Yuma County, Ariz., has long been a proponent of virtualization. Every production server we’ve installed over the past two years has been virtualized. Given our fondness for virtual technology, we began to explore remote desktop virtualization with great interest.
Virtualized desktops will play a significant role in our future IT strategy. Over the next five years, we hope to have approximately half of all Yuma County desktops running as virtual images. We recently piloted VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology with thin clients and various legacy PCs.
It’s important to define remote desktop virtualization before delving into the technology. Essentially, it’s PC desktop software running on a remote server that is accessible to multiple users simultaneously. There are two types of technology; the differences are subtle, but important.
The first is server-based computing, which is a server running one copy of a multiuser operating system. This allows multiple users to connect to the single operating system and run software on the server that would normally be on the desktop. Citrix XenApp and Microsoft's Terminal Server are two examples.
The second is more like server virtualization, with which we are all familiar. Most people refer to this type as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, a term coined by VMware. VDI allows a server to host multiple copies of a desktop operating system. When a user runs a piece of software, he runs a copy of the desktop operating system, rather than share the OS as he would with server-based computing. VMware VDI and Parallels Server are examples of this model.
Blade PCs should also be mentioned. Many manufacturers tout blades as a form of remote desktop virtualization. With all due respect, that’s simply incorrect. A blade PC is nothing more than a standard desktop with a remote connection to the keyboard, mouse and monitor. Blade PCs do offer many good applications, but they’re not an example of remote desktop virtualization.
Remote desktop virtualization is hot because it offers many benefits. Consider virtualizing the desktops in your organization if you want to do any of the following:
That said, there are also several drawbacks to desktop virtualization. Here are a few of the biggest challenges you might face:
Yuma County’s desktop virtualization plans include a mix of server-based computing and virtual desktop interfaces. But certain desktops, such as those used for video editing or other graphics or multimedia-intensive tasks, will likely never be virtualized in our organization.
If you’re considering desktop virtualization, find the blend that works best in your particular environment.