VMware has released a new “solution” called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). If you are using VMware’s products to serve up desktops to your end users, you may already be using a more basic form of VDI and not even know it. Let’s find out more about VDI…
This is a VMware solution, not a product because it involves using Virtualization to provide virtual desktops to your users. All of us are familiar with the concept of using VMware Server or VMware ESX to virtualize your server applications (like SQL server, print servers, or other dedicated servers). VDI takes this a step farther.
Here are the steps to using VDI:
VDI could be compared, in a number of ways, to thin-client computing (such as Citrix/Terminal Services). With VDI, you are taking the processing off of the end user’s device and bringing it onto a server. The difference with VDI, unlike thin-client, the virtual desktop is dedicated to a single end user or mapped to provide the desktop OS & applications to a single client viewing device.
The VMware VDI packaged solution, of course, uses VMware ESX as the underlying virtualization product. However, if you are creating your own less-featured version of VDI, you could do the same thing with VMware Server, if you are willing to sacrifice the VMware ESX features & connection broker features, in return for getting this type of solution for next to nothing.
VDI could be compared, in Here are the benefits to VDI:
Now let’s look at some challenges to using VDI:
All of these are good questions and are challenges you will have to overcome if you are going to try to implement VDI yourself. If you use VMware’s packaged solution, I expect that they will provide you the answers to these. However, the answers aren’t that hard to find. Let’s take a look:
There are some of you may see the benefits of VMware’s packaged VDI and be willing to pay the price for the hardware, VMware Virtual Infrastructure software (like ESX), connection broker, and the VMware services to implement their VDI package. Perhaps you will virtualize every desktop and move them onto the Virtual datacenter. If so, good for you. The VMware VDI solution with a connection broker is an excellent solution.
However, if you are like me and your company would never be able to justify such a costly solution, you may want to consider your own sort of VDI for certain desktops. Let me tell you how I use my own homemade-VDI and, perhaps, it can help you.
We have a large Citrix farm with over 400 concurrent Wyse thin-clients connecting to 16 servers every day. Each user is given the whole desktop, on their thin-client, from the server. Users share applications that are installed on each server. However, a number of older applications, we discovered, were not multi-user enabled. When the second user would run the application, the application would lock or crash.
What we did is to create a VMware virtual desktop (on Server 1.x or ESX) and enable RDP on it. We installed the old application. We made it so that the workstation would automatically login using Windows credentials and that, the application would start, maximized in the virtual desktop, when the user connected and logged in.
Back on that user’s Citrix desktop, we put an icon with the name of the application. That icon actually ran a RDP connection, full-screen, and connected to the Virtual desktop system. When the connection was made, the user immediately saw the application they ran, but it was running on the other server. As they were the only user using that application, it worked fine with just a single user.
This is an example of creating a sort of ad-hoc VDI system. We had a dedicated virtual desktop mapped to a single user. This allowed us to let the user run that application with out them having to have a PC. It allowed us to keep our costs down, network secure, and easily roll out more of these virtual desktops.
This is, of course, on a much smaller scale that the full-blown VMware VDI package and connection broker. Still, it is similar and offers similar core features. The downside to any sort of VDI solution is that it doesn’t scale well. What I mean is that you must have a virtual desktop for every user. When compared tot he scalability of Terminal Server/Citrix (where I can put over 60 users on each system), there is a vast difference.
In summary, VMware VDI is a great concept whether you do it on a small scale, like I did, or on a large scale, like you can purchase through VMware. VDI goes hand in hand with the popularity of thin-client computing and offers many of the same benefits.