If you can take a VDI instance "offline" then why don't you just always run it offline?

One of the things I can't figure out is why VMware View 4.5 has "client mode" (the new name for the previously experimental feature called "offline mode.")

One of the things I can't figure out is why VMware View 4.5 has "client mode" (the new name for the previously experimental feature called "offline mode.") The idea is that if you're on a full client and you're accessing your Windows desktop remotely via VDI, you can click a button to copy/sync your desktop to your client and then you can take it with you offline. At first this sounds like a great feature. But if you think about it for a second, it becomes clear that there's a logical paradox here. (I'll get back on the naming horse and call this one "Madden's Offline Paradox.")

If your VDI desktop is functional while running on a client device in a disconnected state, then why the @#%! are you using VDI in the first place? Why aren't you always using a client-based desktop? Why did you waste all that money building giant VM servers and SANs in your datacenter?

If your answer is that you use VDI for the "server-based computing" advantages, such as making fat apps work across thin pipes or keeping all data inside your firewall, then those specific apps don't work when your VDI desktop is offline anyway. So in that case why don't you just run your desktop locally on a client device and then publish just the single seamless apps you need a Terminal Server or single VM-based solution via RDP or ICA or whatever? Since we're talking about the same clients either way (since View Client Mode is for fat clients), you could build out your VDI infrastructure with a fraction of the hardware.

And if you went to VDI because you want the central management, there are products like MokaFive and Wanova that let you fully manage, secure, update, and sync Type 2 client VMs on remote clients, so you don't need VDI for this and you also really wasted a lot of money building servers and SANs you don't need.

The core fact is this: If you can run your VDI desktop locally on your client, then you should ALWAYS run it on your client. And if this is the case but you choose to run it centrally in your datacenter then you wasted a lot of money building a stupid VDI datacenter infrastructure that you don't need. (And to reiterate, if you need VDI for one of the real SBC reasons listed earlier then that's great and I fully support you using VDI that way, but of course the View 4.5 offline VDI feature is worthless to you since it's not SBC.)

So my central question is "In what circumstance is the View client mode useful?" Can anyone provide an example of why I want a datacenter-hosted VDI infrastructure that is also available offline? Can anyone tell me why I should do that instead of just running everything on the client? (And don't tell me it's for users who want to occasionally go offline, because again I'll say those users should use the client-based VM solutions 100% of the time and only run a much smaller datacenter-based VDI for the specific apps or connection scenarios that need it.)

My assumption is that (1) VMware doesn't push local VMs as a primary use case since they don't have products that can do this, and (2) View client mode is primarily to help people who bought VDI who didn't really need it not feel as bad.

Thoughts?

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you will need the "offline mode" when you are on your laptop on which you was able to preload (download) the image and use the "online mode" as backup or roaming capabilities when you are not on your owned device... which mean there is a need not for a check-in/check-out solution but really a synchronization mechanism...


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Very good points. But lots of things you mention would applies to a bare metal client hypervisor as well.


Maybe with a fully functional offline mode, people can start to design their VDI scenarios accordingly, let's say, predicting that some percentage of users will be always running VMs locally.


That could apply to BYOPC scenarios, in which the main benefits are not related to server based computing, but rather to have a managed VM deployed and centrally controlled.


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@Kata, ok yes, BUT your scenario means that my users can primarily run locally, and then I would only use VDI for those few specific use cases. In other words, offline/local is the primary, VDI is the secondary. But VMware's offerings have that in reverse. (Until they buy MokaFive or Wanova as AppDetective mentioned yesterday.


@VMguy, yes, again, you're talking primary local/offline too. (as you know, but I'm just pointing out that that still doesn't answer the question)


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For those of us who have been coming at desktop virtualization from the client side, it has been very clear for a while that VDI is the tail wagging the dog.  It has some very valid use cases, but in most mainstream scenarios centralized management with local execution delivers all of the management benefits of VDI without the cost, complexity, or loss of mobility.  Most virtual desktops will run locally, and it is “online VDI” that will be the niche—be it for certain use cases where SBC makes sense or as a temporary disaster recovery solution when PC hardware fails.


I think you can come up with scenarios where someone could talk themselves into offline VDI.  For example, I once talked to an IT guy at a law firm where most users worked on desktop PCs day-to-day, and he had a small pool of loaner laptops for occasional business travel and vacations.  But even in that case, it would just as efficient and much less capital intensive to just stick with desktop PCs and then move VMs on to laptops temporarily as needed.  You can get PCs these days that are capable of running a client hypervisor for roughly the same price as a good thin client.  See: https://bit.ly/db7J9N


While there is a certainly a temptation to pile on with respect to VMware, I think the more interesting story will be what type of management story Citrix presents for XenClient at Synergy next week.  Will it be optimized for managing locally executed desktops or will it look more like offline VDI for XenDesktop?


Doug Lane (Virtual Computer)


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Brian,


The problem is you're thinking that Offline Mode has to be an all-or-nothing proposition. The truth is that Hybrid solutions can provide the best of both worlds with half the management.


First - if you want to build an offline-VDI-only environment, you don't need to spend a ton of money on server hardware. When View 4.5 is available, you could theoretically build a complete View environment on a single, low cost server with local storage because you aren't running workloads centrally. Instead, you're running workloads remotely but managing them centrally. Why would you use this instead of a Mokafive or Wanova? I don't know - I've never seen them or heard of them outside of your website.


But the strength of the VMware (or potentially Citrix, not trying to play favorites) is that you could have users running central VDI desktops, AND users running offline desktops with the same master image. Instead of using a separate product, you've now covered both use cases.


So for my office workers, I can use server-based VDI sessions going to thin clients. For my Sales people in the field, I can use Local Mode to publish the SAME DESKTOP image to their local machine. When I patch my master image in the datacenter, it could trickle out to the end points VMs as well as my server-based VMs.


That's why it's a worthwhile feature. You criticized VMware's solution in your review in Geek Week because it doesn't cover enough use cases, and when they expand to cover more territory in the same solution you call it worthless.


Meanwhile, the XenDesktop FlexCast plug is "Hey, deliver the desktop in one of SEVEN different ways!" when most customers will maybe only use 1 or 2 different types. Delivering 7 different kinds of desktops, even if it's in the same product, would be a management nightmare.


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I'm with ermac in spirit. The "talked yourself into" is a pretty dismissive way to look at a use case valid for thousands and thousands of people that SBC is just not applicable too and never solved... why else would so many be looking into it besides vmware? we've all got plenty to do without talking ourselves into things I think.


offline all the time clients will also be a lot fatter than all those 10+ hour battery iPads I see. If I can be iPad most of the time but check out a full VDI image when I go to non-compaany properties, and its easy, why wouldn't I do that? VPNing back to the mothership is not always a great choice in the real world.


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The evolution of "offline mode" went something like this.  VMware has always thought of desktop management in a very server-centric way.  In their minds, the only way to manage a virtual machine is to run it in the datacenter.  Why?  Because you need to be able to run it to install patches, you need to be able to back it up.  So naturally you need to have the latest "hot copy" on the server.  And when customers asked "What about laptops? What about working offline?", they tacked on this "check-in, check-out" feature as a way to address that concern.  Luckily, people saw through that very quickly.  The VDI model was clearly not designed with offline use in mind.


The key piece of technology that enables true centralized management with local execution is layering.  With layering, you can manage the system image centrally and distribute it to the client machines, where it is seamlessly combined with the user-specific layers.  If you don't have layering, you are either limited in what you can manage - by using a locked-down image with no custom applications - or you need to manage by using an agent within the guest OS - which defeats the purpose.  Without a good layering solution, the only way to maintain flexibility is to manage everything on the server side, where you can do arbitrary things to the images because you have all the data readily accessible.


The fact they have problems with implementing offline mode really points to the larger problem: They still don't have a reasonable solution to single image management, regardless of where the execution happens.  If they had real single-image management, it wouldn't matter that clients are offline 100% of the time, because updates could seamlessly occur on the client side.  At MokaFive we specifically solve for the management problem so you get true single-image management with layered customizations, at which point it doesn't matter where the execution happens,  So it may as well be on the client because you can run offline, you get much better performance, and you don't need the big server infrastructure.


ermac318: It's not quite that easy to use the same image for VDI as you use on the client side, because the type of software you have installed in the image may be different.  For example, usually you will want to install a VPN client (with associated GINA integration) in a client VM, but you may not want/need it on a server-based VDI instance.  Likewise, some applications that work well in the datacenter may not work well when running over a slow link or when offline.  Because of these reasons, most of our customers end up not using their VDI image when deploying on client machines, even though we support importing a VDI image.  You can solve some of the customizations with layering, but at some point they become different enough that it is easier to just fork it.


-John


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Interesting set of answers. The fundamental issue for me is a human behaviour one. What would make me as a user of this system, that's working perfectly fine thanks, check it back in.


If it works well enough for me to bother checking it out, why would I go backwards.


I think that this is the paradox that you are trying to wrestle with - and to be honest with you, I agree. Why would you?!?!?


It's a technology solution that doesn't have a practical application.


Synchronisation of off-line images - now that's a different story.


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Brian, I agree with theme of this blog post.


IT folks are initially attracted to VDI because *centralizing* desktop images offers great benefits in terms of managing and protecting desktops. However, they quickly realize that *executing* desktop workloads in the data center makes little sense because of cost, performance and mobility perspectives. And with the majority of PC users being laptop users, VDI becomes impractical.


The key, in my mind, is to maintain complete desktop images (full desktop contents) in the data center for management and protection, but execute the workloads on the endpoints for user experience and cost perspectives.


And yes, a small VDI footprint should be used for occasional instantiation of a desktop on a VM in the data-center for things like support and continuity (access your desktop image when your physical endpoint is not available)


One more point, on type-2: This is the easy way to manage desktops on endpoints, and in some cases (e.g., BYOPC) makes a lot of sense. But in many cases this is not the preferred approach. IT folks sometimes scratch their heads and ask me: "with type-2 based solutions, who manages the underlying host OS ? I'm on my own ? so i'm still left with an unmanaged OS at the endpoint, and wrose, I have to deal now with two OSs instead of one..."


Hence, I believe that a broader solution should be capable of managing both physical and virtual desktops.


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Some ideas, feel free to comment/bash me.


1. Ok what about a scenario (I have seen MANY like this in the federal government as they do use very old buildings in many places) where at work the building has limited power capabilities and the only things that can be plugged in are devices using 5-10W like thin clients? Users come to the office, work on their hosted desktops (online VDI) and when they leave the office they checkout their image to use on their laptops when on a plane, train, etc. When they go to another building they can use their local VM under the Type 1 hypervisor.


2. What about companies willing to give a computer to a user where he can actually run both his 'home OS' and his 'corporate OS' not by doing dual boot but side by side and with the least performance hit? This leads us to Type 1 hypervisors and not Type 2 ones (no matter what anyone says, there IS a hit - why did we all move from VMWare Server/GSX to ESX? From Virtual Server to Hyper-V? A full blown underlying OS DOES USE RESOURCES people).


3. What about cases where I want to balance how the network is used given your available bandwidth? For example in a certain building I want you to run your machine on your Type 1 hypervisor accessing the network data directly but on another one I want you to run it from the hosted back end over ICA/PCoIP/RDP.


4. What about having a single image to all my laptops/desktops (assuming they can run the Type 1 hypervisor) that may be used offline and used for the online hosted desktop when online?


I am sure there are smarter people out there that can also give you way more reasons than I can point.


Plus there are SEVERAL other very smart things that could be done (to my amazement, NO vendors are doing this) that I will not comment as we, as a company, are working on them.


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Thanks Brian for this topic, it seems i'm not the only one to think this way... I discussed that idea with VMWare in France but they not seem to be aware of the impact of the client hyperv ...


The only thing I can say is : Try Virtual Computer and the first feedback you'll have would be "Why was i looking so deep to find a nice network protocol as spice or ica when i could use my device to do it ??"


... Well that was my experience.


The other very important thing is about storage, because the BYOPC trend (i think) is very based on the bring my own data to the work.


So the main idea behind BYOPC is : How can i separate my corporate data from my personal stuff ? Once again that was my experience when i was consultant for a large company and used my laptop for everyhting...


So, what i mean by that is thanks to client hypervisor such as nxtop, you can manage both private and corporate datas, secure or backup it or not.


With Client Hypervisor you have much flexible tool to do what you want with your datas rather than Remote Solutions where everything is on the storage server.


And even if all the datas are not located on the server side, well every time you'll use that data it will be streamed onto the remote desktop because application are run that way ...


Last thing, in my country i'm not sure every customer is willing to store all end user data on the server side ... so I guess Client Hypervisor will lead the desktop virtualisation market because of those main issue we have with Remote Client Solutions ...


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I equate Offline VDI that VMware has to Virtual Tape Libraries... fills a gap for now.  Once you have a client hypervisor I don't understand the use of the VMware client mode


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YES!!!


I totally agree.  At a company where 98% of my employees use laptops I have been (non)patiently waiting for offline VDI and hope to be able to test it out next week when Citrix releases XenClient.  My only concern is that they'll make a "feature" of XenDesktop and not it's own product.  I have no use for server based VDI if my VMs can run locally.


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@SE, if all you want is standalone local VMs with a client hypervisor, why haven't you been using Virtual Computer for the past year?


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Applications applications applications - it's all about the applications...


If you/we're doing things "as we should" and are using visualized apps (streaming for example like App-V, etc)... Theres not much point having an "offline desktop" if you can't take you apps with you. Yeah some can run local and some virtualized apps can run in "offline mode" but surly the base image is supposed to have a small a foot print as possible? - decoupling the apps, profiles, etc - 'n all that shenanigans..


If you want offline desktops then you want local desktops surely? Type 1 time...


I really don't the point or any real value with VMware's "offline" mode. But then thats just me.


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This paused the question of : what is the benefits of Client Hyperisor ?


- single image master management (hardware independant, which didn't request mastering and do not change the way user is actually working/dealing with their laptop) ?


- self-service (user could get by them self their working environment in pull mode) ?


- backup / restoration (with profile data management of VM syncronization, which, combined with self service and image independance, allow easyBC/DR) ?


- security (using virtualization as a control layer, allowing port blocking, time to leave, encryption, ...) ?


- using multiple VM running (perso/pro, default/project, default/security level1...) ?


There is plenty of benefits to run a local VM as Type-I that goes far beyond the simple "offline VDI" scenario...


What else ?


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@BrianMadden, Virtual Computer is appealing but you can't just jump onto the first option without considering what some of the other big players (i.e. Citrix) will come out with.  


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@SE, funny you should say that... one of the "big players" - Citrix, have invested in the NxTop product by Virtual Computer so they must have faith in it :) But yes... It's always good to have other options. Virtual Computer have quite a jump start and it's not just about the hypervisor... Management is key.


To add to your original statement... I think XenClient will be tied into XenDesktop. Chances are small that you will be able to use it without. I'm guessing it will link in with provisioning server. Though even if they do release it as it's own entity how will it be managed? Probably all going to be done through about 4 different XenDesktop consoles :)


Dan.


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@Daniel Bolton: I agree with your comment about management being key and also agree that XenClient will be just a part of XenDesktop (probably).


The broader point I was trying to make (and somewhat agreeing with the point of this article) is that mobility, offline vdi, and client hypervisors are SO CRUCIAL that vendors shouldn't think of them as just an add-on to VDI.  Laptops outsell Desktops in the corporate arena these days so why not focus on them?  I think Virtual Computer is on the right track.  I also REALLY like what Unidesk is doing, however (like Citrix, VMWare) it seems they are building the solution around server based VDI.  It's a requirement for them even though they have a brilliant cache cloud that can run on a laptop.  I understand there are some components that overlap and things like provisioning server may be useful but just am worried that laptops aren't a bigger focus.  Maybe they are but the technology just isn't quite there yet... i guess time will tell :)


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@SE, just to make sure you know of all the options out there, you should also definitely look at MokaFive.  We focus on client-side execution, and managing mobile users with laptops is a key use case for many customers.  


Burt (MokaFive)


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Hello All


No disrespect but you are all missing the point actually.


All of these comments are taking a U.S market centric view. Actually its quite frustrating.


If you look at Asia for example (specifically China or Taiwan), the main drivers for VDI hosted desktops is security. Therefore moving data off the end device to better protect Intellectual Property. In countries where there is a high percentage of manufacturing and design, protecting IP is imperative.


So to be blunt, these customers (and there are many thousands of them) do not give a *** about the points all of you make above. It is all irrelevant. Running VDI locally does not gaurantee data security and I also doubt very much that it would meet the needs of compliance and regulatory drivers either. VDI hosted desktops is the best solution in this case.


Just my 2 cents


Marek


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@Marek: I am from Asia, but I definitely do not claim this region as having higher IP awareness/policy/process than other markets, and some of the policy compliance is based upon foreign standards. Please reread in the context of the paradox, the value of "offline mode" of VMware View 4.5. (thanks Brian, I just signed up to your forum)


why would users bother to check back in their VMs? When users are back in office, can't they just work on the local VM copies (at least they are not sharing a cpu core with other 16 users and potential device connectivity issues)? Having said that I can accept some replication taking place from local VM to the one in the DC for BCDR purpose. In such cases, a full blown VDI infrastructure in the DC and minimal or no vSphere licenses should be required (since users'VMs in the datacenter should not need to be powered up, else a bad bad solution).


What you have raised is ONE specific use case which may have overshadowed all other points. IMHO, the perception that "IP/data is safer by virtue that it does not traverse out of Datacenter is half right, pseudo-security and pseudo-compliance."


Proper data security measures (e.g people:training, process:access control, technology:encryption) are key to achieve the noble IP protection aims. A rogue researcher sending the design plans out from the VDI hosted-desktop pretty much break your defense.


vmx


vmx (asia), ex-vmware, xen-pro (but not Citrix :-)


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What about if I am a mobile user who is the 20% minority within my company. The other 80% of users are using a thin client solution within the office.


I travel a lot and for most of the applications that I use, I can just fire these up while in offline mode and carry out my work. When I get back home, I can VPN into work and perform the sync. It may not always be necessary to be connected to a mobile network.


I am having trouble fully understanding why this feature is required, so I think I maybe clutching at straws, is this feature just an alternative to the Offline Files feature within the MS OS, but covers more than just specific directories as it will detect the changes on the whole virtual machine?


In our scenario, we are currently preparing to virtualise our desktop estate, we also have hundreds of apps and we know that some of them do not perform very well when run locally on the client over a broadband connection. We beleive that approx 80% of our staff will be using a Non-Persistent image via thin clients and approx 20% will require their own personal image via a laptop/tablet.


I think we can make some use of the Vmware feature, but it is only a small piece of the very big puzzle.


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This is our problem right now.


We have 80-90% users in the office, so going XenDesktop for them makes perfect sense.


Then, I worry about the laptop users.  Currently, the laptop users seem to be most problematic to support as it is, so whatever we do, must address this.


I'm all for rolling out the XenDesktop, but ... what about my laptop users?


XenClient doesn't demo until next year.  What do I do during the meantime? Load OS onto the devices through some other method? ...


Laptop users are our biggest headache as it is.


This is my current plan:


(1) All desktops OS delivered via Xen Desktop


(2) All laptop OS delivered via WDS


(3) All app delivered via XenApp


This is the best thing I can think of (with current knowledge)


I secure my laptop image using WDS, and maintain that.  I secure my desktop image using Xen Desktop, and use that.  I secure my apps using XenApp, and use that.


Now, I have single source for everything, and I just cache apps locally to the laptop clients.


This is the best hybrid solution I can get going right now.


I think the best would be (the future) when they have client hypervisor, and we just load that bad boy up, to get the OS.  After it has the OS, layering on apps or whatever else is easy.


We've taken care of delivering virtual apps and virtual user data, but the final leg for me would be virtualizing the os, and delivering that, and having it available offline to the end user.  Now, the kicker for me would be being able to do this to any laptop ... and I'm not sure how long it take to get to that point, but XenClient is supposed to demo next year.


Also, this is my first hearing of "Virtual Computer", and from what I'm reading on its splash page, it has what I'm looking for.


Hrm, I wonder how this fits in with our already having done the trade-up for Xen Desktop?


I guess  we'll have to suffer until Citrix gets its bare-metal client hypervisor out so we can use that.


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Thanks VMX


You are obviously not selling much Desktop Virtualisation in Asia then :)


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www.networkworld.com/.../051310-citrix-aims-to-bring-virtualisation.html


Is this true?


Xenclient available already?


www.citrix.com/.../feature.asp


Woohoo!


It's on like Donkey Kong!


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