Tag : VDI

Superior VDI Experience – Flash Array & Citrix XenDesktop

 

Delivering a superior VDI experience with Flash Array and Citrix XenDesktop

VDI – Virtual Desktop infrastructure is the practice of hosting a desktop operating system within a virtual machine (VM) running on a centralized server. VDI is a variation on the client/server computing model, sometimes referred to as server-based computing. VDI has become more popular, now available to most workers, anyplace, anytime, via multiple devices.

Virtualizing and centralizing desktops offers a more secure, more manageable and less costly end-user computing model. Scalable server architecture has helped with this, although virtualizing and centralizing are more popular now they are still not widespread.

The reason being high cost and management complexities. VDI deployment should reduce equipment costs and management costs although the initial shared server and networking resources can have an expensive price tag. VDI that relies on spinning disk storage systems tend to deliver unreliable performance and slow response times. VDI projects are usually deployed with the goal of maximizing end-user productivity, which is great, but usually this means increased IT management.

When considering a VDI storage solution it is important to value high performance with consistent low latency as well as non-disruptive operations. Low latency storage compatibilities are required to enable the full potential of VDI designs. Otherwise the systems will get bogged down and users will experience inconsistent performance and disconnections when multiple devices log in at the same time. The system must be available at all times even during maintenance, upgrades, natural disasters etc. Storage systems that cannot perform consistently will not be able to support VDI installation.

Pure Storage Flash Array and Citrix XenDesktop in perfect harmony

The Pure Storage Flash Array delivers low latency performance with the average latency being less than 1 millisecond. Flash Array’s typical data reduction rate of 10:1 or greater cuts costs than with traditional disks and hybrid storage. The average up time for Flash Array storage systems is greater than 99.999 percent – extremely reliable. Flash Array also employs a set and forget system that simplifies VDI management. In addition this storage solution has non-disruptive operations that give that same reliable performance even during upgrades and maintenance.

Citrix XenDesktop delivers full Windows VDI capabilities in addition to virtual apps, meeting the demands of any user. XenDesktop enables users to access their apps, desktops and data without the limitations of a traditional solution. On the unified FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA) platform, XenDesktop is the only solution that is FIPS-compliant and Common Criteria certified to meet the highest security standards of regulated industries. End users will enjoy the simple virtual desktop interface, while IT will appreciate the superior performance of HDX technology, even when deployed over challenging, high-latency networks.

 

 


 

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Great Strides for VDI – Citrix VDI‑in‑a‑Box

Over the last six months we have seen more and more organizations move to session based technology for cost reasons as well as compliancy reasons.  The current solution set that BVA would recommend or offer were Microsoft based or Vmware.  There has been some strong project clients that we have interacted with that forced the Citrix as the solution set.  As a result BVA had to become well versed in the solution and test it internally which was done very successfully.  This solution has a small footprint and works great for internal or external clients.  It also plays very will with streaming video and audio which the Microsoft solution has some challenges.

  1. Simple to deploy – You can set up VDI-in-a-Box in three simple steps and go from zero to production in under an hour, and eliminate the dependency on storage and network resources
  2. Simple to manage – With VDI-in-a-Box, all you need is Windows expertise to centrally manage and securely grant anytime, anywhere virtual desktop access to your users
  3. Simple to scale – To suit your changing business needs, VDI-in-a-Box has the flexibility to incrementally grow a deployment on-demand by simply adding inexpensive industry standard servers

Designed for IT organizations with simpler needs, VDI-in-a-Box makes it easy to deliver centrally managed, personalized virtual desktops securely to any device on any network—all for less than the cost per user of new PCs. With Citrix HDX, users enjoy the same rich, high-definition experience found in enterprise-class Citrix XenDesktop no matter what kind of device they use.

Transform desktop IT

  • Reduce your PC refresh budget by deploying virtual desktops instead of more expensive PC replacements
  • Empower Windows® admins to handle virtualization with a single intuitive management console, eliminating the need for storage specialists, network administrators, database administrators or virtualization experts
  • Cut desktop management costs by consolidating patching and management, lengthening PC refresh cycles and scaling incrementally without having to overprovision for key features like high availability

VDI ROI

 

Beefy Thin Client-HP Compaq 8200

bva is doing more and more VDI installations within the small to medium size businesses.  The request for having sessions that have many screens is one of the main requests that we get with is always an interesting request.  Some of the common requests that bva gets in the experience are as followed:

  • speed
  • stability
  • remote capabilities outside of the network/LAN
  • multiple monitors (2, 3, and 4 monitors)
  • having minimal latency issues
  • having no data on

There are many great thin clients out there that can handle two monitors without issue but when you go to more that 2 monitors the cheaper units create an issue. The graphics card in the cheaper units (base model) cannot handle the multiple monitors over 2 screens.  bva likes Wyse terminals and all the HP terminals.  For environments where you need a little more power and need up to 4 monitors, bva would recommend the HP Compaq 8200 Elite Ultra-slim PC.  Its about $500 which is a little more expensive then the base models ($178) but the experience is well work the investment.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI); Session Based Computing

Spring is fully upon us and the summer heat is looming in the not too distant future. Many of us are planning out our summer vacations to beat the heat and spend time with our friends and families. While our minds are probably already off to some beachside locale, there is still a bit of time before we’ll be flying there ourselves. In the meantime, perhaps now is as good a time as any to look into moving your business over to an older and simpler way of computing.  Session based technology has been around for many years and at one point in the late 90’s/early 2000’s it was a very popular desktop architecture.  For a variety of reasons it became less popular primarily due to the desktop hardware cost decreasing significantly.  Session Based computing is where you take all the data and processing activity off the local desktop and have it take place on a robust server.  By doing this you can have multiply desktop sessions running on a single server if you were so inclined.  For best practice methodology, bva recommends putting all sessions spread over two (2) servers to ensure up-time and load balancing for the user community.  The great advantages of Session Based Computing are the following:

  • Smaller Footprint
  • Eco-Friendly and More Green
  • All Data on Servers, No Loss of Data
  • Seamless and Consistent Interface over Different PC’s
  • Ability to Leverage Older PC Hardware for Production
  • Ability to Leverage Newer Operating Systems Virtually Without Conflict
  • Application Virtualization Ensures Seamless User Experience

The most popular products leveraged today for this type of architecture are as followed:

  • Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Server)
  • Citrix Systems
  • Vmware View

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is another name for Session Based Technology. VDI is an emerging architectural model where a Windows client operating system runs in server-based virtual machines (VMs) in the data center and interacts with the user’s client device such as a PC or a thin client. Similar to session virtualization (formerly known as Terminal Services), VDI provides IT with the ability to centralize a user’s desktop; instead of a server session, however, a full client environment is virtualized within a server-based hypervisor. With VDI, the user can get a rich and individualized desktop experience with full administrative control over desktop and applications. However, this architecture, while flexible, requires significantly more server hardware resources than the traditional session virtualization approach.

Key benefits of VDI are:

  • Better enablement of flexible work scenarios, such as work from home and hot-desking
  • Increased data security and compliance
  • Easy and efficient management of the desktop OS and applications

Application Virtualization – The Basics

Application Virtualization is the future and it’s more clear today than it has ever been.  I always find it funny how people always revert back to the basics after every other form of architecture is explored.  Application virtualization refers to several techniques that make running applications more protected, more flexible or easier to manage.  Modern operating systems attempt to keep programs isolated from each other. If one program crashes, the remaining programs generally keep running. However, bugs in the operating system or applications can cause the entire system to come to a screeching halt or, at least, impede other operations.  Full application virtualization requires a virtualization layer.  Application virtualization layers replace part of the runtime environment normally provided by the operating system. The layer intercepts all file and Registry operations of virtualized applications and transparently redirects them to a virtualized location, often a single file.  The application never knows that it’s accessing a virtual resource instead of a physical one. Since the application is now working with one file instead of many files and registry entries spread throughout the system, it becomes easy to run the application on a different computer and previously incompatible applications can be run side-by-side.   Examples of this technology for the Windows platform are Cameyo, Ceedo, Evalaze, InstallFree, Citrix XenApp, Novell ZENworks Application VIrtualization, Endeavors Technologies Application Jukebox, Microsoft Application Virtualization, Software Virtualization Solution, VMware ThinApp and InstallAware Virtualization.

Technology categories that fall under Application Virtualization include:

  • Application Streaming-Pieces of the application’s code, data, and settings are delivered when they’re first needed, instead of the entire application being delivered before startup. Running the packaged application may require the installation of a lightweight client application. Packages are usually delivered over a protocol such as HTTP, CIFS or RTSP.
  • Desktop Virtualization/Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)-The application is hosted in a VM or blade PC that also includes the operating system (OS). These solutions include a management infrastructure for automating the creation of virtual desktops, and providing for access control to target virtual desktop. VDI solutions can usually fill the gaps where application streaming falls short.

Provided below are some basic terms as well as architecutral frameworks when considering in deploying a solution of this nature:

  • Application Streaming=  Rather than installing all applications in every user’s machine, applications are delivered to each user’s PC as needed. This enables the applications to be updated centrally and also provides a way to measure each users’ application requirements over time. See application streaming.
  • Terminals to a Central Computer=  The oldest network architecture, all applications and data are stored in a centralized server or cluster of servers. The user’s PC functions like a terminal to the server or dedicated terminals are used. The applications are said to be “virtualized” because they function as if they were running on the client. See thin client.
  • Partition the Hardware=  This is the traditional meaning of “virtualization” and refers to partitioning a computer in order to run several applications without interference, each in their own “virtual machine.” Deployed in servers and clients, this is more accurately called “server virtualization” and “client virtualization.” Contrast with OS virtualization. See virtual machine.
  • Write the Program Once, Run Everywhere=  An interpreted programming language enables the same program to run on different machine platforms, with Java and Visual Basic being the major examples (see Java Virtual Machine and Visual Basic). The applications are said to be “virtualized” because they run on any platform that has a runtime engine for that language.
  • Dynamic Application Assignment=  This approach treats servers in the datacenter as a pool of operating system resources and assigns those resources to applications based on demand in real time. The pioneer in this area is Data Synapse Inc. The applications are said to be “virtualized” because they can be run in any server.

Benefits of application Virtualization

  • Allows applications to run in environments that do not suit the native application.
  • May protect the operating system and other applications from poorly written or buggy code.
  • Uses fewer resources than a separate virtual machine.
  • Run applications that are not written correctly, for example applications that try to store user data in a read-only system-owned location.
  • Run incompatible applications side-by-side, at the same time and with minimal regression testing against one another.
  • Maintain a standard configuration in the underlying operating system across multiple computers in an organization, regardless of the applications being used, thereby keeping costs down.
  • Implement the security principle of least privilege by removing the requirement for end-users to have Administrator privileges in order to run poorly written applications.
  • Simplified operating system migrations.
  • Accelerated application deployment, through on-demand application streaming.
  • Improved security, by isolating applications from the operating system.
  • Enterprises can easily track license usage. Application usage history can then be used to save on license costs.
  • Fast application provisioning to the desktop based upon user’s roaming profile.
  • Allows applications to be copied to portable media and then imported to client computers without need of installing them.

Limitations of application Virtualization

  • Not all software can be virtualized. Some examples include applications that require a device driver and 16-bit applications that need to run in shared memory space.
  • Some types of software such as anti-virus packages and application that require heavy OS integration.
  • Only file and Registry-level compatibility issues between legacy applications and newer operating systems can be addressed by application virtualization.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure-VDI-Pro’s and Con’s

In the past 6 months BVA has seen a tremendous push towards (VDI) Virtual Desktop Infrastructure which is unique in my eyes, for the most part it is because we have come full circle.  About 10 years ago there was a tremendous push toward thin-clients and dumb terminals which had a lot of success back then.  After a few years of this, organizations decided to move back to heavy client models mostly due to workstations lowering their cost.  Regardless of how we got to this point, VDI is back and more popular than ever.  BVA has deployed over four VDI solutions in the past three months with minimal hurdles and we are getting great reviews from the client via user experience.

Lets talk about VDI and what it is and is not.  Basically Virtualization technology can provide virtual desktops to your users which, over time, will save you on hardware cost as well as administration. All of us are familiar with the concept of virtual platforms/servers and using this technology to virtualize server applications (like SQL server, print servers, or other dedicated servers). VDI takes this a step farther.

Here are the steps to using VDI:

  1. Create a virtual machine
  2. Install a VDI Connection Broker – this Connection Broker is what determines which Remote Desktop Host a user is assigned or should be connected to. Here are some of the connection brokers available today:
    • ChipPC Virtual Desktop Center
    • Citrix Desktop Broker for Presentation Server
    • Dunes Virtual Desktop Orchestrator (VD-O) and Virtual Service Orchestrator (VS-O)
    • LeoStream Virtual Desktop Connection Broker
    • Propero workSpace
    • Provision Networks Virtual Access Suite (VAS)
  3. Install a desktop operating system on that VM, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista
  4. Install desktop applications on the VM
  5. Allow remote access to that virtual desktop system over the network using any number of possible remote control options

VDI is basically thin-client computing (such as Citrix/Terminal Services). With VDI, you are taking the processing off of the end user’s device and bringing it onto a server. The difference with VDI, unlike thin-client, the virtual desktop is dedicated to a single end user or mapped to provide the desktop OS & applications to a single client viewing device.  Many VDI packaged solutions, of course, uses VMware or Microsoft’s virtual platforms as the underlying virtualization product.

Why should an organization use VDI?

  • SecurityDesktops are more secure
  • Rollback – Can use VMware’s snapshot and revert technology on desktop machines
  • Centralized Apps – Applications upgrades are easier because systems are all in a centralized location
  • Speed Deployment – You can quickly clone existing machines and roll out new systems because machines are all in a single central repository
  • Provide a full desktop PC – You are providing full access to a virtual machine and each virtual desktop is mapped to a single user or a single client device.
  • Reliability – If you could quickly restore any PC OS to a usable state, free from viruses or corruption, how reliable could your desktop systems be?

Here are some key points about the solution for your reference:

  1. You could use older or existing PC’s but that doesn’t provide you all the benefits you could get from VDI. You could also use thin-client devices running RDP. Ideally, you might consider something like the new Wyse Thins OS-VDI, made just for thin clients that will be connected to VDI servers. More information can be found at: http://www.wyse.com/about/news/pr/2006/0802_VMwareVDI.asp and http://www.wyse.com/products/software/os
  2. With regards to remote control application, you can choose from RDP, VNC, or others
  3. For Legacy hardware you can use RDP, for example, which supports USB devices on the client and if you could put a parallel or serial device on the server, you could also access it from the client.
  4. You will have to do your own cost comparison, keeping in mind, the soft numbers related to the increased security and management functionality.  There are several case studies that outline a 5 year ROI that shows the cost comparison where you come out appropriately.