Windows 7 could provide the catalyst for a wave of virtualization at the desktop level. Computerworld's Virtualization Guide Part 5 covers the pros and cons, and looks at which vendors and products you should choose.
Citrix XenDesktop 4
Utilising Citrix Receiver as a universal client, XenDesktop allows users to access their desktop and corporate applications from any PC, Mac, thin client or smartphone.
It uses Citrix’s HDX technology to improve the user experience, especially when using multimedia, real-time collaboration, USB peripherals and 3D graphics, and claims to offer optimum Flash multimedia performance while using 90 per cent less bandwidth. Version 4 of XenDesktop also features webcam and VoIP support, improved audio, 3D graphics support and branch office WAN optimisation.
FlexCast is also included, aimed at helping tailor the virtual desktop experience to meet the performance, security and flexibility requirements of individual users.
Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) aims to enhance deployment and management for Virtual PCs to provide an enterprise solution for desktop virtualization, streamlining operating system upgrades and increasing IT control and user flexibility in enterprise environments. The product claims to provide simplified virtual desktop management using de-duplication technology to accelerate downloads of initial and updated Virtual PC images over the network, and automation of IT tasks such as initial network setup, DNS synchronisation, assignment of unique computer name and joining to the Active Directory domain.
Security features include central management of Virtual PCs access control, the ability to authenticate users using valid Active Directory credentials and apply corporate policies and usage permissions. Users can also provision virtual operating system environments on demand to end users according to user role, affiliation or business needs and run corporate Virtual PC images in heterogeneous desktop environments regardless of existing user hardware, operating system, applications and settings.
Sun’s VirtualBox claims to offer enterprise-class open source desktop and laptop virtualization licensed in an Open Source Edition under GPLv2, requiring no license keys or registration.
It runs multiple operating systems concurrently on the same computer allowing for Solaris OS, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X to run as hosts and “practically any” x86-based OS as a guest. VirtualBox supports Open Virtualization Format (OVF) appliances to interoperate with other virtualization platforms, allows you to create and export appliances and download and import third party appliances.
An open architecture exposes APIs via local or remote Web services interfaces and support for GUI and CLI commands, advanced USB devices and up to 32 vCPUs. On the security front, VirtualBox offers “military-spec” architecture to ensures a secure, multi-platformed desktop, no interference between virtual machines and zero data leakage between virtual machines.
VMware View 4
The latest version of View provides a single management tool to provision new desktops or groups of desktops and an interface for setting desktop policies. With a template, users can customise virtual pools of desktops and set policies, such as how many virtual machines can be in a pool, or log-off parameters. The View Composer feature enables the creation of desktop images from a master image. The product also includes the PCoIP desktop display protocol, aimed at delivering a high-performance desktop experience.
The High Availability feature offers automatic failover and provides pervasive protection within an end-user’s virtualised desktop environment. The ThinApp feature offers application virtualization to separate applications from underlying operating systems for increased compatibility and streamlined application management.