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Will virtual desktops change the face of your operation?


Virtualization has been a hot topic for a couple of years now, which is a lifetime in the IT world, but most of the buzz has been focused on servers. Desktop virtualization extends many of the benefits to users and also has tremendous potential to ease the issues faced by many administrators. Users get profiles and desktops that can follow them from device to device on dozens of different hardware platforms as well as the ability to connect to their desktop from anywhere in the world. Administrators get better security, centralized management of desktop images, and more flexibility in the hardware deployed for users.

Desktop Virtualization Is Inevitable (News.com)

There are a number of players in the desktop virtualization space, but the one with the biggest technology lead has to be Citrix, who has had desktop virtualization as its primary business for years and is now shipping its latest offering, XenDesktop. VMWare is using its early lead in server virtualization to make some headway in a market that will only benefit from having some strong competition. There are also several newcomers to the market, including at least one using Microsoft's Terminal Services as the desktop-delivery technology. HP is making its presence known in a different part of the market, offering a mobile thin client that works with XenDesktop and is certified for the VMWare desktop offering.

Citrix Makes the Desktop Virtual with XenDesktop (PC World)

HP, Citrix Expand Desktop Virtualization (Government Computer News)

Ericom Poses as Desktop Virtualization "Alternative to Citrix" (Information Week)

I have been thinking about using some virtual desktops for about a year now. Virtualizing the desktop presents some compelling options, not the least of which is the ability to easily include desktops in the backup strategy. However, the ability to reduce the hardware on the user's desktop to a small, solid-state thin client is probably the biggest one for me. At that point, managing the desktop can be done entirely in the data center. Technicians can then spend their time fixing problems rather than arranging a time with the user, making a trip to their desk, and diagnosing troublesome hardware. Of course, thin clients do not make sense for some users, like those who need laptops, but virtual desktops can be displayed on a laptop just as well as on a thin client. Do you have virtual desktops in place or on the planning board?

10 comments
dagar
dagar

I am administering a terminal server environment now but I am looking into desktop virtualization. With each technology (xe, vmware, ...) how many virtual desktops per server cpu/ram? What about real world administering of virtual deskops? (ie: what is involved with having a gold copy and pushing changes out to them) What hidden costs are there to this? Thanks

msimmons
msimmons

I've thought about Virtual Desktops as well. Most of my users are split between laptops and desktops, and with a thin client setup, my laptop users would be out in the cold. What I'm waiting on is an ESX-type solution. I could install the ESX OS on the laptops, then give the user a generic OS image on CD or flash drive to boot into. There would be security implications, of course, and the images would have to be authenticated somehow, but I think it could be done.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Hey, Andy, did you intend to put links in to the three articles you cited? We're looking at virtual desktops, but that's as far as we've gotten.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I see virtual desktops as a must in the near future, whether from a security or ease of upkeep standpoint. I'm used to a different environment, hence my research into desktop on a stick technology. MoJoPac is one approach that may get traction in this area. I can carry my whole desktop on a flash drive. MoJoPac describes it better: "With MojoPac, an enterprise can encapsulate an entire desktop software environment including applications, data, settings, and security policies and then run the environment on any personal computer. An unmanaged desktop is instantly transformed into a secure corporate environment, isolated from the host system. The enterprise can also enforce security policies within the environment and prevent actions such as printing, writing to optical or USB drives, or copying from the clipboard. This ability to control the copying of corporate data off the endpoint greatly improves the company's ability to control desktop data leakage. As an added measure of security, MojoPac can also scan the host before booting to detect the presence of endpoint security applications such as antivirus, antispyware, antipshishing, and firewalls. If the endpoint does not meet the minimum corporate security requirements for its computing environment, MojoPac can abort execution and warn the end user. This insures that MojoPac virtual desktop will operate on an acceptable host machine. Finally, because the entire MojoPac image (not only data, but applications and settings) is easily encrypted and backed up, MojoPac is safer and easier to recover in case of loss or theft. This enables a much quicker, seamless, and more transparent recovery of the user's environment when compared to the procedure to recover a typical laptop." Its not quite there yet, but an interesting alternative, especially for those that travel.

Andy J. Moon
Andy J. Moon

Have you put a solution in place, started testing, or started planning for virtual desktops?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm issued a workstation and a notebook. I want to have the notebook desktop displayed as a "windows application" on the workstaion; this shares one keboard between the two, keeps Outlook in one location and enables better tandem use of both machines. Where I already work with multiple shared desktops, it's a great.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

After replacing my piles of physical boxes hosting an OS collection in one chassis, it would have been hard to live without VMs again. Having since been spoiled by running Windows in a VM for any win32 only and using other's for developing server configurations, I don't think I could live without it now. I just did a major hardware upgrade and the software install went; OS&MinUserSpace -> VM Server -> Existing VMs -> RemainingUserSpace -> Additional VMs. The gaming boot partition didn't get setup until weeks after the primary workspace and guests. (Edit, having reread the article title): Virtual desktops are the same way. I feel confined in Windows with only one crowded desktop. I only use a humble four desktop split but I've gotten used too the four topical groupings; internet, system and monitoring, VM related, Eterms (four always open and usually in use).

msimmons
msimmons

Have you considered using Synergy? I use it daily, and I've passed it on to quite a few people who really like it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It looks like a remote desktop a-la-VNC. I'll have to take a look at it though. I may have a use for it already.