Happy "User-installed Application Week," everyone! On Monday, Brian wrote an article about a solution he sees for enabling user-installed applications in a VDI scenario. The article received over 30 comments, and there is quite a bit of good information in them. If you haven't taken the time to read through them, I suggest you take a look.
Brian's solution involved using a hypervisor on the client (type 1 or type 2) for the user-installed applications, managing them with any of the various methods available. This solution, while technically dealing with the problem, is more of a workaround than a solution. It is inefficient and consumes more resources and admin time than I think is necessary. Still, if you really need to have user-installed apps, it's definitely an option.
What I want to know, and what I hope someone can answer, is whether or not Parallels can provide a real solution to this problem. We've heard of Parallels Virtuozzo Containers (formerly just Parallels Virtuozzo), which creates what it calls "containers" on a single installation of Windows Server. Each container is 100% isolated from another and from the base OS using what Parallels calls "OS Virtualization" (as opposed to Platform Virtualization and Application Virtualization).
My thought, and the question that I'm posing to the community and to Parallels, is this:
Is it possible to make a version of Parallels Virtuozzo Containers that runs on Windows 7 that would enable users to install their own apps and have (manageable) control over one container, while leaving the other container fully managed by IT?
Obviously, there's more to it than that run-on sentence. You'd need to be able to manage that other container to some degree--anti-malware, anti-phishing, antivirus, file/driver/service access, and so on all need to be taken into consideration, but can't that already be done with the server product?
The benefits over running an entire second virtual machine are enormous. A second VM will consume gigabytes of memory and a sizable chunk of the hard drive, not to mention the resources shared between the first VM. That's a performance tax on both machines that results in more inefficiencies for each machine from both a user's standpoint and from an IT perspective. With Virtuozzo, each container would consume 50MB of resources and would not require a large chunk of disk space to be dedicated to the supporting files for the second OS. The end result would be a two environments, one user-controlled and one IT-controlled, with the only loss being about 50MB of memory.
Now, can Parallels do it? Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 share the same code base, and I would imagine that they're working on a version of Virtuozzo that supports R2 right now. Does that mean that it's not too much of a stretch to port it to Windows 7?
I think this counts as an actual solution to user-installed apps, as opposed to a workaround. The buzzword of the season (besides "cloud," of course) is "layering," and this could be viewed as a sort of user-controlled layer. What do you think?