Our journey to VDI continues. This week, we had several more milestones on our road to delivering this solution into the far reaching corners of our area. Among those accomplishments were implementing the DHCP options successfully, setting up several pools of linked-clone virtual desktops and a wider testing of the Pano devices and their capabilites. (This is only an incremental update – see my prior post.)
My co-worker, Jason, was tasked with our VMware View implementation and I’m glad to report that its been largely successful and more importantly easy to deploy. I thought that now was a good time to reflect and share with you how we came to the decision to deploy virtual desktops, where we plan to use them, and what components we have implemented.
As a followup to my previous posts about thin clients and our research, we made a first step into the virtual desktop arena. We purchased 55 Pano Logic units just before end of last year. They arrived and have been safely stored away while we work out the rest of our implementation plans. This is just our first step at HTC and we see the potential of choosing one or maybe two more solutions which meet our needs in other areas. We are unsure how the Pano units will work in our business offices. Our initial roll out will be in our central offices and we may expand upon that.
We still need to complete the backend infrastructure to handle our roll out. We are making decisions now whether to locate our initial virtual desktop pools with our other virtual servers in the same cluster, or whether to deploy a new cluster. We also have to look at DHCP for our entire network, as our current solution does not appear to be able to hand out the additional directives to the Pano devices. I hope to be able to do a more detailed entry about the whole process once we get further down the road.
We met with Dell via conference call last week to go over their offering for thin-clients. They basically showed off their Optiplex FX160 thin client. To me, its more of a very small PC than thin-client with options of adding a hard drive and other hardware. It does run XP Embed or a SUSE LInux. It also supports an embedded, customized BIOS version for streamed desktops via Citrix XenDesktop. I actually like the streaming desktop idea the best. Thin clients have always seemed to be under-performers and the end user is rarely happy with the unit. But the diskless aspect of a streamed desktop seems to overcome some of the negatives of thin clients and might actually be a viable option.
We have trialed on other diskless option – the Pano Logic solution – which we really like. The most compelling thing to us about these solutions is that there is no OS image to worry with – nothing to ever need patching. It boots into a BIOS and directs to a desktop solution controlled from the datacenter. Even with thin-client OS’s, it seems there are vunerabilities and upgrades needed in the future and there is obviously a need to have a management interface for these devices. That’s another layer to administer.
The biggest downside to me is price on these units. With the cheapest quote coming in over $500, that’s a good $200 more than Pano’s solution and that’s without significan’t support. The support cost differences between the devices almost rules the Dell solution out all together.
It is nice to see Dell entering this arena and recongizing the viabliity of this market, but their first entry is more towards a fully powered thin-client solution. And yes, I know I just complained earlier about thin-client being under-performers. But, at the same time, you want to have a thin-client that isn’t going to cost just as much as a PC… I dunno, I guess you just can’t please me… though I do like the Pano Logic solution so far.
Update: After posting, I thought I should post a link to the FX160.
We are on the quest for the best thin client for our uses at HTC. My co-worker, Jason, has been leading the evaluation process. So far, different people in my group have seen presentations from Pano Logic, HP, Wyse and we have Dell coming later this month. We have evaluated the Pano Logic solution and the Wyse solution so far, and are impressed with both.