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Virtualising workstations

Hi,
Looking at making life easier by virtualising our workstations.  I.e. running a virtual PC on each physical PC.  That way we can just zap over a new image if a pc goes down.

Whats the best way of doing this?  Run an image on each physical PC or run somethinglike Terminal server?

It's a bit pointless if we have to run a Virtualisation app ontop of XP...

I'd appreciate the comments of anyone thats done this.

Thanks
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jmsjms
Asked:
jmsjms
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9 Solutions
 
ryder0707Commented:
Perhaps you'd be interested with vmware view http://www.vmware.com/products/view/
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San3LCommented:
Hey

I think you should consider vmware.
Dont even think of running virtual workstations on top of, lets say, windows xp, that just gives you 100% more work, with the security, updates, accessability etc...

Here is a video that will show you, how it works and how its implemented.
http://www.vmware.com/products/view/
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za_mkhCommented:
VMView is the way to go ... if you already have the ESX/vCenter infrastructure ... then it's not too expensive to get this software solution ... which works great.
Another solution would be to look at XenDesktop, XenServer, etc (www.citrix.com) if you haven't started out. At least, Citrix XenServer is free and it gives you the free vMotion capabilities whereas you would have to pay for that with vSphere. 
If I was starting out, I would use a mix of Xen and ESX ... they both have solutions that meet your requirements ... it then is up to you to decide on cost and functionality, etc, etc.
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jmsjmsAuthor Commented:
So I can run ESX to virtualise my workstations?  

Doe it run a virtual image on each workstation or is it like terminal server where serveral desktops are on one server?

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San3LCommented:
You have a virtual disk for every unit (pc).. nothing like Terminal server...
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larstrCommented:
When virtualizing desktop workloads you normally use the following technologies:
1. By using application streaming/virtualization you loose up the normally strong ties between the OS and the applications.
 2. By using linked clones/provisioning server you can use the same OS image for all guests, and it's fresh every day.
3. By seperating the user profile from the OS, the user settings will follow the user, not the OS.
4. By using a special protocol or one with enhancements (ICA HDX, PCoIP, RDP+TCX, etc) you can have a good multimedia experience also in a virtual desktop.
5. By running this workload on a virtual platform you can automaticly provision as many VMs as you like and they will also be members of your domain. As users logon the system will provision more spare VMs for new potential users. A connection broker will redirect the users to their VMs. The VMs will also get automatically load balanced on your physical servers so one user with high demands will not destroy the performance for all the other users on the same server.

This type of infrastructure exists in the products known as VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. There are also a few other players in the field with similar capabilities.

Good luck!

Lars
 
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jmsjmsAuthor Commented:
"You have a virtual disk for every unit (pc).. nothing like Terminal server..."

And

"The VMs will also get automatically load balanced on your physical servers so one user with high demands will not destroy the performance for all the other users on the same server."

Err, I'm probably not understanding correctly but these comments seem to conflict.

So is the uiser running a Virtual PC on a server or actually running the image on the workstation?

I want to remove the OS from the workstations otherwise there's not much point as I'll still have to patch XP etc. For example with Terminal server the user opens windows then logs into Terminal Server.  

Could someone clarify the process?
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larstrCommented:
I was refering to server based computing, running the VMs on the server. You do however have the ability to "check out" a VM and run it locally if you're out travelling and has no network connectivity, but still need to run your apps.

Lars
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amichaellCommented:
We utlilize Citrix's XenDesktop product to run virtualized desktops, mostly from thin clients.  Previously we ran XenApp to provide shared server desktops.  We moved to VDI to a few reasons:

1. Better application compatilbility
2. Individual user "sandboxes"
3. Fewer printer headaches
4. non-volatile virtual desktops
5. agility of updates/rollbacks

To give you an idea of how it works in our environment:

1. We have 15 XenServer hypervisors.
2. Provisioning Server is utilized to stream our desktop OS (XP) to virtual machines running on the hypervisors.  The streaming technology allows us to run as many VMs as we want from a single golden image, which means we only need to apply updates to a single golden image to make them available to everyone.
3. The end users connect to a web interface page that allows them to connect to a virtualized desktop.  
4. The web interface talks to a session broker (Desktop Delivery Controller) that determines what VMs are available and what desktop groups the user has access to.
5. Roaming and redirected profiles are utlized for personalization, though the VM itself is non-volatile, so any changes made (application install, malware, etc) are lost upon logoff.

Some things to think about:

1. VDI is not as cost-effective as XenApp/Terminal Server.  I can run many more users on a hypervisor running XenApp VMs than I can XenDesktop VMs.
2. VDI is not a magic bullet.  You are simply running a virtualized desktop OS, so you will still have your standard OS and application problems.
3. Agility from streaming is a two-edged sword.  It is great in that it allows quicker updates and rollbacks.  It also stinks because of the quicker updates.  Once management sees how easy it is to update a streamed VM, they are more inclined to insist on "instant updates," which results in inadequate testing.
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jmsjmsAuthor Commented:
Thankyou for your comments Experts.

Just to clarify then, I've got a load of client PCs running XP.  If I move to virtualised WOrkstations, do I need XP on the clients?  How does the client load up the Virutal image?

If this approach means that I have to go out and buy a load of terminal type units it's not going to run.

THanks
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amichaellCommented:
Couple of options:

1. If the workstations are on a single LAN, then you could look in to streaming an OS.  Basically the workstation boots with PXE and grabs an OS that is then streamed.  This method requires no pre-existing OS.  I don't know if this is really considered "virtual desktops" as it is kind of in that gray area between true virtual and local operating systems.  Look in to Ardence/Provisioning Server for that.

2. You can have your existing workstations converted to "kiosk mode," through a combination of Group Policy and using some lockdown software, such as SteadyState.  In this scenario the workstations boot directly to a web interface/console in Internet Explorer.  From the web interface the users log in and access their virtual desktops.  This doesn't eliminate hardware failures as a potential means of downtime, though it goes a long way towards eliminating an OS problem with the local workstation as a cause for downtime.

Do you want to give users the ability to work from a local OS or do you want them working entirely through a virtual desktop?
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jmsjmsAuthor Commented:
Bascially looking for users to work using a standardised image without having to run two operating systems.

The basic objective was to just dump an centrally managed image onto the  currently used  PCs.

Thanks again to the Experts but from what I've read I cant see much benefit in this particular scenario over using something like Ghost to chuck out images to PCs.  Even in Kiosk mode, we'd still have to update the underlying XP OS and we'd be running two OS's on the Computer (which I suppose would make the older computers noticably slower).  

I have learnt a lot from your comments though, thanks very much.  I'll leave the question open for a little longer to see if anyone would like to reply to this then award points.  Thanks again.



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amichaellCommented:
You aren't literally running two operating systems.  With XenDesktop you are (usually) streaming to a virtual computer using Provisioning Server.  In this scenario you are running a local OS, which can be a thin client OS, such as XPe or Linux.  

You can also stream directly to a physical workstation via PXE.  This  negates your concern regarding two operating systems to manage, though streaming is a LAN scenario only.
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amichaellCommented:
I need to clarify my first paragraph of my previous post.  When using XenDesktop and streaming to a virtual server, your local computer accesses the virtual computer through the ICA protocol.  You aren't running the second OS locally.
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skajake83Commented:
You should check out www.virtualcomputer.com for a baremetal desktop level 1 hypervisor.  They are developing that product very quickly and is a much better option then vdi systems.  I'm on my android so that's about all I can type right now.
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larstrCommented:
While NxTop is surely a very cool solution (saw it in action @ VMworld) it's not a Server Based Computing solution, but a client solution. Compared to both Citrix and VMware's upcoming solutions in this (VMware CVP & Citrix XenClient, both scheduled for 2010 H1) are both requiring vPro, something NxTop isn't.

Still, I think the upcoming solutions from VMware and Citrix will be the ones to watch out for in the future as they also integrate with their server based computing platforms, making it possible to use thin clients (Wyse, chippc, Panologic, etc) for most users and a client hypervisor for those who either needing extra GPU power or  need to travel with their computers without networking access.

Lars
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jmsjmsAuthor Commented:
Many thanks to all Expert participants.  This has given some things to further investigate (CVP, XenClient, NxTop and www.virtualcomputer.com.  

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jmsjmsAuthor Commented:
Thanks to all.
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