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.
Early this morning, VMware released the VMware View product. As you may recall, VMware View was one of the announcements from VMworld 2008. It is essentially a renaming and new version of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure product. VMware rebranded the product line VMware View and demoed quite a few new features and capabilities during the conference and today we find it making its official debut.
Among the improvements that VMware View 3 brings is thin provisioning for the desktops, the ability to run a golden master merged with user’s customized hard drives – including the ability to update the golden master, offline virtual desktops and a more automated experience for virtual desktop environments.
VMware touts this release as a Unified Client Solution. The concept is that the desktop will follow the user, regardless of their end-point device, and will allow them to access their same familiar desktop. The virtual desktops will run on a variety of types of devices. It introduces two ways to run the virtual desktop – either in the datacenter or on the end-point device, if capable. In the past, virtual desktops were relegated to the datacenter and were unable to run outside of the backend Virtual Infrastructure. But, this release changes that.
The most exciting, at least from my perspective, is the offline desktop. View has a check-out feature, much like the local library. From the VMware presentation a couple weeks ago in Colorado Springs, this feature will allow you to boot your laptop into a thin hypervisor (a la ESX) on the client, login into the View Manager and check-out your virtual desktop, download the files onto your laptop, run it locally. For the mobile workforce, this is a great capability. The way that I’ve seen this run, at least so far, is via a bootable USB thumb drive. The thumb drive boots you into the hypervisor and interface for VDI. Once the virtual desktop has downloaded, you then execute it on the laptop or other local device (some vendors, such as Wyse are introducing thin laptop products). After you’ve finished using the virtual desktop offline, you can reintroduce it to the backend infrastructure which merges the changes back into your online copy of the virtual desktop. This feature carries an Experiemental tag (see this post for explaination).
In addition to this, View 3 also introduces the thin provisioning and the use of VMware’s Linked Clones technology. The technology has long existed in the Workstation and Lab products and they’ve finally been bundled together into a solution for virtual desktops. From a systems administrator’s perspective, the biggest challenge for virtual desktops is moving their storage off of cheap SATA drives internal to a client device and onto much more expensive datacenter storage. Even if you’re talking a SATA storage array, the costs are much higher than that of the PC’s hard drive. By more economically using the space on your enterprise arrays, I think that VMware View 3 is solving this delima. In our particular environment, we really don’t have “cheap” storage to use for a virtual desktop deployment.
We’ll begin testing the new product in house within a week and I’ll post again about any impressions once we begin that trial process.
One topic that I have not been able to blog about from VMworld was the VMware View announcements. I didn’t get a lot of detail, but the introduction during the keynotes did peak my interest quite a bit. My company is currently evaluating its options for doing virtualized desktops. We feel like there are some places where we can benefit from virtual desktops and others where maybe thin clients may be better. Our (possibly misguided) goal is to mitigate the amount of licensing fees we are paying to Microsoft. So at the same time, we are looking at Linux on the desktop as well.