Ervik.As has compiled a great list of resources for optimizing VDI desktops.
Here’s the link
Ervik.As has compiled a great list of resources for optimizing VDI desktops.
Here’s the link
I’m currently working on comparing the costs associated with doing 100 users in a shared desktop model. I was looking for resources around sizing storage and stumbled across these fantastic calculators by Andre Leibovici. He’s created one for both Xendesktop and VMWare view. Both leverage ESX as the hypervisor currently.
Here are the links:
Quest has released a handy tool for quickly refining your virtual desktop images to dramatically improve on performance. This tool makes a number of tweaks that can save on disk, cpu and even RAM usage in a virtual desktop environment. The tool works for all vendors and it’s free! So check it out:
Here’s an excellent PDF outlining what licensing is required for what scenario in a VDI model.
With VDI established as a real approach to desktop delivery and management now more than ever, I think it’s important to ask “Why VDI?”. If we don’t ask why, then projects to design and implement VDI will never succeed. Without an objective or goal, how can you be clear that anything was achieved?
I think its important to define what I mean by VDI. VDI is a term that means many different things to different people. VDI traditionally stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and for a while seemed to be a term owned by VMWare for desktops virtualized on ESX. As in the case of kleenex, it now seems to be a much broader term and used much more in the public domain. I will define VDI in the more logical sense as the abstraction and delivery of a desktop experience, the Windows OS to users. VDI is an alternate way of providing Windows to every user rather than the traditional method of locally installed systems bound to a piece of hardware (desktop/laptop) on every users desk.
So this all sounds very confusing, and it can be. Which leads us to the question as to why would we want to do this whole VDI thing? Why not just keep doing desktops in the traditional steps of: install, configure, deploy and manage. This leads us to our first reason or driver:
Simplified Efficient Management and Administration
While many people utilize the old school method of desktop management mentioned earlier, many also agree it can be painful and waste the valuable time of busy administrators who could instead spend time being proactive. Time spent supporting single desktop issues can become a blow to the TCO of the overall solution. Gartner has a good document on how improved desktop management can reduce TCO (Gartner Desktop Mgmt). Think of VDI as perhaps the ultimate form of desktop management. VDI can be deployed in a way that means a user gets a custom desktop that is as good as the day it was built (we all know desktop performance seems to deterioate with age!). It is delivered with all customizations, patches, configuration and security fixes in place on the first day and every day. Any hardware problem can simply be addressed by swapping the problematic device out and replacing it with an alternate. The user can log back into their same virtual desktop, possibly even to the same state including that email they were in the middle of! This can save administrators lots of troubleshooting time as well as make for happy productive users.
The next part of management is that of updating and patching. While there are good tools for deploying patches to traditional desktops – there still is the inevitable mix of patched and unpatched systems. Imagine an environment where you know every user is on the latest OS including the latest patches, and to roll out a patch you only need to do it once, to one system. VDI can make this a reality. Now, expand that to security configurations, application updates… you’re starting to see the picture now aren’t you!?
So we have this amazing, pristine, secure image that is personalized for users… Wouldn’t it be great if that was available to them internally as well as externally? Well that leads us to the next point:
Right now I would say VMWare View and Citrix XenDesktop are the leaders in the VDI space. Both of these companies include simple to use gateway products for use with their VDI solutions. This means users can simply log into a webpage from home, and access their VDI desktop. The very same desktop they use when they are in the office with all their applications and data. Imagine how this would help for the work from home initiative, pandemic planning, DR scenarios etc. Now add this to the fact that it can be done securely with granular control over how the remote client device can interact (clipboard, drive mappings etc) and you start to see the power of this solution. Users can be given an environment where no data can move between the home device and the virtual desktop and vice versa. Extend this solution to cover the myriad of remote devices including, iphones, ipads, androids, macs and linux machines. You can see how the flexibility of VDI really prepares a company for what I call workforce 2.0, or you may know them as those teenagers with their faces buried in their iphone/ipad etc ;). With VDI based remote access, VPN access and the security concerns around adding a node to your network are eliminated.
So now you’re on board, sounds great…. In the words of those late night informercials – “But Wait! There’s more!”..
Flexibility and Scalability
Since VDI is heavily based on virtualization, it inherently scales well. Most solutions out there are designed with scalability in mind. For example, with an acquisition your company suddenly needs to provide desktops to 200 more users. In the traditional model this would have meant a couple weeks of work, with VDI this could be done in an afternoon.
Lets think of an alternate scenario, imagine windows 8 comes out, I know, I know… But lets say it does and you now need to migrate your 1000 users to Windows 8. In a VDI deployment this is a breeze, simply create your new image and assign it to users. On next logon they can be happily (or unhappily) using windows 8! Sure this might be a slight over simplification, but VDI will make it much simpler than the traditional visit to every desktop scenario.
Another example of the flexibility of VDI is that legacy hardware or thin clients can be used to run environments that they could never support. Don’t want to replace the aging desktops for all your users? No worries, just have them log into their VDI desktop where they can be running the latest OS and applications at speeds they haven’t even experienced on their local desktop.
Now I could go on and on about VDI… It’s my job, that’s what I do- But I think this is a good place to stop. VDI changes the game, and there’s a lot more to VDI and the various deployment options available. We haven’t even got into local mode, client virtualization, or desktop streaming etc., but that’s an article for another day. What matters is why you want to virtualize your desktops – and I think we’ve listed some pretty compelling reasons.
There’s lots of info out there, all sorts of product matrixes and fact sheets. However time and again customers want to know, what does it all mean to me, what should I pick.
I’ve tried to go through and look at the features that really matter to customers and are clear differences between the two and list them here. I’ve not taking into account cost (although indicated where additional licensing would be required).
Effectively this is a comparison of Xendesktop Enterprise and VMWare View 4.6 Premier, the only items listed are items where the competitor can provide what the other lacks.
These items often change rapidly so forgive me if this list contains items that are no longer valid or incorrect. Feel free to comment below and I will maintain this list with any feedback I receive.
A key resource was this whitepaper by Ruben Spruit entitled VDI Smackdown
Here is a link to VMWare View pricing
I could not find a clear link to XenDesktop pricing but here is a link to the XenDesktop Editions List
With the emergence of MS Office Communicator, Lync, Skype and all the other bi-directional audio and webcam chat clients the world is really becoming a smaller place. These tools are saving corporations thousands of dollars through reduced travel costs and increased productivity. It’s only natural that customers are requiring these tools for their desktops – and they don’t care if those are physical or virtual.
The issue becomes whether virtual desktops delivered via XenApp or Xendesktop can really deliver the experience they demand. I recently had a customer who wanted full 720P webcam video for all users in the organization. This is where we are headed, and why not? It is 2011 after all – we were supposed to have hover boards and jetpacks by now, and most of us can do webcam chats on our phones!
So what is possible with XenApp and Xendesktop?
As I mentioned earlier my customer is looking for 720P and XenApp appears does not have this capability out of the box. In order to achieve this, there is a solution from a Citrix Partner called Avistar. They effectively introduce a layer that handles the webcam communications yet merges it into the XenApp session. More info found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFwd6WX6fYw
With XenApp not being as scalable as I would like, I feel XenDesktop provides more flexibility for webcam communication as user sessions would not impact others as they would in a shared XenApp environment.
Video Stream: 700 kilobits per second
Video Resolution: 640 by 480
This configuration resulted in bandwidth consumption of four megabits per second peak between two Logitech 9000 Webcams.
These are still some pretty steep requirements. Especially if this is required for an entire organization. Citrix has stated there is technology coming in their Nitro technology that will enable 720P type webcam communications. I still think the bandwidth requirements are not something that can be erased so this will likely have restrictions to the LAN. Again Citrix recommends customers with advanced webcam requirements look at Avistar for their product to offload webcam processing to the client (http://www.avistar.com/UploadFiles/Avistar_C3_Integrator_Citrix_FINAL_20091109031619.pdf). Overall webcam support is here today, however mileage may vary and it depends on customer expectations whether the support available will meet their needs.
XenApp Webcam Support
XenDesktop Webcam Support
Office Communications Server 2007 Best Practices
Further testing has found that driver installation on the client seemed to make a difference even in a XenApp environment. Performance has been mediocre to poor over the WAN. I have successfully loaded an image in the following:
Skype (Video test)
MSN Live Messenger (Video test only, no option to create video conference, others mentioning this in forums too)
MS OCS/Lync (Video conference)
Cameroid (Flash based webcam site – picture visible, very laggy)
Webcam control Center (freeware webcam software, states no camera available)
Make sure to insert your camera prior to starting the application. These tests were both Xenapp 6 and Xendesktop 5
With the release of Xendesktop 5, Citrix has introduced the Machine Creation Services (MCS). This is effectively a quick way to deploy dedicated or pooled desktops without the need for a provisioning server. It also saves on disk space through the use of linked clones from an original master snapshot. Unfortunately they lost the Xendesktop setup wizard tool support in Provisioning Server along the way! But, like arnold said “I’ll be back” and its back now with the latest hotfix for PVS 5.6SP1.
The question becomes then, when to use Machine Creation Services versus Provisioning Services (PVS)?
Citrix Blogs have an entry on this question here: http://community.citrix.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=161743115
Provisioning services provides more flexibility with the ability to stream to both physical and virtual systems, while MCS requires a virtualization platform to deploy the images. Both PVS and MCS enable administrative updates to a master image to enable automatic updates for users on pooled systems. Note that if a user has a dedicated system and the master is updated that could render the users changes lost.
PVS has the benefit that it can ease SAN requirements since VM’s do their reads from the provisioning server rather than the SAN where the images can be cached in memory.
MCS is simpler and does not require an additional server and the complexity of a PVS server to implement. However with the re-introduction of Xendesktop setup wizard in XD 5 it now supports the automatic creation of AD accounts and VM’s again. This makes PVS implementation a little simpler. Overall PVS can allow for lighter SAN storage requirements as there is no longer the need for snapshots for each VM. There is an excellent summary of MCS that includes a Storage calculator for MCS and vSphere that is very handy at the following site – http://www.thegenerationv.com/2011/03/xendesktop-5-deep-dive-machine-creation.html.
Here’s a link to the MCS sizing calculator for vSphere: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16106774/MCS%20Sizing%20Wizard.xlsx
There has been some concern with MCS with its support of Microsoft KMS and MAK licensing for Windows and Office. Currently MCS does not support MAK licenses.
PVS supports KMS and MAK in its latest version (5.6SP1) correctly while MCS supports KMS with the following workaround.
Some PVS Xendesktop 5 Setup Wizard resources are available here:
With both Citrix and VMWare leading the VDI charge with their respective XenDesktop and View technologies this has definitely become a hot topic.
Both of these technologies offer interesting and compelling use scenarios to deliver a customized desktop to your end users. However they both have high investment costs as far as physical resources (CPU, Memory and in some cases huge SAN usage). Additionally the number of moving parts can be quite high and administration skill level is something that can be intimidating to those who are new to the field.
One solution that I am finding consistently meets the needs of many customers who are interested in VDI is a simple published desktop delivered via XenApp. With the latest version of XenApp – version 6 running on W2K8 R2 a lot of the XenApp shortcomings that were not issues in XenDesktop and View are now integrated in XenApp.
Items such as:
Many of these items vastly improve a user who is leveraging XenApp as a traditional desktop replacement.
I like to combine the published desktop with a PNAgent (XenApp online services plugin) so I can deliver customized applications to a standard desktop. This lets me maximize the number of users that a single XenApp server can support without the need to silo into multiple servers.
This PNAgent when configured correctly will allow users applications to populate the start menu and/or desktop and do passthrough session sharing. This session sharing is the secret to a great user experience. Applications launch immediately without the need for another session to be created, and allows drag and drop functionality within the desktop.
This solution is often the final destination for those who have heard of VDI and come looking to find out more.