Brian goes crazy, locks up his laptop and plans to use VDI exclusively for two months.

It's 10:03pm on January 31, and I'm writing this post from my MacBook Air. If all goes according to plan, this will be the last time I use my laptop until April.

It's 10:03pm on January 31, and I'm writing this post from my MacBook Air. If all goes according to plan, this will be the last time I use my laptop until April. I've decided that after talking, writing, speaking, and thinking about VDI for the past five years or so, I should probably actually try it out. I mean sure I've played with it here and there and helped companies design their own systems over the years. But I've never really used (or attempted to use?) VDI day-in and day-out.

That all changes on February 1.

I'm not really sure how comfortable I'm going to be running a remote VDI desktop full-time. I checked my laptops with a friend to lessen my ability to "cheat," and now instead of my MacBook, I've got a collection of Wyse & HP thin clients... some big, some small, and some mobile. I also have my iPad and my Android phone. I'll mix-and-match all those to access my "real" desktop for the next few months: a Windows 7 disk image running Office 2010.

My testing isn't going to be scientific. I'm not running any benchmarks or choosing a winner. I'm not trying to suggest that my scenario is right for everyone or even too connected to the real world. I'm just out to see whether it's possible to use separate myself from my desktop for a few months with a various collection of today's technologies.

Ironically I already ran into my first "hiccup." I was hoping to run my VMs on a host server at work, but I couldn't get permission from our internal IT department to have a direct connection to the outside world. In other words if I wanted to access my desktop from home, I'd have to do so through our SSL-VPN. And since I'd much rather use the integrated Citrix and VMware gateways rather than messing around with third-party VPN support on these things, I decided to "flip" my environment: My Windows 7 VDI virtual machine now lives on a server running in a closet at my house. So my home use will be the "LAN" scenario, and at work I'll remotely connect via thin client on my desk.

Fortunately I don't have any travel coming up until March, so I think I'll be ok there. I do have a Verizon Wireless MiFi which I can use with the thin client laptops no problem.

At the end of the day I'm not 100% sure of what my goals are. Really I just want to see what it's like to actually use HDX & PCoIP for actual everyday work. I'll keep you posted with my progress with updates each Friday. In the meantime feel free to send any questions or suggestions my way.

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For doing this for years (thin client in the office [now a Xenith], iPad and iPhone on the road, Win7 Media Center on TV at home), I've just one feedback to provide :


- except for long day work (Xenith and Win7 MC), I prefer just to launch the application alone, especially on small form factor devices... Quicker and simplier to use...


For the rest... it just works fine when you can connect which in few cases forced you to work differently (the same way you did in the past when you didn't have mobile phone... you phoned later, check voice mail...).


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Congrats on finally going for it! We look forward to  your findings. When you want to experience VDI on a true Enterprise server let us know and we will get you an account in our sandbox!


Welcome to the cloud!


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Brian,


for the records, could you specify your internet connection, including type, IN/OUT bandwitdh etc...? Fine tuning may be required with some protocols runing over Internet.


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I have a cable modem at home. Rated for 20mbps down / 3 up. Speedtest.net confirms 23.33 down / 3.49 up (although I know that's potentially burst-only). But either way I feel like I'm good for my sustained average day working. Ping times from my office are around 50ms.


I'm driving dual displays at 1920x1280, missing my Aero glass. :)


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eating thy own dog food :-)


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I'm about to embark upon the same journey. Good luck and keep us updated as you work through it all!


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Congrats.   At my offsite location I've fully 'teleworked' via Citrix for ~2 years.  All work was w/in the VDI world and on WinXP desktop.  It was a very locked down client.   And now I reluctantly have to go back to a corporate laptop.  


The only annoyances I've encountered were 1) not being able to move files into/out of the session from the host desktop (a ~10 year old & weak PC running a stripped Linux that was pretty much useless, think elcheapo generic thin client) mitigated by emailing files, 2) no local printing, 3) when too many other folks surfed sucking up bandwidth & adding latency, and 4) forget about video & sound, 5) and a highly filtered corporate Internet.


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Brain,


What about XenClient (preferable with the Synchronizer)? Does this fit into your plan or is this also "cheating"


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I have been using VDI exclusively for over a  year and a half.  From home, from the car, at the soccer field, at airports, on iPad, on Android, on iPod Touch, iPhone, and the list goes on.


I love the Wyse Xenith in the office, using it over wireless with a dual widescreen display :-)


Watch it in action at www.youtube.com/squevill


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Using a thin client is your first mistake. Desktop Virtualization should not be a hosted religion. Nothing wrong with running some local apps to deal with use cases like peripherals and multimedia which don't work well remotely. Too many people think oh crap, I can't do anything if I can't watch a youtube video, and forget about the benefits of centralization and finding ways to deal with exceptions as the technology matures. That's why Reverse Seamless is so important. I've used this stuff for years, and I can tell you local is better but that is not the point when it comes to enabling your organization...


So go ahead enjoy your MAC, and Desktop Virtualization and put yourself in the shoes of the end user who had to access secure centralized data, move around and hopefully come to the same realization as those of us who already do, you can have it all :-)


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Hey Brian,


I think this is a great idea and I appreciate your willingness to jump in completely. Along the lines of AppDetective though I would recommend some flexibility in delivery modality. That is, if you find hosted doesn't work I think you should be allowed to switch to client side hypervisor or XenApp, App-V, hybrid,etc.


Maybe require a week with each mode, but I think it is fair to let you mix and match within the broader definition of VDI...


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I am looking forward to  your findings. Please let us know about your finding. Are you going to test all VDI's eg. Xendesktop 5, View 4.5, vWorspace 7.2 MS RDS/VDI ?


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I have been on a virtual desktop for over 3 years now either a XenApp published desktop or Winwos 7 VDI.


Never watched Netfix over ICA and generally migrate to local systems for occasional youtube, etc.


For the most part, it has been smooth sailing.


Good luck!


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Brian,


Great to see you doing this. There's no better way to learn what really matters to the user in a VDI environment.


One tip: getting files from your cloud vm to a local drive can sometimes be harder than it should.  Dropbox is a great solution for this.


My own record of a year+ of cloud working is at www.aviewfromthecloud.com


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Hey Brian,


This is exactly what I have done for the past 4-6 weeks (I cannot honestly remember). But as others mentioned, I did not take the radical approach (i.e. getting rid of my laptop). The idea was to use my XenDesktop 4 environment as my main working one, connecting to it from Macs, iPads, thin clients and PCs. So far it has been GREAT. No matter which device I am on I always get to my desktop. To solve part of the offline issue (that by the way I had no need whatsoever so far) I am using DropBox to do what I need in terms of 'Roaming Profile' (what would actually be a funny thing to test - changing the system registry to store the profile into the local dropbox folder that will get replicated to all your other devices) so in case I am offline I can still access the data I need to and once connected that gets replicated back to my VM with the dropbox client as well.


My next test will be to go on a trip like the MVP Summit with my iPad only and an external keyboard and see how much I miss from a full blown PC.


But resuming: so far, great. And for all the SMBs/SOHO users out there, you can get VDI for very little money considering XenDesktop is free for 10 users, XenServer/ESXi are free and storage is now ridiculously inexpensive. A NAS from QNAP or Iomega, with iSCSI support is only around $600 for 2TB or more.


CR


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Hey Brian


I have been working without a PC for over 12 months now - I use a variety of devices, mobile thin-client, iPad, Android phone - all of which give me a brillaint user experience. I actively dislike using a PC now, as it is significantly slower and harder to use.


The thin-client and 3G card option (when working from a client or remote site) is OK too - 3G coverage in the UK is pretty good now, so connectivity is not an issue. I would not recommend that option in a moving train...but hey, you can't have everything.


Enjoy the experience!


Simon


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The two biggest challeges we're facing with our VMWare View environment (View and Wyse P20's) are local USB devices and drive encryption.  I've been finding with local devices (specifically printers and flash drives) that you usually have to continually plug and unplug them in an attempt to get the OS to recognize them.  Due to a Mass privacy law we also have to make sure all of our USB flash drives are encrypted.  So far I've found that you can basically forget about using a flash drive on a VM that has encryption software loaded on it.   The encryption agent and the view agent seem to fight over control of the flash drive and you get disconnected from your VM.  View 4.6 says there's supposed to be a handful of fixes for USB redirection but I haven't had time to test throughly with that version but I know that my biggest issue, drive encryption, is still a issue.


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Looking forward to the follow up on this one.


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