    • Timeouts for session active and disconnected times
    • Ability to reset or remotely reboot a VM
    • Ability to pull a VM out of the pool for maintenance or troubleshooting
    • Centralized way of publishing and establishing security for the VDI connectivity
  • A connection method that allowed for the “easily” supported printing and peripheral environment.
  • Ability to add to the pooled VMs resources as load increases WITHOUT having numerous VMs sitting around idle and eating resources. This is akin to dynamic VM creation
  • A way to centrally patch and maintain the pooled VMs that is easier than managing a bunch of unique desktops.
  • Better peripheral support, specifically, printer mapping and management.

When you begin to look at the ideal VDI environment you begin to see it is almost IDENTICAL to a current Citrix or Terminal Server deployment except for the fact the VDI environment has an OS and app instance per VM. This is where the solution begins to loose some of its coolness. You now need to install an OS and its apps, and manage, update, and patch the OS, and the apps for each VM. There may be some ways to simplify that, but before we go there lets look at some of the key features that are needed in a perfect VDI solution, how they are being done today, and how they should be done.

Session load balancing of “pooled” VMs

In most VDI deployments this is not being done (or at least not being done well). In some cases administrators are manually mapping users to VMs by giving the user an IP address or computer name and having them connect via the RDP client. The connection method varies. Some use an RDP file deployed to the user’s existing desktop, some use thin client configured to use a CE based RDP to connect to the desktop, and some companies are hacking/faking out software used for load balancing TS sessions to load balance XP desktop sessions.

What we are talking about is a management tool that allows you to add a list of computer names into a central tool. You would assign that pool a name and then assign permissions to that pool to groups of users. Pie in the Sky would be to even select specific or users or groups of users and allow them to connect to the pool and give them the OPTION to save their VM for later use or not. This would give certain power users the ability to spawn a unique VM from the pool for later use where task-based workers may not receive the option at all. This could also be useful if you have a base image that all users would use (unique and pool users). In another case you could assign multiple groups of users to the pooled resources. Then have the option to allow a submit (unknown to them) to automatically be spun off into a unique VM where session settings and changes are saved. In this case each VM starts with the same base image but only groups or users that are assigned get to “keep” their VM from the pool.

Ability to have unique VMs for specific users and still allow them to connect to pooled VMs if needed

This may sound silly, but the concept of running multiple desktops (or applications) is nothing new.  I mean let’s assume your environment grows a bit and you use VDI for some type of custom application that conflicts with everything including notepad. Now you have a user with a thin client (or fat) that connects to their custom desktop that they’ve been using for a month or two, they’ll also need access to the customer application and thus its pooled desktop. This needs to be done easily, meaning that you need an easy connection method, maybe a web interface that allows the user to select a desktop from the ones they are authorized to use or the ability to directly launch the second desktop from within the first (and still support any peripherals needed).

Right now people are using the RDP client to connect to an XP Pro VM. Then they are either establishing another connection with RDP client from their desktop or not doing it all. This will not work in the long run. (I once had to change about 500 users Program Neighborhoods over to published apps and NFuse because these multiple connections where a nightmare.) As VDI expands, this too will become a problem if there is no centralized brokering mechanism.

A secure way to access these desktops remotely

Let’s face it, a lot of the VDI solutions being implemented are for outsourced developers. Not all mind you, but enough that remote access (or should I say secure remote access) is an issue. The basic idea is that the end user needs a simple yet secure way of accessing the desktop that won’t require the hosting company to drop a bunch of software on the remote client. This screams clientless SSL VPN, or possibly SSL encryption built into the VDI desktop client. In addition it means a software package that is Internet facing that could (or should) integrate with some different types of backend directories (e-dir, AD, maybe throw in SecureID).

How are people doing it now? “Hopping” is the only way to describe it. In some situations companies are publishing the RDP client in Citrix. Users then come into a Web Interface server, login, run the RDP client published app, get routed through a Citrix Secure Gateway into a Citrix session running the MS-RDP client, and use it to launch the RDP session to the XP Pro machine. This is essentially a double hop. It works, but it causes overhead, requires a Citrix license just to run the RDP client, and is basically one session for the price of two.  In other cases, companies are creating firewall rules and VPN connections to allow users to open TCP 3389 from their PC to the XP Pro box. When doing this it’s often a multi-step process for the end user (we know how that works out) or requires you drop a package on their desktop and support it.

What would be ideal? A single hop that integrates both the session brokering and session connectivity without a middleman. (Think of a secure connection to the XP Pro box that looks like an ICA session to a Citrix Presentation Server.)

I know, I know, I’m comparing a bunch of this stuff to Presentation Server. But hey, if something works, model after it, don’t re-invent the wheel.

A complete management tool for the environment

One of the funnier things I see in the VDI realm is that the Non-TS guys kind of have to re-invent all the hacks that Citrix and Terminal Server guys had to do in NT 4.0 and the early days of Server Based Computing. For you old timers, you’ll remember changing the “My “ icon on the session desktop to %username% on %computername%. Well I’ve seen them doing these in XP Pro VMs. Why? There is no management tool to easily tell you which user is connected to which VM, how long have they been connected, or what is the state of their session is.

These are simple things taken for granted in Citrix and TS since the tools have been there forever. A huge step in VDI would be a tool that looks like TSAdmin.exe or MFadmin.exe but is geared towards the VDI market. (Of course I just had to geek out and make a mock up one that you can see below).

Yeah, I know it looks like a TS admin tool, and it’s supposed to. The same concepts you’re familiar with in TS also apply here. The difference is that this tool would need to show the resource groups available, the individual virtual machines available, and of course the users connected to them. In addition I think such a tool (with the rest of the required infrastructure) should be able to:

  • Locate users (which pooled VM are they connected to)
    • Very important for troubleshooting and security reasons
  • Show connection information
    • Right now this is not being done or being done by login scripts that note the login time and username in a central access DB for logon and logoff times.
  • Should allow session shadowing
    • this could somewhat be done today with Dameware on the machine and the end user connecting via RDP
  • Timeouts for session active and disconnected times
    • Some would say you could use domain timeouts (and I already got an e-mail, thanks) but we are really talking about a session open for 29 hours by a single user. How do you know when that happens?
  • Ability to reset or remotely reboot a VM
    • Absolute must. I would say you need hooks from this tool to reboot the VM maybe suspend, obviously take it out of the pool of resources, and possibly to log the user off the VM cleanly. Right now people do this by accessing another tool (like with Vmware’s Virtual Center or VS 2005’s web interface, but I would want the application to be able to call the APIs and from this console handle the shutdowns and restarts)
  • Ability to pull a VM out of the pool for maintenance and or troubleshooting
    • Noted above but is a must.
  • Centralized way of publishing and establishing security for the VDI connectivity
    • Today people are basically doing a one-to-one ratio (VM:User) or hacking together load balancing from other tools. That’s great until you have a centralized way of getting at the desktops and need to restrict Suzie in accounting from seeing the comptrollers desktop remotely. I mean how many of you actually set the local logon rights on desktops? It would be a pain to manage on lots of images.

A connection method that allowed for the “easily” supported printing and peripheral environment.

Yeah. VDI is great until someone prints. Sure there are some ways to get network printers working easily, but then there is the guy in India with a brand new MFC made by some no name company in China, connecting to a desktop in London. Send his support call to Timbuktu because you’re not going to get that printer to work easily.

I would begin to look seriously at some third party companies like ThinPrint for solutions, because I just feel this is going to be a huge issue.

In addition to making printing at least meet the standards of today’s Terminal Server and Citrix environments, you’ll be looking for peripheral support so Suzie in accounting can sync her “CrackBerry” with her desktop. Don’t laugh! If you get VDI running, people will begin to ask for that stuff.
 
Ability to add to the pooled VMs resources as load increases WITHOUT having numerous VMs sitting around idle and eating resources

This is akin to dynamic VM creation. One thing that has always bugged me about VDI is that it FEELS like WinFrame. Basically if you need to support 30 Concurrent sessions you have to have 30 VMs sitting there whether all 30 are being used or only 2 are being used. Right now this is how most VDI solutions are setup

Now this may not seem like an issue but there is a reason that later version of TS moved to a listener model; it was to reduce the amount of resources used by idle sessions (and these were just virtual sessions within an OS, not the whole OS itself sitting there).

The solution would be to find a way to QUICKLY (read less than 15-30 seconds) provision a VM that’s ready for use. I’m not sure how to do this yet, but its one solution. Another solution (or workaround) would be to determine max load in the farm in any, (say 15 minute) period. If you could accept 6 new logons in 15 minutes then the minimum number of VMs available would be 6. When one is used by a user logging in, another would be created. The one being created would still have a 5 VM buffer before any users tried to get to it.  Now this would be a pretty intense solution, and not elegant by any means, but it’s probably just one idea of 100 that other people have to solve this issue.

A way to centrally patch and maintain the pooled VMs that is easier than managing a bunch of unique desktops

Yeah, now you’ve just added a bunch of VMs to your environment that you need to patch and upgrade constantly. Sure you can dump WSUS in there for Patch Tuesdays, or you can use your existing SMS infrastructure, but there is obviously and added cost for this. 

Today most people are doing that; using existing tools. Personally I think that if the previous issue is solved (a way to quickly provision VMs) then we will solve this. I mean if the VMs are built and broken down all the time, and when built come from a centralized template for the pool being published, then the template would just need to be updated and through the life of the VM (logon and logoff) the VM would be created with the new patches. This of course solves the problems for pooled VMs, but not unique ones. You still need to manage those just like desktops.

Conclusion

Will VDI take over the world? I doubt it. I think it will have its place just like other “Virtualization” technologies like Citrix and TS, Softricity and AppStream, etc. VDI has a place and will solve issues, but it’s just that—another solution to a problem. It’s not the solution to all of our problems. Right now VDI is in its infancy. Those that go down that road are bound to have to jump some serious technical hurdles to create an easily managed system. Just like the first multi-user systems, VDI will solve your problem today, but will be hard to manage compared to some other systems and require some learning curve for your staff. Hopefully over the next few months vendors will get on board and make some of the technology a reality. Citrix is supposedly working on something to help with brokering of the sessions in a more elegant fashion, but that is for another article.

If you have other VDI challenges or solutions you want to note, post to the comments section of this article. VDI is new, and no one has all the answers. That’s what makes it fun.

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That was a lot if info.....all good.  I have not rolled up my sleeves yet with VDI or any of the other virtualization
technologies just yet and was just contemplating whether I should or not.  After reading this article, I am thinking
my time is better spent continuing to master Citrix/TS......but, the question I have is where are Citrix and MS going to take these virtualization technologies and should I get on board before the boat leaves?  Open ended question I know, just trying to figure out where to focus my attention.
 
In response to part of your article, where the user has or needs access to different VM's.....would a "session sharing" technology work or benefit the overall solution and is it possible with VDI?
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ORIGINAL: Todd Maiorano

That was a lot if info.....all good.  I have not rolled up my sleeves yet with VDI or any of the other virtualization
technologies just yet and was just contemplating whether I should or not.  After reading this article, I am thinking
my time is better spent continuing to master Citrix/TS......but, the question I have is where are Citrix and MS going to take these virtualization technologies and should I get on board before the boat leaves?  Open ended question I know, just trying to figure out where to focus my attention.

In response to part of your article, where the user has or needs access to different VM's.....would a "session sharing" technology work or benefit the overall solution and is it possible with VDI?


First I think you should get on board and at least watch the market for tools that are going to fit in this space. I think that VDI should be a tool/option in your Kit right now, though if you need it in a BIG environment way you will have some hoops to jump through.

Second, I dont believe session sharing will be a reality in the VDI market. People may find ways to share encryption streams into and out of the network, but the very basis of VDI (unique OS for each user, or unique OS instance I should say) would keep session sharing (based on using an existing desktop environment) from workign out.

The future for VDI is WIDE open, and there is lots of potential. I think that the overhead in vmware type solutions is being reduced every year, and that it will become more efficient, but even then you are executing a OS for each user instead of sharing and there is a cost associated with that. Hopefully tool vendors will follow soon and not just give VDI lip service, and I believe Citrix's initial jump into this market will make some of the Citrix shops happy and help them along the way. (But that is for the enxt article).

Ron
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VPN + RDP client + WinConnect + Roaming profiles + folder redirection to NAS + ESX 2.5 + NetApps storing user unique desktop image templates \ P to V + SMS for management + Thin Print for RDPNote: no scripts, snips, or hacking any code... except off corse for login script.Am I missing something? (Except lots of money and being fed up with Citrix :(
Ron we spoke about this at the Briforum…. it’s inevitable but also good…Rogue apps and lazy developers have caused this reinvention of the wheel and perhaps we are now getting back on track…
As you all recall it was not SBC that Microsoft portrayed future back in 90’s, but in fact it was a promise of ASP model and we are clearly heading that way…Mechanisms like softricity and Ardence integrated in future MS hosts will streamline apps on demand…Citrix should focus on Netscaler and development of other web gadgets because it’s just matter of time someone bundles this solutions into one package.
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I encourage anyone looking at VDI to contact Microsoft and ask them if they support Windows XP on this platform.  I think you'll be surprised at the answer.
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They support Enterprise clients.If those type of " MONSTER" clients need MS support anyways!
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The question isn't "Will you do VDI", the question is "When will you do VDI".  In my opinion, many organizations are already so far along in this process that I think that Citrix missed a big opportunity to be the glue that held all of this together.  But I will reserve judgement to see where things go over the next 6-18 months.  Despite lots of people investing in this marketplace, it's still as much in it's infancy as SBC was in the mid 90's.

Shawn
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is Citrix pretty much done?
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My company is entertaining VDI, I am not sure at what degree, I am just trying to figure out if I need to do some more homework, build a lab, and then potentially go to my boss and make a claim to replace all our Dell desktops with an army of thin clients connected to a "virtual farm" of XP desktops.  I would love to be that guy with the PIP of the year, just need to be sure the solution can support the demand, is reliable and can scale up.  I can deal with some bugs and printing issues to work through, even reinventing part of the wheel, but there would have to be a centralized mgmt utility and it MUST be scalable.  I am talking about approx. 1000+ desktops in corp.  We currently have a 60 PS3 server farm serving 10,000 thin clients for our retail shops.  The corp office has an array of apps, tons of images, etc, not a great candidate for Citrix.  But we did just put in a sweet SAN to host images/data so that piece is in place.
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What does this even mean? No, I don't think Citrix is pretty much done.. I mean like Ron said, VDI is only a small part of the machine that compliments SBC. Personally I'm hoping to see an IMA/ICA integrated VDI solution from Citrix. I think they're in the best position ever since they can bridge the gap from traditional SBC to VDI.

Brian
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wouldnt the answer be simple enough that all Citrix need to do is make a small server
package for Windows XP allowing for direct ICA connection to an XP box
 
Thus ICA session to XP running on vmware ESX or MS virtual server.
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That would be cool. Unfortunately, the licensing agreement that Citrix signed with Microsoft only gives them a license to modify / sell stuff based on to the server code, not the desktop / XP code. I'm sure this is something that they've wanted to do for years, but it's not legally possible at the moment.

Brian
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Great article Ron!

My conclusion is still the same: VDI is a very interesenting approach when Presentation Server/Terminal Server does not apply, but it is still very immature. Should keep an eye on it.

I have to say I was surprised that you did not mention the following article from Citrix Support:

"Hosted Client Solutions on VMware Workstation" - http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX108077

I haven't personally tried the procedures suggested in the article (and by no means will they solve all the issues established by Ron), but if someones does, I'd love to hear some feedback.

Carlos Sanabria (casanabria@gmail.com)
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There's a start-up in Austin called Surgient that has served up over 500,000 virtual lab sessions on VMware and Microsoft for demos, education and software testing.  They are using RDP and Citrix have an integrated SSL VDI interface for remote access.  They support access to multiple labs with the ability to save and restore your session at a later time. Cool stuff.
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Saw a webinar on this and it was pretty slick.  Anyone else seen or using this?
http://www.leostream.com/productVHDC.html
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There is also a startup out of New York called Bladetop ([link=http:  
Marc
 
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While I agree that VDI is a niche solution for many 'pain' areas in IT, and I have seen a lot of interest in this technology from many of my customers, I can't help but feeling that a solution which wastes as much resource as VDI is not the right way to go for the mainstream. Every additional OS deployed incurs additional overhead which is just a plain waste.
 
I'd prefer to see improvements in the ability to host multiple Terminal Servers on an ESX back end. This hugely reduces the OS overhead requirements, and in conjunction with a foolproof way to deploy applications like Softricity or Tarpon is a much more scalable solution.
 
If I could quickly deploy and virtualise Presentation Servers in a few minutes, in a way which scaled almost as well as on native hardware, stream apps to these servers and manage this all with a nice easy centralised management console I'd be a happy man.
 
Hey, there's no reason why we can't use the same VDI backend to virtualise desktops and servers if its managed in the right way. That to me would be the best of both worlds.
 
As I said, there are some niche area where this technology flies, trading floors for example, but for the majority of mainstream apps, I still see Terminal Services as the most appropriate solution.
 
Just my $0.02.
 
 
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I began to research VDI just a few months ago and stumbled upon this press release from Provision Networks:
"The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high
and we miss it, but we aim too low and reach it" - Michelangelo

 
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ORIGINAL: jaime_soto
 It's pretty impressive. When I read Brian's article I was pretty surprised (and Impressed, Brian :)) because what the article describes is pretty much what was demonstrated to me.

 
Thanks Jamie. But it was Ron O's article :-D  I guess that is the risk with this site, most people think all the content is written by brian.
 
Ron
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Peter is the CTO of Provision Networks, which is a spin-off of EOL (Emergent Online), a Citrix Partner/Reseller that made Citrix programs like a Universal Printer Driver and Timezone Tool.  After selling these to Citrix Clients for years, Peter created Provision Networks and now sells his own program suite that is an alternative to Citrix.
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ORIGINAL: Ron Oglesby

ORIGINAL: jaime_soto
It's pretty impressive. When I read Brian's article I was pretty surprised (and Impressed, Brian :)) because what the article describes is pretty much what was demonstrated to me.


Thanks Jamie. But it was Ron O's article :-D  I guess that is the risk with this site, most people think all the content is written by brian.

Ron

 
Ron, my apologies!!! I sent a link to this article over the weekend to Peter Ghostine, and the first thing he said to me is that I got the authors mixed up! Anyways, kudos to you and keep the good stuff coming. Again, sorry man.  
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Excellent article Brian, I mean Ron! :)  I think VDI will tempt people with the concept without understanding the lack of foundational elements you point out.  Thanks for summarizing them.  Any thoughts on VDI versus bladed PCs like ClearCube or HP's version?  I haven't worked with either but that seems to be a more logical comparison.
 
Thanx,
Matt Ronsman
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I think the blade PC has its place just like a VM based PC. I mean to give some one a blade PC I think they would have all (or some) of the following requirements.
1- required to runs apps that are processor intensive for long durations
2- Money made by the business is tied to speed at which application processes information
3- requires their own phsyical machine for a specific device (still hard to do with blades but I am talking extra network cards/special phsyical security or something like that
4- Hates Citrix and Hates Virtualization.

What do I see in the "Future". There will be environments running ALL of these but more than likely most environments will only have 1 or2 of the three solutions (Citrix/ts, VDI and blade PCs). I mean imagine you host your call center apps on Citrix since they are all the same and are task based. You have some blade PCs for a few guys running engineering applications, big time math/calculations or whatever, and a batch of VDI desktops for goofy apps, 'special' users and maybe some other users. 

The utopia is a single way to manage and monitor all of these as a unit. Basically the VDI and blades becoming an integral part of your other Virtual Desktop solution (TS).  Everyone in IT knows that having multiple solutions that look and act alike with different tools and vendors always causes issues. People will want one tool, one interface, one place to look for trouble and do configurations. I see them all having a fit in the network, its all about requirements and costs!

Ron
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 in the context of a large number of developers (500+) being sited in India and requiring connectivity to VDI in London, our company was faced with a challenge to provide an immediate VDI solution.
The quickest solution to market was XP on MS Virtual Server.  The developers would hop off onto a Presentation server in London and then RDP to their desktop.  So, with a one developer to one Virtual Desk, all was pretty simple and straightforward.
So, the user connects over ICA from India to London and subsequently uses RDP from London PS to London Xp desktop.  All ,works well until latency is introduced and the whole thing falls apart.  We had three/four users on a 1Mbps link that when latency appeared (something like 500ms) the connections became unusable.  I have to say that we have really done no real testing on this but it appears that Speedscreen latency doesn't work when running mstsc over ica. Probably because the Presentation Server doesn't understand the RDP desktop as a 'windows application' and therefore apply the speedscreen latency reduction technology, but instead see's it as a bitmap stream. 
So, what we don't know yet is - when the users say it is unuseable, whether that is because without speedscreen latency, mstsc over ICA is unusable or whether, RDP is inherently innefficient running over ICA on high latency connections.
We are looking to get a WAN simulator in and really look at this properly.  When can we have an ICA stack on the client? aherm.
 
incidentally, interesting post from Jaime re Provision networks!! i will read up on them.
 
cheers,
Brianos
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The interesting thing about speedscreen is even at 500 MS you may still hear that it is un usable....  Latency is a B###H with any type of remote desktop solution and there isnt much of a good way around it.

As of youre double hop scenario. Citrix has a tool/application they are goign to release called the RDB (remote desktop BRoker). This is going to a be stopgap for Citrix customers untill they get their full blown VDI solution out. OF course it does exactly what you are talking about. Allows a published ap to runt hat controls a pool a remote desktops (Blades or VMs) and basically will initiate an RDP session to an unused desktop in the pool as someone comes in running the published application.

Will it fix that latency issue? no. 500 ms. I ahve had speedscreen on a number of projects, and it has helped some, but 500 ms, jumpy nasty little pauses and what not. THat I think you are kinda stuck with.

Ron
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Hey Ron, thanks for your response.
Regardins your comments about Speedscreen latency.  When our users were suffering terribly with their RDP over ICA sessions where the session was almost unusable... we got them to run basic winword type apps via ICA and these seemed to work perfectly?? So, either speedscreen latency is super fantastic great, or RDP over ICA just is super inefficient?  like I said, this is a bit of guesswork until we get a WAN simulator on the case.
cheers,
Brianos
 
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Agreed. SpeedScreen is a partial solution at best. While it's a great idea, I've never seen it being a real differentiator. The bottom line is that you can echo text locally all day and acknowledge mouse clicks with an hourglass till the cows come home, but when a user clicks a button or selects menu option expecting a speedy response (i.e., the instant execution of the business logic in the event behind the button or menu option), SpeedScreen isn't going to circumvent or mask out the latency and jitter characterstics of the network connection. RDP or ICA, that's the nature of the beast, so let's not blame either one.
 
I've recently noticed some blogging concerning Provision Networks, most of which is positive. We're very grateful for that. Concerning latency generators, I recommend PacketStorm (www.packetstorm.com). I've been using their Tornado software-based product since May 2005, and I've been very happy with it. They also have hardware-based solutions for you to consider. The other company whose solution works great is Simena (http://www.simena.net/). Oh, and if I'm not mistaken, I think I overheard Tim Mangan mention at briForum 2006 that he's got a freebiel that can simulate adverse network conditions. You might want to check out his Web site (http://www.tmurgent.com/).
 
Peter    
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So, if speedscreen isn't the differentiator here, then my thoughts turn to RDP over ICA.  is this an inherently inefficient way of projecting a screen?  I will dig out some network tools and try and simulate this issue.
 
Incidentally, NDA and all that, but when can we get ICA on the desktop anyway... we have all sorts of other problems with RDP over ICA, not to mention the key mapping problems.
 
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ORIGINAL: Guest

Hey Ron, thanks for your response.
Regardins your comments about Speedscreen latency.  When our users were suffering terribly with their RDP over ICA sessions where the session was almost unusable... we got them to run basic winword type apps via ICA and these seemed to work perfectly?? So, either speedscreen latency is super fantastic great, or RDP over ICA just is super inefficient?  like I said, this is a bit of guesswork until we get a WAN simulator on the case.
cheers,
Brianos


 
Exactly. Speedscreen works on trying to detect the text in a field, the font, size etc. then "faking" it back ont he client side. If you are running RDP its a screen scrape and basically an image. Though I dont believe the "image" being sent to your screen is helped by any of the jpeg compression or other things they do.
 
So long and short double hop is not helped by speed screen since it requires configuration where the application executes that the text is actually being input.
 
Ron
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Hi,
 
Looking at this kind of solution we found Neowares Image Manager to be very fitting the general needs (provided you have the 100Mbit infrastructure) - runs a local desktop from centrally managed images with differentials.
No HD required on the desktop box -- just PXE boot into XP or XPe....
User gets rights according to what the sysadmin wants, and there is a good differentiation between static and volatile modes - in the latter one the 100 developers could all do their own program installs and stuff and revert back to the master image settings if the ruin their OS
Being a thin client vendor Neoware is quite aware of management issues one may run into...
Curious to hear if anyone field-tested this already?
 
Brgds,
 
Adri
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it’s just that no solution on the street has been developed as a package to address specific VDI shortcomings.

Actually, quite a few of the shortcomings you listed are being addressed already.

There is a company called Leostream out of the Boston area that makes a Virtual Desktop Connection Broker. Allows creation of pools of VMs, and dynamic allocation of these VMs to individual users based on AD group memberships and other factors. It can automatically broker an RDP, VNC or VMware console connection upon login, or use a "self-service" method, where users can choose their specific destination VMs. The Leostream product can also do on-demand power-on of idle VMs, and a graceful shutdown upon logoff. You can manage users centrally and see how long they've been logged on. You can perform graceful shutdowns of VMs remotely. You can pull individual VMs out of the pool at any time. And, it integrates with the Wyse S10 thin client. I've been using their product for a little while now, and I've been pretty impressed with it.

There are definately more issues with VDI to be overcome, but these issues seem to be getting addressed pretty quickly by the market.

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ORIGINAL: Guest

it’s just that no solution on the street has been developed as a package to address specific VDI shortcomings.


 
I guess it would have been better said that none Address ALL the short comings or do them well.
 
In the enxt couple of articles I will be going over some specific solutions, pros and cons as I see them and digging a little into their technology and archtiecture.
 
Ron
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You might also ask Microsoft about XP licensing for Virtual Machines, especially if you have an EA, not to mention Remote Desktop Licenses.
 
Microsoft is not yet aligned to a model with virtual machines, and until it chooses to do so, VDI is going to be a very expensive acquisition - on the order of $2K/user unless you are going to overload your servers and deliver a very non-PC-like performance and tick off your end users
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Brian,
 
Given the high HW and SW costs associated with VDI, does this solution make economic sense for the mainstream PC user?  If not, then I would see significant overlap with traditional Citrix users.
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Hi,
 
I would suggest to check also Shunra VE solution which is the leadnig company of WAN simulation / emulation tool.
www.shunra.com
 
 
BR,
 
Roi.
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I suggest you check The Shunra VE products (www.shunra.com).
 
 
 
ORIGINAL: Peter Ghostine

Agreed. SpeedScreen is a partial solution at best. While it's a great idea, I've never seen it being a real differentiator. The bottom line is that you can echo text locally all day and acknowledge mouse clicks with an hourglass till the cows come home, but when a user clicks a button or selects menu option expecting a speedy response (i.e., the instant execution of the business logic in the event behind the button or menu option), SpeedScreen isn't going to circumvent or mask out the latency and jitter characterstics of the network connection. RDP or ICA, that's the nature of the beast, so let's not blame either one.

I've recently noticed some blogging concerning Provision Networks, most of which is positive. We're very grateful for that. Concerning latency generators, I recommend PacketStorm (www.packetstorm.com). I've been using their Tornado software-based product since May 2005, and I've been very happy with it. They also have hardware-based solutions for you to consider. The other company whose solution works great is Simena (http://www.simena.net/). Oh, and if I'm not mistaken, I think I overheard Tim Mangan mention at briForum 2006 that he's got a freebiel that can simulate adverse network conditions. You might want to check out his Web site (http://www.tmurgent.com/).

Peter    

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I have seen another very interesting demonstration from a company called Dunes Technologies here: http:
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What are the XP licensing implications? Its my understanding that an OEM XP license is not "transferable" off the machine it was purchased with. And the only other way to get a "full" XP license is to purchase a retail box copy of XP.
 
So to implement a VDI infrastructure, how does one properly license the Windows XP?
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You wouldn't use OEM licensing.  You would have an SA or Enterprise agreement that would allow this.  Simple as that.
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Brian,
 
I have read some of your articles and I have always find them oustanding and very clear. If I can.... I just think that in this article you have missed the fact that some (certainly not all) of the VDI shortfalls are already being addressed by session manager / session brokering software such as that from Leostream for example. Also, as others have mentioned, Dunes is about to ship a similar product that will address some of the same issues (I have played around with the beta and it looks <interesting>).
I have been also playing with the Leostream product at one of my customers and it is interesting.
 
This topic VDI Vs standard SBC has all the characteristics to shift very quickly into the usual religious battles (which are so annoying). I have been playing with Citrix for some 8 / 9 years although lately I haven't looked into it so much. Some 7 / 8 years ago I though that SBC would have taken over the world. I love it. Unfortunately it didn't. Yes it made Citrix as a company very rich but primarily because their solutions is VERY expensive rather than because they took the market by storm. In my opinion Citrix is what it is meaning that there will be improvements in the technology but the ecosystem is pretty much it. There won't be another "the world will all be SBC" version 2 wave (I think).
 
VDI on the other hand has a great asset which is .. it's in its infancy as you said. We are in the middle of this emotional "the world will all be VDI" wave and it might turn out to be the biggest bluff in history, another niche solution to address a niche of issues... or reality. There are all the assumptions for VDI to be very pervasive (and not only for offfshore developments) but we know for experience that what happens in this industry is sometimes not based on rational/technical decisions.
 
My two cents.
Keep up with the oustanding work !
 
Massimo.
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Ohps ..... i have just realized the author was Ron and not Brian ....... ;-)
 
Sorry Ron ....
 
Massimo.
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ORIGINAL: king@it.ibm.com

Ohps ..... i have just realized the author was Ron and not Brian ....... ;-)

Sorry Ron ....

Massimo.

 
No problem. And in response to your first post (and to a previous poster):
 
I guess it would have been better said that none of the packages sddress ALL the short comings or do them well. 
 

Ron

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OK so I want to provide traing videos to remote offices. How, if at all, will orcould this work?????
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Add softricity agent to VDI and then there is not need to install applications in the VM.  Keep the image small and stream the applications.
 
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ORIGINAL: Patrick Rouse

Peter is the CTO of Provision Networks, which is a spin-off of EOL (Emergent Online), a Citrix Partner/Reseller that made Citrix programs like a Universal Printer Driver and Timezone Tool.  After selling these to Citrix Clients for years, Peter created Provision Networks and now sells his own program suite that is an alternative to Citrix.
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Read the Article, Very Nice. After taking the VDI beta class on VDM2.0 I have noticed that a lot of the problems for VDI that you mentioned have been addressed. For instance the Remote connectivity to the VMs. They have a Security Server now. Most any usb devices are now support that are considered mass storage. Which includes printers. Session timeouts can also be taken care of. One of the biggest changes is storage thru netapp. They are using data deduplication the SAN side of things. So if you have 1000 10gb VM images running at once and they are nonpersistant you may only be using 10 or 11 gb of space. Very Cool stuff. I am in the process of building 2 VDI servers on DL380 5440's with 20GB of RAM each and I do think there will be a problem putting 80 users a piece on these boxes. If anyone wants to contact me you can do so at dmshirkey@nmb.us PS. I am clearing out my citrix farm and taking them to VDI, also for security reasons. I can put 40 VMs for COPs and 40 regular users on the same server and have them never see or have access to the same applications, files, or network. Citrix or TS? Nope  Hope this helped
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What are peoples thoughts on the cost of VDI over physical PC's ? Even in a LAN environment only for desktop users (a simple scenario and argubly not even realistic due to existence of mobile clients) and overlooking the obvious issue over protocols / usability and making the assumption this was solved the numbers just fall apart for me. By my calculations based on 1500 desktops being replaced by a thin clients and expansion of ESX host / SAN environment to accomodate I calculate VDI to be 2.5 times as expensive as physical desktops over three years. I'd be interested to know how other peoples numbers stack up, my costs are also based on large discounts received by my employer not rrp prices.

 

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Funny… I came across this article and for a minute or two I though it was a recent article (I read 2006 as 2008).  As I read, I began to think, “man Ron you are out of touch- a lot of this stuff already exists.”  Then I realized my mistake and I began to think, WOW you were really accurate about a lot of the direction VDI would go over the next two years.  Now would you mind revisiting this and discussing the complete lack of management tools (at least from the major players).  I mean they have had 2 years to get these things finished!


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Which is Better Vmware Vdi or Hp Blade Pc ?Any one tell me  


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