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VMware View impressions

by Philip Sellers

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.  

What I saw with VMware View was definitely impressive.  There were two points that I have been waiting for that appear to be arriving in the next version.  The first is the ability to have offline virtual desktops.  This is huge for the mobile users within our company.  The second feature is being able to boot a laptop or any device from USB storage into the virtualized desktop environment is huge.   From a provisioning standpoint, this is impressive and potentially a huge time saver.  

Taking virtual desktops offline has great advantages, as we’re trying to determine how to load and customize virtual desktops for our workforce, offline virtual desktops will allow us the traditional flexibility that we have used laptops to gain.  We have a lot of users that need to be able to work from home and the offline lets us have the status quo while allowing us to abstract our physical hardware to a level playing field to ease the provisioning work load.  

The thin hypervisor layer we have traditionally known in ESX is now being deployed to virtual desktops as well.  I think this is great for two reasons – first its thin – it limits the amount of overhead needed to run virtual desktops.  This is great in my eyes because you’re no longer a desktop in a desktop with the overhead of both, but you maximize the amount of horsepower from the physical machine while getting the benefits of the common virtual hardware.

The second great reason is the portability of the bootable USB.  It makes it simple to provision a contractor access with a virtual desktop we control from the datacenter by simply assigning them a USB key.  At any time, we can control and revoke access to the virtual desktop.  It also means replacement hardware is easily deployed to a user if existing hardware dies.  The only wait is the time needed to unbox a new computer and deliver it to the user. 

Another great apsect that was demo’d was the ability to have master images for your virtual desktops.  These images can be updated as needed and upon saving those changes, the end user is alerted and those changes are merged into their virtual desktops without losing their customizations.  That has the promise of greatly reducing maintenance workload and improving end-user experiences when new deployments and roll-outs are completed by our IT staff.  This technology relies upon thin provisioning which also promises to reduce the footprint of virtual desktops on our back-line storage.  

The amount of storage needed for virtual desktops is one of the biggest hurdles I think our staff will face in making the decision to roll out.  At the cost of 20G per virtual desktop, roughly, we are very concerned how much our “expensive” storage will be consumed.  Thin provisioning and linked clone technology should alleviate that problem and make the amount of storage needed maybe a 10th of what it would otherwise need.  I’m excited to see this hands on and in action, as well.

I think VMware View definitely builds out the VDI infrastructure into a more stable and full-featured product line.  I am excited to get to work with this in the months to come and hope that it is a technology we can adopt in some shape or form within our organization.

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