A couple weeks ago, Virtual Bridges announced the release of VERDE 5, which is a pretty substantial update to the VERDE line of desktop virtualization solutions (here's our video with Srini Gurrapu, shot at VMworld 2010). Avid readers will remember that we took a pretty deep look at Virtual Bridges VERDE 3 back in March during our first-ever Geek Week. Shortly after Geek Week, they released version 4, which added a snazzy web interface and RDP connection brokering (version 3 only supported direct connections via RDP). VERDE 5 builds on that, offering several enhancements and one new feature that we've been looking forward to for a very long time: SPICE.
I fully intend to do a review similar to my VERDE 3 review in the next week or two, so I'll save the gorey details for that article. Still, if you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments. Virtual Bridges is pretty good about responding to our articles, and if we can't figure it out, I'll take the question to them. For now, let's take a look at a couple key features in this release:
One thing we learned during Geek Week was that the VERDE protocol wasn't going to cut it as the world looked towards PCoIP, HDX, and RemoteFX. RDP brokering was included in VERDE 4, but the choice was still between it and the VERDE protocol. The VERDE protocol's advantage over RDP was that it was implemented outside the VM, which meant that you could watch the machine boot and not rely on in-VM services to start running before you could connect.
When I wrote about it in my VERDE 3 review, I mentioned how valuable I thought SPICE would be, especially since VERDE uses the KVM hypervisor, which is required for SPICE (and means that SPICE also runs outside the VM). At the time, the open implementation of SPICE was deemed unusable by Virtual Bridges, so it was left alone. Skip forward to version 5, and, with a lot of help from Virtual Bridges, the open implementation of the SPICE protocol is ready for business!
In VERDE 5, Virtual Bridges has replaced the VERDE protocol altogether with SPICE (Whew! Watch me dance around my opinion of the VERDE protocol during Geek Week). RDP is also available as an option, and you can configure which protocol is used based on the type of connection from the client side.
On thing that's important to note is that Virtual Bridges had to add full USB 2.0 support. Their USB solution is implemented in both RDP as a virtual channel and in SPICE as a separate client side plugin. The implementation allows the use of just about anything: USB drives, keyboards and mice, printers, scanners, barcode readers, check printers, etc. The type of devices that are allowed is configureable in the management interface.
If you've got nothing better to do and want to get your propeller hat spinning, check out the "Spice for Newbies" pdf from official SPICE Project website to learn about the ins and outs of SPICE.
Management is the other main enhancement in VERDE 5, and it's nothing to ignore compared to past versions. VERDE 3 barely had any mangement or monitoring tools that weren't command-line oriented. VERDE 4 took the first step into web-based management, and VERDE 5 has taken that to the next level. VMs can created and provisioned using the management interface, and admins are now able to select what deployment methods are available for each gold master image. Images can be deployed to any or all of: VDI, LEAF Drive, or LEAF Desktop. LEAF is Virtual Bridges' client hypervisor. I'll be taking a good look at that in my full review.
Also in the management interface is the ability to manage VERDE Branch servers and monitor all the servers and sessions in your environment. While this isn't anything new in the industry, it's all a big step for VERDE as it tries to become one of the big names in the business.
It's not all roses, as SPICE supports neither SSO through the web interface nor Aero Glass. The latter is a limitation of SPICE, however, and hopefully that will be resolved and made open in the future by Red Hat. In addition, the Red Hat QXL GPU is a fully virtualized GPU, so when you're really pushing the graphics hard there is a performance hit on the host. What that hit is remains to be seen, and I'll try to at least give an example of it in the upcoming review.
I'm excited to see SPICE in action outside the confines of Red Hat, and the fact that Virtual Bridges has put together this complete of a solution is pretty remarkable. I hope that it's still as easy to stand up as it was in the past, but we'll find out soon enough.
One last thing I want to mention, and I only do so because I want to know what everyone thinks about it, is that Virtual Bridges announced that IBM has put together a reference architecture where they use VMware ESX to virtualize servers and Virtual Bridges VERDE to virtualize the desktops. This dual-platform solution is all managed by Tivoli, and is used to provide desktops to their service provider customers like AT&T.
Having never been on the service provider side of the house, much less been in a shop where everything was IBM, what are your thoughts on it? Being able to manage both platforms from one place seems like a cool idea, but only if it doesn't over-complicate things.
That's it for now, but I'll plug the review one more time. Keep your eyes peeled in the next week or two for a hands-on review of VERDE 5. If there's anything you want me to take a look at in the lab, let me know.