New Tools to Simplify VDI Deployment

Arthur Cole

It's an article of faith among virtual desktop proponents that once users get up and running on the technology, all those fears about loss of control and security will fall away.

To that end, there now seems to be a mad rush to devise the most effective means of deploying VDI without causing too much disruption to legacy infrastructure.

Nobody seems more eager to get this ball rolling than Cisco. The company has staked its reputation on the notion of unified computing, and bringing desktop infrastructure under that umbrella is a key part of the strategy. That's why the company has forged an agreement with Citrix Systems to bring the XenDesktop into the Cisco Desktop Virtualization system, a pairing that not only streamlines the virtual desktop deployment process but delivers a number of advanced features, such as high-definition video, right from the start. The package includes preconfigured service profiles and deployment kits to take much of the drudgework out of setting up virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and it also features an open architecture that makes it easier to integrate with existing Citrix, VMware and Microsoft hypervisor platforms. It also provides for wide-area services allowing desktops to be accessed from a variety of devices outside the office.

At the same time, Cisco has been busy laying the groundwork for a wider range of VDI support technologies. One example is Atlantis Computing, which has gotten seed money from Cisco and others to develop and market a new breed of virtual I/O optimization technologies designed to reduce the burden that virtual desktops place on storage infrastructure.

VMware is also looking to alleviate deployment issues with a new set of products and services aimed at making its platform more "user-centric." The package includes a new version of VMware View that brings control of both desktops and applications under one roof, and a new vFabric middleware system that streamlines the deployment and management of virtual resources. The package also provides a set of cloud tools aimed at giving VDI users greater access to hybrid and public infrastructure.

Over at Oracle, the take is somewhat different, with greater emphasis on security as a means to overcome deployment issues. The newest version of the Secure Global Desktop platform aims to provide greater access to server-hosted applications and desktops even while keeping sensitive data behind the corporate firewall rather than on the desktop itself. The package includes a Java-based Web client that blocks cookies and Web page cache files that can be used to invade enterprise resources.

To date, VDI deployment has been slow but steady. In hindsight, it is clear that virtualizing the desktop was never going to be as easy as virtualizing servers or storage because it hits so much more closer to home for too many users.

But simplifying the introductory phase will certainly go a long way toward reaching that critical point when virtual desktops are seen as the normal user environment rather than the exception.

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Sep 12, 2010 12:01 PM Ryan Snell Ryan Snell  says:

The cleanest storage option for VDI is the WhipTail Virtual Desktop XLR8r.  This 2U storage array is fully populated with MLC based flash drives that deliver 200,000 IOPS and 0.1 ms latency at around $30 per user.  A single 2U appliance can fit 5,000 users and need less than 180 watts of power.  Both Citrix, VMware, and Microsoft certified, and with referenceable customers in the field, this is the cleanest way to address the storage IOPS problem and continue forward motion with your project.

Sep 24, 2010 7:51 AM Robert Kadish Robert Kadish  says:


I agree whiptail is a great solution.  However we are finding that customers want to take advantage of local disk to deliver the lowest cost alternative.  Using the new features available in VMware 4.5 and the soon to be released cloning feature from XenDesktop in conjunction with Atlantis Inline de-duplication and IO acceleration (ILIO) VDI with Windows 7 can be configured to load applications and OS from very small DAS drives and user data is then saved to SAN.

An example of this would be Cisco Blades with 284 GB of RAM running Windows 7 guests and an Atlantis guest on the local host.  UCS blades have two drive bays which with ILIO (even though they only have 300GB of space and limited IOPS can handle the 120 or so Windows 7 sessions (assuming 2GB of RAM per guest). 

Then the customer can use any number of solutions including native solutions from VMware and Citrix to save user data and settings to the SAN.  Like I said Whiptail is a great solution but given the go forward deployment models it's not really needed.  That said if the customer is running persistent desktops it might be a good fit if they don't run ILIO, but most companies want to horizontally scale using existing SAN hardware and ILIO allows them to do this without having to invest in alternative Hardware solutions so it ends up being less risky.  You know the old saying standardize on hardware platforms and it's easier to support. Costs go down and the stock holders are happy.


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