Help us plan our week-long five-product head-to-head VDI shoot-out!

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A few months ago on Brian Madden TV, Gabe and I briefly mentioned that we were putting together a plan for something like a VDI version of "Shark Week."

A few months ago on Brian Madden TV, Gabe and I briefly mentioned that we were putting together a plan for something like a VDI version of “Shark Week.” (For those outside the US, “Shark Week” is a week-long event on the Discovery Channel where all the evening shows are about sharks. They have video, blogs, discussion, etc., and focus 100% on sharks for the week.)

Gabe had the idea where he and I could do a “VDI Week” where we get together and build five different VDI environments in five days. We would video record everything, as well as live blog, tweet, etc., with the idea being that we could share the down-and-dirty experience of planning, installing, and building a complete desktop virtualization environment with the top five products on the market.

We’re actually putting the plans together now to make this happen, with the tentative week being Feb 22-26. To that end, we need your help planning our week.

The biggest question is which products should we evaluate? Please vote for the five products you'd like to see via our survey. The choices:

  • Citrix XenDesktop
  • Ericom PowerTerm Web Connect
  • Microsoft VDI Suite (2008 R2)
  • Quest vWorkspace
  • Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Desktops
  • Sun VDI
  • Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite
  • VMware View

We also have to pick a name for this project. “Shark Week” is taken, so we were thinking about “Geek Week,” although that sounds too much like Citrix’s “Geek Speak” and we don’t want people to think this is a Citrix thing.I had the idea “Trench Week” (since we’re “in the trenches”), but everyone else in the office hates that. Does anyone out there have any better ideas?

How this week will work

Our basic goal is five products in five days. We’ll probably use the same AD environment for all of them so that each day we can focus on building the VDI environments. We’re thinking that we’ll live blog and tweet as we go along each day during the week, and then we’ll edit the videos the following week and release them afterwards.

We're also thinking that we'll invite an engineer from each vendor to join us for the day that we install that company's product. Our thinking is we don't want to waste half a day troubleshooting something stupid that someone who was more familiar with the product could fix in five minutes. This will also give us a chance to ask questions on camera, interview them about best practices, and have someone to talk to as we’re waiting for the progress bars to move across the screen.

We also need to create specific goals for the week. The most important thing is that while we’re going to do a head-to-head comparison, we’re not going to do any performance testing—at least not in the context of trying to figure out how many VMs we can cram on a server. That's a whole other expertise that people like Jeroen and Ruben are currently addressing via Project VRC.

Our thinking is that we’ll learn about the products, walk through the installs and configurations, test with a few different clients, and record the whole thing. At the end of the week we want to be able to give viewers an '”over the shoulder” view of what the planning and installation was like for each product.

So what do you think? Will it work? Or not? What should we focus on? How will we screw this up? What would be the most helpful to you? Share your thoughts below, and take our survey to help us choose which five products we should include.

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How about wordplay on MythBusters and call it "FUDBusters Week"  Should be quite appropriate given the context.



Nice one Shawn - The MythBusters theme works nicely.

The piece should be balanced though - Setup, Administration (things like app management, patch management, personalisation, resource usage (Storage!!!)) and user experience.

From a user experience perspective - I'm not talking about session performance on the LAN (They'll all be pretty similar there), but peripheral support, logon experience, session roaming, WAN user experience.

Also would be interested if any 3rd party components are required/recommended to make things work well.

Are you planning to restrict it to HVD or any desktop virtualization (e.g. will streamed physical desktops a la Citrix PVS be excluded?)


   * Citrix XenDesktop

   * Microsoft VDI Suite (2008 R2)

   * Quest vWorkspace

   * Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Desktops

   * VMware View

With specific focus on User Experience on WAN, non Windows client, multimedia content (flash app, 2D/3D apps like GIS, VoIP like dictation...) as the 1st thing I'm required is to serve the user... The complexity of the infrastructure is a second choice (not for me but my management).

If we can have like Mr. Super Hero (humor) said a performance review (logon, logoff, device connexion) view, it will be great.

If we can also get a "no way" limitation for each of those solutions...


I tend to agree with Mr Incredible. I believe it needs to cover UX, management (ease of setup and scaling), and 'robustness' in their ability to handle/execute what might be considered 'real world' tasks. (I'll leave that list to the experts)

And, not that I've had any experience with VERDE myself, but is it worth considering now that it's in it's 3.0 iteration?

It'd also be great to see a 'Part 2' of this project tail the first, and comprise some the emerging competitors and '3rd party components' such as Atlantis Computing, MokaFive, Wanova, RingCube, Virtual Computer, Kaviza, Leostream, Neocleus, and of course Unidesk! (Fingers crossed they'll be out of stealth by then!!)

Finally, I reckon we stick with the 5 players that Gabe has analysed recently...

- MS / VMware / Citrix / Quest / Symantec


I resisted the urge to kick off a Virtual Computer write-in campaign last night, but count us in for "Part 2" if it materializes.  Just leave the Microsoft VDI / Server 2008 R2 box in place from Part 1, run our installer, and you'll be off to the races with a couple of virtualized laptops before anyone at VMware even has time to say "CVP? No you can't have that yet."

Doug (Virtual Computer)


I (or someone else from Quest, depending on our availability and the location) would be happy to supervise the Quest vWorkspace setup, i.e. one of you guys do the work and I'm there to answer any questions or provide best practices to ensure optimal performance. Brian and Gabe both know how to contact me. Please let us know as far in advance as you can, so we can schedule this.  Sounds fun!


Hey Doug,

I hadn't thought of it, but a Client Hypervisor week might be a good sequel once everyone's product is out.  As we said in BMTV last week - the delays in CVP and XenClient can only help you both (VC and Neocleus), since you have more time to rev your stuff to be hands down better than the alternatives AND market them accordingly.  It's a great opportunity to be able to say "pfft, we've been doing that for 12 months, and by the way, we can do this..." and really mean it.


It would be helpful to think of this in terms of use cases so people can think about how much of a solution they need. Firstly since this is a VDI only test, one has to ask themselves some fundamental questions.

Are you going to be able to deliver the vendor touted single instance image for your user population, is it really achievable for your use cases? Are you planning to have a locked down environment?

If the answer is Yes, then your setup should show, storage set up options and considerations, application re-packaging to go virtual, personalization capabilities and show how updates are performed to the core image. Additional considerations like what happens if users need greater privileges (let’s say developers and not user install apps to avoid a crap storm) need to be highlighted. If this turns into multiple locked down images, this is just like TS. The only advantage is that one can reboot without affecting other sessions and you are on a Desktop OS for app compat for the cost of the VECD MS tax. Minus the Desktop OS you can achieve the same thing on 1-1 XA, so contrasting the setup there especially in the Citrix use case is worth bringing up.

If the answer is NO, then your setup should be far less complicated overall, although I am sure convoluted in some cases. However I think it’s a confusion point for so many people who think they have to implement the kitchen sink to get a regular desktop managed with existing tools into a datacenter.  I.e. Use local storage, no application virt needed, just shift and lift. How hard is it to set up a connection to a regular desktop in a data center.  

As for client hypervisors, perhaps early until Citrix and VMWare have their offerings out, however a good follow up. I’d also argue that you can’t just do this for VDI. What about other options like PVS to local fat PCs to avoid protocol etc issues. That’s also an option, and there is not enough coverage of other ways to address use cases and WAY TOO MUCH focus on just thinking VDI IMO.



This is an awesome idea!  Given the focus on ease-of-deployment, would you consider emerging players like Kaviza - all you will need is to load up Kaviza's virtual appliance on a hypervisor running on any commodity server, power it on, and go.

Your readers will get to see that VDI doesn't have to be so complex...



Sounds great.  Open invitation from us to provide software, hardware (if needed), and support whenever the time is right.

Your point about us versus CVP and XenClient is dead on.  While I like to have some fun at the expense of the lumbering giants, I know they will release good products in this space eventually.  The key to our success is to hold our functionality lead at all costs and do a good job of communicating our points of differentiation to the market.

What that means is taking the discussion about client hypervisors a level deeper in 2010.  So, it is great to have a venue like this that draws the whole industry together to dive into the details.


Hi Brian,

I agree with App Detective that you need to define the use cases.  The question of "how much of a solution do you need?" is the salient point.  If a deployment is truly heterogeneous, needs to transition existing technologies smoothly, and needs to scale beyond a few hundred users, Leostream needs to be considered among the possible solutions. We are the only broker that can seamlessly transition current IT investments to an enterprise class hosted virtual desktop infrastructure (and beyond).

We have deployments that, for example, broker Windows, Linux, SunALP, and XenApp for more than 10,000 users in one system. It's not likely that anyone would devise this use case in a standard POC, or in a bake off  such as the one you're proposing. Nonetheless, this is an example of the "real world" requirements that the Leostream Broker is handling today. Some would call these edge cases, but any deployment that scales beyond VMware, AD, RDP, and a bunch of thin clients, will have unique characteristics that can only be managed by a truly independent and open third-party broker.

In the conclusion to your blog post of Feb 11, 2009 "How Does Leostream Still Exist", you offer the opinion: ". . . maybe it's one of those 'if you have to ask, you won't understand," but "if you need it, then you need it, period.'"

Companies that actually scale VDI beyond POC usually "need it". And that's why we exist.

We would be grateful if you would include us in your survey.

Kate de Bethune

Marketing Director

Leostream Corporation


For a name I wrote in "Av-virt-ar".

I love the concept BUT I don't see how you can get much of a meaningful experience in one day.  I say take at least three days on each product... but of course the results could be released one article/video per day so us readers get the five products in five days experience.  Of course that would greatly increase the amount of time it takes to gather the raw data although I doubt additional post production time would be needed.

What I'm curious about is how you are going to plan for it.  A lot depends on the products that get picked... as some are complete and don't depend on anything else (other than the OSes you install in the VMs) whereas others are products layered on top of one or more other products.  Installing the base products, installing the products on top of them, creating a few VMs, and then getting VDI going sounds like a lot of work, especially for one day... especially since you mentioned some of the products you have yet to install.  Getting vendor help will spend things up some though.

On second thought, while the week long aspect seems delightful, perhaps a more pragmatic way would be to do one product at a time, do post production, and release the article/video, and then start working on the next one... like you did with the 2009 product roundups.  I certainly don't want to tell you what to do.... and if you can handle the one per day for five days straight and then deal with the post production of all of them together, go for it... but that sounds like a ton of work.


Appdetective said "How hard is it to set up a connection to a regular desktop in a data center. "

Wait are we discussing XenDesktop?  Cause if so my answer depends on whether or not I get HDX Connect ;)


I'm all for client hypervisor week too.  My bid for name is "Vapor, Mist and Condensation" Week ;)

No disrespect intended to people who truly have a product right now.  You know who you, not you...the other guy



@Shawn Bass

who is the "other guy" you speak of?

Is it:

"If it's any consolation I had the same experiences with .........  Their product must be so great they can't share it with anyone.  ROFLMAO."


@Brian, @Gabe

If you want to build something closer to real-world deployments for testing I would be happy for you to put AppSense on those systems. Let me know if you need anything.

Martin Ingram (AppSense).



That would be a no.  I don't rate enough to get their product so they would fall under the "Vapor" category in my mind.



I really digg the FudBusters Theme....although SHARK WEEK is undeniabley ***-kickin. For my 40th birthday can you all save up and send me to go in one of those cages they submerge in the Great White feeding waters....that would ROCK.

All valid points above.... @all

How about Multi - Tier Survey:

Core / Brokering

Profiles / Migration

Augmentation / Monitoring


Other (wan opt, I/O (vStorm) etc ??)

Sneak Preview - those stealth players around the bend ???

And shameless plug - we too will donate software to monitor and benchmark performance metrics


In all of the production deployments I have done the most difficult piece isn't the installation of the technology, it is the integration with applications and the management of profiles.  Can you work on a plan, (or I could help with the plan), to show the readers how easy the integration is within an environment?

We deal with at least four of these technologies everyday and they all have their application/profile solution.  I am not trying to plug any one product but Virtual Storm really needs to be on your list of products to evaluate.   300-400 virtual desktops per server with immediate application access via Symantec really warrants an opportunity to be discussed.


My first choice is Sun VDI 3.1. If it takes you more than an hour to get it up and running, you messed up. You can use the built-in Virtualbox, VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V (or any combination) to create your Desktop Providers. If you created VMs with VMware, you can import those to VirtualBox to see how that works. You'll want some Sun Ray Thin Clients to complete the picture although they are not strictly required.

Someone said that a day per product won't be enough and I'd agree. There are many options and features in each case. You'll want half a day to plan each. Or assign a team for each and give them a few days to plan, the measure the install/support/use case things with the one day.

Good luck with the project. Sounds like fun. If you have any questions concerning Sun VDI, you can email me or your new BFF Craig B.


This is going to be great, like t-rex mentioned above, how about getting VirtualStorm added to the mix!?  I can't wait to see them in action.



Thanks to all who logged in and asked to add VirtualStorm to the bake-off.

Madden TV episode #20: states that VirtualStorm has 2 or 3 unique value adds. It was mentioned that the VMworld demo showcased VirtualStorm on big iron and that you don't have access to that type of hardware to dig in, but you don't need big iron, just a blade or 2, ESX and some storage- don't need an SSD for an evaluation Brian! You closed with "Hopefully I will learn more about them", so Cool, let's do it.


Now would be a great time to put VERDE from Virtual Bridges to the test.

VERDE was adopted by IBM GTS as one of only three approved Offerings, the other two being VMware and Citrix. That alone should warrant it being on the list.

VERDE 3.0 was announced last month with Windows 7 support as well as support for Mac client access. 2.0 included an integrated client-side hypevisor. 1.0 had gold mastering with dynamically linked persistent user data and settings.

The company is venture-backed and has been expanding rapidly with a high-power team.

Someone just tweeted me to say that we need to take more ads on to get included on this.

He was kidding right?  


Everyone needs to understand the real reasons behind the purpose of VDI.  There are what 20 different company's claiming to have a VDI solution now because it is hot and they can make a quick buck..  There are really only a select few of these companies that truly understand what VDI is.

Everyone can get a virtual desktop up, I could probably build a broker in a few weeks.  The point is if you don't have a solution for applications and profiles you are not going to be successful.  Some of my deployments have taken 6 and 7 weeks just to ensure users could do the job they have always been doing....  That is in the end what VDI is all about "Giving users access to applications and data they need while passing technical agility and cost savings to the IT infrastructure".  


D- spot on!

Post Manage Fusion blog- Madden says....

"One of the things we've said in the past is that this is so critical that in order to really save money on VDI or whatever VDI becomes- you have to get to the point where you have one common image to all users. One common shared windows image across our Enterprise whether its running locally or remotely", from that image you layer on apps, layer on the connections, lock it down and then take into consideration the user personality, user profiles.  That is VirtualStorm!

VirtualStorm builds on top of best of breed technology like Symantec's Workspace Virtualization and adds some unique functionality that gets you to that Power of one across the entire enterprise!  


I thought this was about VDI, but seriously! Half of the products mentioned are not even worth testing.

And installing Citrix Xendesktop in 1 day?

What about a week. That looks more like reality.

I miss several solutions you mentioned, and I would be very interested in a comparison between VirtualStorm and Atlantis. That would really be interesting.


Seriously, why no Leostream?  I can't vouch for all the others, but its a no-brainer to deploy, resilient, works with just about every hypervisor you throw at it. I've worked in environments with thousands of users running through it, its regarded as the mutts nuts by the gus that use it on a day to day basis.  I'm confused as to why its not even being considered?  

Surely its worth another day of testing?  If you dump XenDesktop, you could test them all twice - the amount of time it takes to set that bag of bolts up.....


@Section_B, does Leostream have an application solution?  They are just a broker right?  What good is a desktop if I can't run my apps? How many of us use Windows??  Now how many of us use applications? The point is VDI isn't about running a bunch of desktops it's about a total solution, and that includes apps, profiles, userdata.


Hi D,

Leostream offers support for presentation server / XenApp.  I'd invite you to check out this page on our Website: This gives an overview of how the Connection Broker manages apps, alongside desktops and sessions.

The deployment I mentioned above is only one example, but it brings together XenApp, Windows, Sun Rays, and Linux into the Connection Broker's one consolidated management interface.


Kate de Bethune

Leostream Corporation


Hi Kate,

Thank you for the insight, but it still seems that the product is just a broker.  Maybe I am missing something but why would I want to broker my Citrix applications when I can install the Citrix PNA directly on the virtual desktop? The solution doesn't have an application strategy it requires a customer to have a Citrix environment, right?


Hi Brian and Gabe,

This would be a great exercise, but overall I would be concerned about the value of spending 1 day per product and only reviewing 5 products. What value to the industry would the review have? Don't produce the crap that Tolly puts out!

However, if you do go ahead some points that I find worth discusing...

1) Remain completely vendor neutral and open minded to avoid criticism of your results.

2) I don't think it matters if one takes 6 hours to install and another takes 4. Who cares about that in the scheme of things? Leave that crap/FUD for Tolly to write! It's about the end result that is delivered. The richness of the product, administration, management, configuration, useability, etc.

3) Protocol and WAN performance is a big one.

4) How easy is it for users to connect and launch a Desktop/Application from anywhere?

5) Testing of Flash and Multimedia performance, etc, especially when simulating a WAN environment, or connecting via the Internet.

6) Even though it's forever changing, a high level features comparison is always nice, and perhaps a dollar value too.

Clearly that's too much to achieve with 5 products in 5 days, but just my thoughts :)

You know where I am if you want my help!




Hi D,

You're right. The customer would need an existing environment to use Leostream: Citrix is one example. But that's also the point of our solution. When an organization has an existing infrastructure composed of a number of different subsystems - perhaps Presentation Server and VMware, possibly blades, physical machines, or Terminal Services - they need a platform that will bring these disparate systems together in a unified way.

Your statement that Leostream is " . . . a broker" is true. Leostream is a fully-independent, heterogeneous broker, which means you can build systems to deliver end user resources from the diverse range of existing subsystems mentioned above.

But your statement that Leostream is " . . . just a broker" is only partly true. This is because Leostream also provides a policy engine and management tools that allow all of these resources to be managed in a uniform manner, according to the business requirements of the organization. A couple of examples of this include Leostream's ability to manage and prioritize multiple domains (even untrusted domains), and to broker multiple protocols simultaneously.

So, while there's nothing to prevent you from installing a PNA on a virtual desktop if that solution works for you, the Connection Broker is intended for enterprises that need to consolidate, organize, and manage all of their end user resources in the data center.




Kate, I see your point. There is definitive value in your product. There is value in all of these products and I think customers are presented with so many choices the easiest thing is for them not to choose one at all, or do 20 POC's over a year and no solution wins that.

I think the only way to help a customer is with something like what Brian is trying to do here.  However that solution in my opinion has to solve EVERY aspect of desktop management today.  That being apps, profiles, userdata, end user experience, etc.  

I have a customer that is allowing me to install four of these technologies in their user heavy environment and do a side by side comparison. If Brian, Shawn, and all the frequent visitors are up for it I could share those results with the community as they come out.  


Will you be shooting sharks in the pool or in their natural habitat?

In other words: is it just the virtual desktop you want to see running or do you want to be able to actually use the desktop.  If so, I agree with another post to put some application delivery-layer \ workspace management solution in the test environment. Most of the VDI vendors dont include 'something like that in their offering.

Hessel (Scense)



This is a great idea!  We have been involved in some of this kind of testing ourselves at Xangati, including within VMware's own View labs.  With  the ability to record, replay, pause and review traffic by user, port, etc you can see exactly what happened on the network under a specific workload.  I don't know exactly what your plans are, but I can facilitate evaluation copies of our tools to support your efforts.  The industry needs what you are proposing to accomplish!