Computerworld’s colleagues over at Network World took a look at the latest virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) products hitting the market. Here is a round up of what they found plus a few extra stories for those of you considering going down the VDI path.
VDI shootout Virtual desktop infrastructure is a hot topic for a number of reasons. Companies familiar with server virtualization are looking to extend to the desktop. Microsoft is delivering virtualization capabilities in Windows 7. And VDI offers a way to control desktop costs, improve security and management - even deliver enterprise apps to phones and other mobile devices.
How we tested VDI We confined our testing to Windows XP sessions, since Vista is unpopular and Windows 7 is only now trickling into the general population. We tested using three different platforms.
How VDI affects the network Setting up a VDI infrastructure obviously placed a burden on the network to provide fast response times between the server and client device. We found in testing that there's no magic formula for figuring out how many client sessions a specific server can support. The number of VDI instances that can be handled by a single server is a function of the server's memory, disk resources, the number of active cores.
How Microsoft Does VDI Microsoft does not offer a specific, purpose-built VDI tool comparable to XenDesktop or VMware View, so we did not include Microsoft in our test. In fact, based on Microsoft's longstanding relationship with Citrix, Microsoft suggests using XenDesktop for VDI — especially for Windows 7 hosting.
Citrix XenDesktop 4: Flexible and fast Citrix's XenDesktop 4 was the most accommodating VDI platform tested, likely owing to its origins as a hybrid of Linux and Citrix. While it's not a lightweight platform, we found it to be the most flexible. Microsoft recommends XenDesktop for its own Microsoft Standard VDI and Premium VDI suite client-side components. XenDesktop runs on Microsoft Hyper-V, VMWare's ESX/vSphere platforms, as well as XenServer.
VMware View 3/4: Superior speed, management features We began testing with VMware View Version 3, but upgraded to Version 4 during the testing cycle. The big difference between the two is that View 4 adds a new transport protocol – PCoIP -- that speeds communications between hosted VMs and clients.
Sychron OnDemand: Simple to use, some rough edges With OnDemand, users access VM sessions via Web page authentication. Session links from client to VM are accomplished via Java (JRE 1.6). The host session can be Windows XP, Vista or Windows 2003 Server.
Ericom WebConnect: Lots of promise, still needs work Ericom's 'secret sauce' is a transportation protocol called Blaze, which is an adaptation of RDP for terminal services, which is Ericom's historical strength.
Quest vWorkspace 6: Strong security features Like XenDesktop, VWorkspace works with many VM server platforms, including Virtual Iron, VMware ESX/vCenter, Microsoft Hyper-V, Parallels Virtuozzo, and also supports Microsoft Terminal Services. External (meaning remote) access uses a vWorkspace SSL proxy gateway that's installed on a dedicated gateway Windows 2000/2003 server in a physical or virtual machine.
MokaFive LivePC: VDI with a twist MokaFive is an image and virtual desktop management platform that's a VDI 'crossover' product for mobile desktop use. MokaFive is VDI that's up-close-and-personal because it's downloaded or distributed as an image directly to a Windows PC or Mac and lives not on a VM server, but inside the client Windows PC or Mac workstation.
Wyse: Effective, but proprietary Wyse makes a number of devices that can display Windows (or other OS) sessions. We tested the Wyse V10L/VXO terminal device, which is a lightweight and book-sized terminal.
Pano Logic: Fast, easy, VMware-based Pano Logic's Pano Cube is a very small 'designer'-looking cube containing three USB jacks, VGA and audio/mic jacks. It ostensibly has no CPU or memory/storage inside, permitting it to be used strictly as a KVM+ access device. Pano Logic also makes a USB dongle called Pano Remote for Windows-based machines that logs them onto a VM as well, but we couldn't find any use for it. Pano Remote does have the ability to constrain data transfer between a host and client PC, including print data, but this was not extensively tested.
NComputing X550: Low-cost, simple, effective The X550 is a genuine old-fashioned terminal server with a twist. One or two PCIe ports are needed in a server box to host NComputing's Ethernet boards. A small, smartphone-sized box called the XD2 has speaker, Ethernet, PS/2-style mouse and keyboard jacks and a VGA jack. Two PCIe cards yields 10 machines, and the 11th is the host computer itself. The host machine can run Windows XP, 2003 Server or 2008 Server editions.
Other VDI articles from Computerworld: VirtualBox 3.1 released, live migration added VDI density issues to be addressed in 2010: Citrix Major virtual desktop deployments still 12 months off – Gartner IBM puts virtual desktops in the cloud Forget desktop virtualisation, here comes user virtualisation Desktop Virtualization and Licensing: IT Wary of Gotchas Forrester: Microsoft opens virtual desktop options Virtual desktops ripe for deployment, hindered by cost