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Why user a hypervisor with XenDesktop?

Posted on 2009-12-20
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We're thinking about doing an evaluation of XD4, and I have a question about the architecture. If all the VMs boot off a PVS image, why wouldn't you just boot your endpoints with a PVS image instead? Seems like you'd take quite a load off your servers. Obviously, some things would need to be in place for PVS to perform properly, but if the virtual desktops are "assembled on the fly" via XenApp, PVS, and CPM, then what's the point of taking the VM approach?

Our environment is 1 site, no remote access. I could see the benefits of remote access in a hypervisor configuration, but that's about it. It doesn't seem reasonable to say that horsepower is a good reason, as any PC made in the past 5 years will be on par with your average pooled VM.

At the risk of repeating myself, it seems like the optimal way to configure XD would be streaming an image to your endpoint, and using CPM and (maybe) XenApp for customization. Am I missing something here?
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Question by:sbumpas
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amichaell earned 2000 total points
ID: 26096164
PVS just streams a .vhd to a computer, which can be physicial or virtual.  A few thoughts off the top of my head:

1. If you stream to a physical machine, then unless you have identical hardware throughout I don't believe using a Golden Image will be viable.  One of the benefits of using PVS to stream to a hypervisor is that you will be using a consistent hardware base, which means you need only a single .vhd.

2. Streaming to a VM allows you to get rid of fat clients.  Without the need to run a taxing local OS, you can put in thin clients that only need enough horsepower to run ICA.

3. Streaming over a WAN isn't practical, so any offices connected with DSL, frame, MPLS, etc would still run a local OS with a fat client.  
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by:sbumpas
ID: 26096236
I agree with your all points, but I would point out a few questions that remain:

1 & 3:  At each different site, hardware is more likely to be similar (enough) to get away with just a few golden images.

2.  I'm not sure what the requirements are for ICA (although I'd like to know)?  This is where my point about streaming directly to the endpoint comes in to play.  You remove whatever overhead ICA injects, and you can still get away with the same amount of customization using Citrix Profile Management and XenApp.  Getting rid of fat clients is great, but you're spending extra money to buy a more expensive "thin client."

Maybe questions like this are the reason VDI hasn't taken off yet?  I'm sure Citrix did things this way for a reason, I just can't figure out the philosophy of it?
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by:amichaell
amichaell earned 2000 total points
ID: 26096782
1 & 3: If you are fortunate enough to have consistent hardware and are able to retain consistent hardware with regular refreshes, then great.  However, that still doesn't overcome streaming an OS over a WAN.  We have 15 remote locations.  Using a remoting protocol to connect to desktop OS running on hypervisors in a centrally managed datacenter is ideal for me.

2. I'm not sure about removing overhead.  You are still maintaining a stream.  You will not be able to take the workstation offline and continue working.  The workstation requires a constant connection to maintain the stream.  So, yeah, you can bypass ICA by streaming directly to a fat client, though you aren't even using XenDT then.  You are just using PVS, which is fine.  I am putting together a project to do the exact same thing, though for a specialized purpose.  

These technologies have use cases.  XenDT may not be for you.  We use a mix of XenDT, XenApp and fat clients.  We'll likely have PVS streaming directly to some special fat clients at some point this year.  We evaluate each circumstance on its own and find the best solution for it.  You don't want to force a single solution for everything.
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Author Comment

by:sbumpas
ID: 26096833
In your environment, do you allow user customization?  I'm trying to get some feedback on Citrix's Profile Manager that's included with XenDT, vs say AppSense.  That would be the major hangup in my environment - reliable, persistent profiles.
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by:amichaell
amichaell earned 2000 total points
ID: 26096932
We allow customization as found with roaming profiles/profile redirection (IE Favorites, Desktop items, printers, Application Data,and My Documents).  We do utilize Citrix's UPM, though on my plate for 2010 is to test AppSense.  UPM works well enough considering it is free.  My largest issue is that I'd like to get to mandatory profiles one day, which I can't do with UPM due to manually mapped printers.  I'm told AppSense can overcome this, though I have no idea if that is accurate.  

Our VMs are non-volatile, so there is no persistent customization outside of the profile.  For example, if  an end user installs an application or gets infected with malware, a log off reboots the VM and wipes it clean.
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Author Comment

by:sbumpas
ID: 26096952
Could you be a little more specific regarding your printer issues?  We have users that move between departments, even though we only have 1 location, so I'm a little worried about the way printer config will play out for me.  
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by:amichaell
amichaell earned 2000 total points
ID: 26097216
This isn't an issue specific to XenDT.  You can have these exact same concerns/scenarios with fat clients, streamed desktop OS or XenDT.  This is just a matter of how you handle your profiles.

We use a login script to connect printers for most of our users, though they still have the ability to manually add printers.  Manually added printers are stored in each individual user's ntuser.dat file.  That isn't practical with mandatory profiles.  Again, this has nothing to do with XenDT, though.  You'll run in to the same questions no matter how you deliver your desktop.  
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Author Closing Comment

by:sbumpas
ID: 31668379
Thanks for your input - although I still don't agree with the architecture of XD, and I doubt we'll be putting it to good use, I have a much clearer picture now.
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