A first look at Kaviza VDI-in-a-box 3.0 (they're doing it right!)

t's been a long time coming, especially since they're one of my favorite concepts in VDI, so I finally decided to sit down and get hands-on with Kaviza's VDI-in-a-Box solution. I had high hopes coming out of the gate, and I wasn't disappointed.

t's been a long time coming, especially since they're one of my favorite concepts in VDI, so I finally decided to sit down and get hands-on with Kaviza's VDI-in-a-Box solution. I had high hopes coming out of the gate, and I wasn't disappointed. Kaviza has so many interesting features out of the box, it's worth listing some of them here before moving forward:

  • Simple to stand up - each server is just a virtual appliance
  • Simple to expand - just load more virtual appliances on to more hosts
  • Works with XenServer or ESX
  • They licensed HDX from Citrix, so you can use it with your virtual desktops
  • Local storage model, keeps data replicated between hosts, no need for expensive SAN
  • Low cost, and low risk for implementation

It's fairly easy to follow the process from start to finish, so that's the route this review will take. The most complex part is actually creating the master VM, but we're not talking anything extraordinary. You just get spoiled when it takes less than 30 minutes to install the hypervisor and the Kaviza virtual appliance.

Before I get started, though, I want to mention that each step in this process is meticulously documented in the support documentation from Kaviza. If you're curious about VDI-in-a-box, and you have a free day (or even afternoon), you should be able to get it up and running pretty easily.


Like I said, this is crazy easy. Install the hypervisor, download the virtual machine image from Kaviza, and import it. My test was done using XenServer since I had the install disk right in front of me. This is the free XenServer, too…no add-ons or anything. I thought about recording video, but there's not really a point to it since it's so simple.

The Grid

Kaviza's simplicity is due as much to its ease of installation as it is to it's grid operating model. Standing up more VM hosts is just a matter of importing the virtual appliance, setting the IP address, and pointing it to any other Kaviza server in the grid. I installed XenServer in ten minutes, and five minutes later I had another Kaviza server in the grid.

Once in the grid, each server watches all the other servers to maintain usage and load balancing information. Servers can be pulled from the grid for maintenance through the management console.


Building the base VM

As I mentioned, creating the Base VM is the most time consuming process when setting up VDI-in-a-box. Part of the reason for this is just that installing and tweaking Windows takes some time. There are also some steps that Kaviza introduced that, while the may take a bit more time, makes image management easier down the road.

Creating a VM is, at the highest level, a three phase process: creating the VM, importing the VM into Kaviza, and preparing that VM for users.

Phase 1: Create the VM

Since I'm using XenServer, I created a VM from XenCenter and installed Windows 7. Since I'm not performance testing, I didn't pay much attention to the settings, but I did use the recommended 1.5GB of memory that Kaviza suggests. I used Windows 7 32-bit, but 64-bit is also supported.

After getting Windows installed, there are the steps that are taken to get the VM ready for import into Kaviza:

  • Activate Windows and enable the local administrator account, which is disabled by default
  • Install the hypervisor tools, in my case, the XenTools
  • Enable remote desktop connections and allow Domain Users (or whatever group you want) to connect
  • Tweak the Windows firewall to allow remote desktop connections (and HDX on 1494 and 2598, if you're using HDX)
  • Install Microsoft Hotfix KB976494, "Error 1789 when you use the LookupAccountName function on a computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2"
  • Test RDP connections from another box
  • If you're using HDX, install .NET Framework 3.5
  • If you're running ESX, you need to uninstall the VMware SVGA 3D driver

Phase 2: Import into Kaviza

This part is pretty simple. You first log in to the Kaviza management console and browse to the Template tab. This is where the bulk of image management takes place. At this point, you'll create a "Working Image" by importing it into the system.

The import process reboots the VM and checks to make sure that the proper communications exist between Kaviza, the hypervisor, and the VM.

After importing the VM, you'll install the Kaviza VDA, which contains all the bits that let the Kaviza management box talk to the VM. Next, Next install.

Phase 3: Save the "Working Image" as a "Desktop Image"

Once all the prerequisite steps have been completed and the VDA installed, it's time to convert the "Working Image" to a "Desktop Image." This boils down to sysprepping the image, which the Kaviza management console takes care of for you.

After completing this process, Kaviza recommends you start the image and test it out, then re-sysprep it (Kaviza calls it "prepare) before deploying it. I actually followed this instruction, and I'm glad I did, because I uncovered a name resolution issue between my domain and my DHCP server that made it so I couldn't join the domain automatically.

Creating a Desktop Image

After creating the base image, of which you can have several, you can then create the actual desktop images that will be provisioned to users. During this process, you can do some basic configuration:

  • Choose which base image to use
  • Configure how much memory each VM will use
  • Choose whether or not to connect local disk drives, printers, serial ports, or smart cards
  • Maximum number of desktops to use this image
  • Number of pre-started desktops for fast user logons
  • …and a few other template-specific things

User Management

After creating the desktop images, you can provision them to users or groups within your organization. You can integrate Kaviza with AD, or you can have Kaviza maintain its own user database. This is all done from the management console, and is all pretty self-explanatory. It's one more thing that "just works" with this solution.

Connecting to virtual machines

Kaviza uses a Java-based client, which means they can support just about any endpoint you can think of that also has an HDX or RDP client. The list from their documentation includes:

  • 32/64-bit Windows XP, Vista, 7, plus embedded versions
  • 32-bit RHEL 5.x, CentOS 5.x, Ubuntu 10.x, plus embedded versions
  • MacOS 10.5 or 10.6
  • Apple iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)
  • Several 10zig and Wyse thin clients, including the Wyse Xenith (this is Wyse's zero-client that supports HDX)

If you're using Kaviza with the HDX option, you're able to connect directly to Kaviza desktops using the Citrix Receiver without a Kaviza client (which is why Wyse Xenith is supported). You lose some functionality this way, namely load balancing (meaning you need to know exactly which VM to connect to when using just the Receiver).

The logon process via the Kaviza client is relatively simple. You can download the java applet that consists of the "normal" client, then launch it to connect, or you can browse to the web interface and launch the desktop from there.

Kaviza can fail back to RDP if the Citrix client isn't available. When connecting, Kaviza checks the following things:

  • You're using an HDX licensed version of Kaviza
  • The endpoint device isn't connecting via the Kaviza Gateway
  • The Citrix Online plugin is installed

If any of those requirements fails, RDP is used instead of HDX. Users can also connect via RDP even if HDX is possible by clicking a link on the Kaviza client logon screen.

There are detailed instructions in the "Kaviza VDI-in-a-box User Access Device Configuration Guide" for the endpoints listed above.

Image Management

Image management in Kaviza is a fairly simple process that appears to be quite effective. When the need arises to update an image, you can simply create a working image based on an existing image. From there, you can decide whether the new image, when saved, will replace the original image or become its own standalone image.

If it replaces the original image, the image will be refreshed according to policies that you configure on the image properties screen. This can be on logout, at scheduled intervals, or both. Admins can also force desktop refreshes.

Thin Provisioning

On ESX, Kaviza supports Linked Clones right out of the box. In order to support thin provisioning on the local disk in XenServer, you must reformat the local storage repository to the EXT3 filesystem as opposed to LVM. The only downside to this is that you need to know this before you set up your Kaviza test lab on XenServer because the process wipes the local storage :)

So, if you want to use thin provisioning on XenServer, follow the "Instructions to enable thin provisioning on XenServer.pdf" document FIRST, then proceed as you would normally.

Kaviza Gateway

The Kaviza Gateway is a remote connection solution that uses the TS Gateway role on Windows Server 2008 to wrap RDP traffic in an SSL tunnel for secure external access to Kaviza desktops. The Kaviza Gateway service is a Java application that runs on the TS Gateway server and connects you into the Kaviza environment to take advantage of load balancing and session reconnection.

One thing to note is that the Kaviza Gateway is RDP only, which is kind of a bummer because HDX has better performance on the WAN. Hopefully there will be a future update that fixes this.


I had to think a little bit about how to wrap this up. There were so many good experiences with this product, I wanted to make sure I balanced the review with what I thought could use some work. Here's what I came up with:

  1. I'd be interested in hearing how well Kaviza scales both upward and outward in real-life scenarios. It seems like the grid architecture is pretty chatty on the network, and that there might be a limit to how many hosts you can have in the grid. I also wonder how many VMs per host it can support. Not that I see anything that concerns me with the implementation. It's more out of curiosity.
  2. The Kaviza Gateway bring RDP only is unfortunate. I hope to see an update in the future (even if it means they have to roll their own gateway instead of using the TS Gateway) that supports HDX.
  3. I'd like to see some sort of branch office solution in there. I'm sure you can add hosts to remote locations, but configuring your environment so that a) users get a desktop on a server that's local to them and b) there isn't much replication traffic across the WAN would be pretty cumbersome. If there was a way to configure one server at a remote location as the "master" to save replicating data across the WAN multiple times, that would be a big deal.

So, that's three things I could come up with. One of them is just a question I have, one is an actual problem I have with the product, and the other is a feature that I made up. Not bad! 

I don't test scalability in these First Look articles because I don't have the hardware to do it accurately and, even if I did, my use case would be different than yours. With Kaviza, this is no big deal. It's so easy to get running that anyone with a few hours (say, this Friday after Thanksgiving in the U.S.) can try it out. The installation documents take you through the process step-by-step, and you'll have it running in no time. If you haven't seen the product yet, give it a shot. I bet you'll be surprised. If you have any experiences to share, please do so in the comments.



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With Kaviza compared to XD 4.0 + lower price I do get the go-to-market with the ease of use and fewer moving parts (especially for SMBs), but how's the story with Kaviza "VDI-in-a-box" vs. XD 5.0 "10 to Xen" aside of pricing?

A mayor thing that I would be worried of as a potential Kaviza customer is if the feature set will hold pace with those in XD 5.0 and beyond?  


Gabe, Great initial overview...

Few questions...

- Does it have a user environment management feature?

- Does it integrate with 3rd party application deployment tools (app-v, svs, MSI, etc)?

- Can it broker connections to TS/RDS?

- Can it broker connections to physical desktops/blade pc's?

- Does it do single sign on the desktops?

- Can it talk?

or is it purely an appliance for provisioning and brokering desktops?

If thats the case I'm not sure what the point is? small business only? Even these days small businesses are becoming quite diverse with their requirements. Not really a criticism but more of an observation.

They may of licensed HDX but the integration seems very basic to me.

Still I love the concept!


Kaviza is interesting because of two points:

- On the one hand Kaviza deals with the "local storage for VDI" concept much better than other solutions, because it is nativly designed for that kind of architecture. That's why their VDI solutions will be cheaper than other (shared storage based) VDI solutions (it's not only because of a lower price for the broker)

- On the other hand Kaviza has a great solution for the availibility of your VDI environment because of their grid technology ...even across different datacenters (something that adds additional costs and complexity to shared storage based VDI solutions).

But...there is one main problem with that solution:

As Brian and Gabe described very good in this video (searchvirtualdesktop.bitpipe.com/.../1289878054_128.html) , you should consider using terminal services instead of VDI if you are about to use shared images.

Kaviza is completly focused on shared images.

What we need is a solution that gives us the advantages of Kaviza but with private images.


Hey Gabe -

Great job on the review. We started working with Kumar and the Kaviza team in the very early days. The proof in a new approach and technology like this is the customer response and experience.

We have worked with many Kaviza customers to add value with Thin Desktop. I can tell you that every single customer or prospect we have engaged with has had nothing but excellent things to say about the product and support from the Kaviza team.

We are very pleased to be a technology partner with them.



Good review Gabe, as you know tuCloud deploy Kaviza in the real world and have deployed upto 5k desks on single implementations without issues for the Us government.

In terms of scalability we do not forsee any issues doubling or tripling that and will be doing so in January.

Increasingly I am seeing Kaviza emerge as a third option next to VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop when organizations look to build their own internal VDI platform and I can understand why.

We conducted a survey of around 2000 users a month back and half the users thought their desktop user experience over the WAN was excellent, the rest thought it was completely acceptable and this is important.  That Citrix HDX polishes off the platform nicely in our view.

Big thumbs up from me on Kaviza Gabe.


I am very curious about scale. @gulsebule 5K users seems like a lot of on a single instance, but I haven't tested it, so curious.

Even if it's only 1000 users, it's still a solution for many. Is this thing any cheaper than RDS? I doubt it, but offers you a desktop experience without the sharing and app compat of RDS even if it's marginal these days. What about Quest, is this solution cheaper than Quest. If it is, it's even worse for them......


@Gabe, thanks for your testing and feedback on Kaviza!

@Kimmo: @Kimmo:  

Kaviza has a Shared-Nothing VDI grid architecture that delivers high-availability without requiring shared storage. This is a fundamental difference from the prevalent VDI approaches. Kaviza has a partnership with Citrix, and we have licensed HDX from them.  As part of this relationship, Kaviza gets all updates and upgrades to HDX so that users continue to get the rich experience and features provided by HDX.  

We see XD5 and Kaviza as complementary products that address two different market needs.  Kaviza is focused on SME customers that want an easy-to-use yet complete virtual desktop solution that is more cost-effective than PCs.  We have brought down the cost of VDI 9with our new architecture) to the point where it is less than a PC and so the whole ROI issue with virtual desktops goes away.  


@MUB: Kaviza supports both persistent (private images) and non-persistent desktops(shared images).  Many customers opt for non-persistent desktops because it gives the benefits of reducing patching/update cycles via golden images while still giving each user a full virtual desktop environment with fault isolation and without any app compatibility issues.  


@Daniel Bolton:  

Kaviza is focused on server-based virtual desktops (aka VDI) and we offer a robust, highly-available solution with rich user experience that can be deployed for less than the cost of a PC.

We work seamlessly with application virtualization solutions, and we have customers using Kaviza with App-V, XenApp etc today.  We also work with user and profile management solutions seamlessly and we will be bundling one as part of Kaviza soon.  

We provide single sign-on and integration with smart card readers, etc - e.g. we are currently being used with the CAC card for example.  Overall, Kaviza is designed as an open platform that is hypervisor and protocol independent, and can interoperate with other solutions.  


@appdetective.  I'm not sure what you mean by a "single instance" but basically with kaviza you can have a grid of servers each dolling out desktops.  These servers talk to each other and ensure high-availability and distributed connection brokering etc.  

As for costs, we redesigned the VDI SW stack to provide HA out-of-the-box without requiring shared storage and we put all of our software inside one virtual appliance (one copy on each server in the grid).  This reduces the number of management components.  It eliminates the need for  the shared storage infrastructure to provision desktops, the need for clustered SQL servers (needed for HA for many solutions), Windows Server OSes (on which many of the management components reside) and the like.   You just need a server, a hypervisor, our virtual appliance and the MSFT VDA license.  As a result, the total cost of acquisition and ownership is less than solutions using the traditional architecture (e.g. Quest).


@ mub  you can overcome challenges with shared image by single turning data into a single instance before it gets to storage.  We do this using ILIO IVD's (Intelligent virtual drives)

@ Krishanas  - Sounds like a great solution to reduce capacity. i'm wondering what it does to reduce IOPS capacity.

@Appdetective - since you are sure to blast me for even posting!  I'll discount any comments you make based on the fact that YOU have never contacted me and or actually tested Atlantis!


@appdetective  I am not sure what you mean by 'single instance' either, but don't be curious about scale, Kaviza scales effortlessly and is fine for 5k simultaneous users or concurrent users as we call them.

Show me a View or XenDesktop platform that does that.

I will test Kaviza to its limits over the next 12 months and try to push that figure upto 50k users and beyond, but I still forsee no scale issues.  Our biggest bugbear has been lack of support for monitoring tools but 3.2 will be out shortly which integrates and provides support for all the monitoring tools we need.

This is the reason that Kaviza is not pitched as an enterprise solution, not because it will not scale but because it was not aimed at organizations who wish to manage more than 10k desktops and therefore lacked some of the features we would prefer to see at that level.  You cannot argue that Kavizas SME strategy has not been a runaway success, award after award after award.

As for cost, believe me when I tell you that we have exhaustively searched for the best platform to base our hosted desktop infrastructure on for the last two years and for us, Kaviza was the most cost-effective way of delivering a superb desktop and experience to our users.  

RDS ?  Quest ?  Not quite sure what to say here, I dont know why anybody in their right mind would choose to base a HVD platform on quest or RDS ?  Especially when you have Kaviza in your back pocket.

@robertkadish  IOPS is always a concern, we overcome it on high-demand, non-persistent Kaviza rigs by using SSD's in our boxes.  


@Guise - is that with windows 7?


@Krishnas, thanks for the feedback…

Some additional questions for you…

“can be deployed for less than the cost of a PC” does this include the cost of the end-point device?

Working “seamlessly” is not the same as integration. So you have no 3rd party app deployment management layer?

Will the bundled profile management solution be your own product or are you teaming up with the likes of RES, AppSense, Scense, etc?

How are desktops/resources assigned to the user? By user/group or can I use location based assignment? How granular is this and the other assignment methods? Can it use Boolean logic?

What about printing? and printer assignment?

Can Kaviza publish applications as seamless apps?

What about general desktop management?

Remote session control?

Do you provide some form of SSL gateway?

What are your list prices? What pricing model do you have? (yes I could look but I’m being lazy). Do you have any architecture white papers based on real world usage not closed lab kit?

@Guise Bule,

vWorkspace and a single host Hyper-V/ESX server approach can easily be configured to scale well beyond 5k users as well as providing critical management features, using local storage, etc. On top of this I can use it to broker connections to physical devices and RDS sessions. Why would I give 1000 users who use 4 or 5 basic apps a full desktop when I could put them on an RDS box at a fraction of the cost?

You make a statement against Quest’s ability to provide HV desktops and RDS sessions? On what “actual” basis?

I think Kaviza has a place but I’m not really sure where at this time.

For most organization a 100% VDI approach rather than a blended mixture of the various desktop virtualization forms oozes of VMware marketing bum rape to me! Is that real terminology?


@Daniel Bolton,

Just want to mention that while Kaviza focuses on VDI, we are by no means suggesting that customers should adopt a single deskotp model. In fact, most of our customers use a mix of traditional PCs, virtual desktops, etc and vendors such as Dell resell Kaviza.  

Regarding cost: yes, you can deploy a full virtual desktop with a thin-client endpoint for under $600, and with a repurposed PC for under $300 - the $600 includes $240 for the thin-client, plus the cost of the server, Kaviza software and the VDA license, and we have partners offering thin-clients for Kaviza at this pricepoint.  

 Regarding functionality - Kaviza has a SSL gateway, Kaviza does desktop provisioning and management, we support user, group and location based assignment and are directory independent, and we leverage HDX for printers, plug-n-play peripheral access, etc . I am not sure I understand your comment on "seamless" vs integration - we work with app virtualization and profile management solutions out-of-the-box.  If you or anyone reading this is interested in learning more about our solution, please contact us directly and we will be happy to help.  


@robertkadish ok so I'll take your bait and simply ask why the F would I want to talk to a slimy sales man who got fired from (no need for me to comment where) and takes every opportunity to inject tangential arguments into a topic that has nothing to do with Atlantis computing. Are you that desperate?

I have tested Atlantis and it sucked badly. Unstable and a PITA to set up. Sure JP Morgan your one reference customer eventually got it set up that you now bombard the world with propaganda. Just know JP does not use Atlantis all over the place as you would have people believe. I know more than you think.... That does not mean that your recent investment from Cisco is not going to help you grow up build a production ready product that may be useful for some use cases in an increasingly crowded space.


@Appdetective - No I don't know what you are talking about when you say I have been fired from you know where! That's inflammatory immoral and slander!  

@ Brian Gabe this behavior is unacceptable!


I'll nip this in the bud. Let's keep it on topic, because we had a good discussion about Kaviza going on.


Any suggestions for my query?


Imagine if you had a sizable Cafe, could even be one with a book store connected to it and you thought, wouldn't it be nice to setup a 25 seat computer network for user research, book search application, video, browsing and other web interactions.

1.) Is this possible with VDI? Yes

2.) Is this use case crazy to attempt with VDI?

3.) Isn't it just cheaper to bite the IT costs and run 25 computers (eg. mini pcs with Atom processors approximately $500 each). Can PcoIP deliver a smooth solution without breaking the budget?

Possible senerarios for the VDI solution could be Vmware View or Kaviza for example.

There are lots of obvisous advantages with a VDI environment, such as easily manage desktops, remote access, quick to recompose, update and reimage.

What are you thoughts? please discuss...

Thank you for all the comments in advance, it is much appreciated.



Thanks for the reply...

When I said, "Working “seamlessly” is not the same as integration. So you have no 3rd party app deployment management layer?"... I meant do you offer the functionality to manage and deploy applications (App-V for example) with your management tool/console or do we still have to utilize the traditional management tools?

By your comment, "we work with app virtualization and profile management solutions out-of-the-box", I'm taking that to mean the latter.

While I'm talking about seamless... Let’s change the context.... Do you support seamless/presented applications (remote app rather than remote full screen desktops)? I asked this and other questions before (remote session shadowing, etc) but you didn't cover these with your reply.

You semi-answered my question about printing and covered print re-direction from the local client device using HDX but do you have a print management layer?

It would be good to know (and for everyone) but I'm not interested in contacting you... Nothing personal but if I had a £/$ for every time I've had to contact a vendor over the past few years regarding desktop virtualization solutions I'd be a millionaire!

That's why I like Gabe and Brian doing reports/videos :)



@Daniel  I just realised you were involved in the Kingston University deployment and seem to have spun a speaking engagement about your role in the project out of it at the IP expo, which has obviously inflated your sense of self importance on the subject.

You even have a vWorkspace desktop background communities.quest.com/.../1172 and I agree with your assessment of that state of affairs.

If you are not interested in speaking to the people who actually know the most about a tech, why would you bother commenting on a thread about that tech and relentlessly comparing Kaviza to vworkspace like a rabid dog ?

Your last comment to Krishna was an ignorant and disrespectful one, you should apologize.


@Guise Bule

You still didn’t answer my question regarding your issue with Quest? Perhaps you should apologize to them?

However in reply to your post, I was and still am involved in the Kingston project (I work there) and there was no spinning. I did a presentation at IPEXPO at MS’s request and a favour to Quest. The point of it was to share my experiences as a customer and the feedback to date has been positive to the point that we (Kingston) are in the process of forming a “vendor free” non-platform specific desktop virtualization for higher education “alliance” as a result.

I have no sense of self-importance (as my 3 kids keep making me aware of this fact) nor in fact care “too much” what others think. My only career goal at present is to enrich the quality of service delivered to my users and give them the best possible experience that’s financially and mentally sustainable.

Ignorant no, lived and breathed the pain of everything to do with desktop virtualization yes! Does that make me an authority? No… Does that make me wise? Yes and that’s why I get requests not just from MS, Quest, etc but others to share my experiences so my interest in Kaviza is professional and as it happens I think what they have done is a great achievement and it gained my interest hence asking the various questions I did and hoping to shed some light for others.


Do I see its place in the market? Yes but not at any grand scale – yet. As with all DV technology.. it’s improving and maturing rapidly so it will be great to see where they get to in 12 months and so on. Relentlessly comparing to vWorkspace? Yes and most other enterprise ready DV and complementary solutions!

Why bother commenting on a thread if you having no value to add and nothing to say at all part from “having a go”?

Disrespectful to Krishna? Nope as I stated nothing personal. I don’t have time to be hairy fairy about things. I have questions and ask them out right. I’m sure Krishna is big enough to take any negativity on the chin without someone having to fight his corner. He was actually doing a grand job.

Brianmadden.com is one of the best forums for giving exposure of the various desktop virtualization solutions out there. Gabe has done a great job with Kaviza so far…


As Gabe said, Let’s keep this on topic. If you wish to carry on this line of nonsense then please start a private message/thread with me where I will be happy to “chat”.

@Gabe, will you be doing follow up posts? Or is there another VDI week coming soon where you will cover Kaviza and others (Virtual Bridges, etc) in more detail and get the vendors in again?



No follow up posts directly related to this article, but we do want to do another Geek Week. It may or may not be the same as last year's, though.

Virtual Bridges released VERDE 5, and as soon as I can get the bits for it, I'll do a writeup of them. I'm also looking to do a writeup of Quest vWorkspace in the near future.

Regarding this back and forth - now that we've got that out of our system, can we keep it about Kaviza? I don't want to turn off comments (only happened once ever) on this article.

(I feel like my dad..."I'll pull this car over right now...I'll do it!")