Enabling a virtual desktop environment introduces a lot of new terms and technologies. It also opens up new possibilities in terms of deployment and management. Dell includes these features as part of its Flexible Computing Solutions:

  • Server-Based Virtualization Hosting Desktop VMs
  • Brokers to Simplify Client-to-Desktop Connection
  • On-Demand Desktop and Application Streaming
  • Virtual Remote Desktop
  • Dedicated Remote Workstation
  • And other related areas

Technical Community - Background Reading

Original TechCenter paper discussing architecture from the Desktop to the Data Center

Virtualization Frontier blog: Why Servergeeks Should Care About Desktops
Product and marketing information
"Accessing E-mail with Dell On-Demand Desktop Streaming" in Dell Power Solutions, May 2008
"Simplifying IT with Dell On-Demand Desktop Streaming" in Dell Power Solutions, February 2008

Chat Transcript

DELL-ToddM Hello
stevemarfisi joined.
DELL-ToddM Hey Steve
vmdoug joined.
stevemarfisi Hi Todd
DELL-ToddM Oh No it's Vmdoug!
vmdoug Yes, I finally made it to one of these!
vmdoug I'm actually home!
vmdoug Well, at the office
stevemarfisi <Wish I was home too>
DELL-ToddM I'm surprised you aren't on a plane or in Russia or Finland or something
vmdoug Lol, I'm in Columbus for two weeks if you can believe it!
DELL-ToddM Ah, Failwhale on Twitter
DELL-ToddM It's been a while since I've seen that
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DELL-ToddM Hey Roger
Dell-RogerF Afternoon
vmdoug Scott got a tweet through, he's on his way
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DELL-ToddM Steve, I assume that you are here for the virtual desktop chat?
DELL-ToddM Hey Eric!
stevemarfisi That is correct
Eric_Simpson Hi, Todd
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DELL-ToddM Welcome Jasonpowell!
JasonPowell /Me waves hi
DELL-ToddM Steve, anything specific that you are looking to talk about?
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DELL-ToddM Hey Brace
DELL-ToddM What's up Fred?
stevemarfisi Thought it might be interesting. We are working with Dell, among others, on possible plays and/or fit with our products into virtual desktops
cheetah joined.
DELL-ToddM Okay, I'll take the bait; what are your products?
brennels Hey guys how are you?
DELL-ToddM Welcome Cheetah
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DELL-ScottH What'd I miss, what'd I miss!
cheetah Hi
DELL-ToddM The Great Scott Arrives!
DELL-ScottH Wow, vmdoug is here!
vmdoug I bet he's out of breath
DELL-ScottH Not on a plane?
DELL-ScottH Or a train?
vmdoug Not this week
DELL-ScottH Yeah, quit reminding me I need to lose weight
fred_gonce I wanted to see what type of Flex computing solutions are being used
stevemarfisi Wasn't trying to bait, nor trying to be commercial; sorry for that. My group within Double-Take works on the iSCSI boot products
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DELL-ToddM Steve, no apologies needed; just joking about taking the bait :)
DELL-ToddM We try to keep this as informal as possible
brennels I asked Steve to join us as I thought this was a fitting discussion today. I like bait :)
stevemarfisi No probs
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brennels So what are you guys working on when it comes to desktop virtualization?
DELL-ToddM Okay, let me just give this chat a brief intro
DELL-ToddM There has been growing interest in the area of virtual desktops over the past year. At VMworld 2008 this was very evident by the amount of attention that was given to it. In general, the basic concept of running desktops in VMs and remotely connecting to them is pretty easy to understand.
DELL-ScottH FYI, Dell's page on "Flex Computing"—aka desktop virtualization—is here: www.dell.com/flexcomputing
DELL-ToddM It turns out that there are actually lots of options and capabilities that can be used depending on the needs
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brennels Are there any bandwidth and or networking concerns doing this?
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shanfont We are looking to virtualize about 60 desktops at our DR site for when we evacuate for storms here in New Orleans. We are also looking to protect these virtual desktops with site recovery manager
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DELL-ToddM Dell has a term—Flexible Computing—that includes all of this, but since this term isn't widely known yet I used virtual desktops as the title of the chat instead
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DELL-ToddM Welcome jrstan38
brennels I'm familiar with VDI, but certainly haven't investigated all the requirements. I like it
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DELL-ToddM Right-click on links to avoid exiting the chat—FYI, tip o’ the day
shanfont Thanks
shanfont I thought that's what I did
vmdoug So, what's the difference between VDI and Flexible Computing?
Eric_Simpson VDI is a component of Flexible Computing. One of the many options available
DELL-ToddM The bandwidth or networking issues depend a lot on the type of content that will be used and the technology used to connect to the VMs
DELL-ScottH VDI = VMware
DELL-ToddM It is possible to support multimedia that can increase the amount of required bandwidth, but you can also restrict to limit bandwidth usage. Fred and I had a conversation about the term VDI a couple of days ago.
DELL-ScottH Flex Computing is a term used by Dell to make a big basket of solutions from all vendors
DELL-ToddM I thought that VDI was an industry term, and Fred thought that it was a VMware-specific term
shanfont VDI = Virtual Desktop Infrastructure correct?
DELL-ScottH Yes
shanfont VMware like you said
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brennels So, do the virtual desktops run all the applications or just provide a secure boot image?
DELL-ToddM Shanfort, sounds like you are planning to use VMware for the virtual desktop solution including their Virtual Desktop Manager
shanfont Yes, that's correct. I'm evaluating Virtual Desktop Manager now
DELL-ToddM Brennels, it depends on how you architect the rest of the environment. But in the simplest form the answer is, yes; each VM runs its own OS and applications
shanfont One thing I haven't figured out is if you can use one VM and have multiple users access that VM at the same time
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DELL-ToddM If you use something like XenApp (formerly called presentation server and metaframe) then you could run the applications on yet a different server
brennels Shanfont, that is a good question; can multiple users run the same VM?
stevemarfisi You can have multiple users share that VM; depends on how you present it
DELL-ScottH I was at a couple of VDI sessions, and I think that is something that is coming: base VM image and then user delta files for each user
stevemarfisi That capability is available today
DELL-ScottH Fred was at more VDI sessions than me—Fred!
DELL-ToddM You really won't have multiple users connecting to the same VM; although, you can use a single image (not sure if VMware supports this yet)
fred_gonce If your VMs are the XP or Vista OS then you have a limit of one user per VM. There are ways to have a single base image one disk and each user has their image created in memory. This way you only have one base image
DELL-ToddM Shanfront, with your 60 desktops, will they use the virtual desktop all the time or only when they have to due to forced move?
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DELL-ToddM Welcome, Roberto!
roberto_ayala Thanks
DELL-ScottH Hey Roberto! Use Action, Recent Room History to catch up
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stevemarfisi I should clarify what I said; similar to what Fred_gonce said, multple VMs can use a single base image, and the individual VMs can then access those read only (user-RAM) or can have individual user persistence with those differences cached
brennels Stevemarfisi, can't multiple users use an iSCSI boot image on a virtual machine? Not sure if that provides the same functionality or not
fred_gonce I've got to go, but I will follow up with Todd later
DELL-ToddM Thanks Fred, have a good meeting
stevemarfisi Brennels, yes, they can use an iSCSI boot image on a VM; but true, that is not the same as multiple users on the same VM. In this case (VDI), you are saving resources on the storage side by enabling a shared disk for multiple VMs to use
DELL-ToddM VMware talked about a new feature coming in the next version called “linked clones.” This will enable the single image with a differences file for each Virtual Desktop VM. Citrix has a product that I can't remember the name of currently—it is part of XenDesktop—that does OS streaming or booting from a single image to many VMs. It was called Ardence before Citrix acquired them a couple of years ago
stevemarfisi Called Provisioning Server, formerly Ardence
DELL-ToddM Of course, another very catchy name for enterprise software: Provisioning Server :)
DELL-ToddM By using these types of solutions you can drastically reduce the amount of storage required for Virtual Desktop VMs
brennels I assume you reduce power, cooling, processing consumption as well, right?
stevemarfisi Processing consumption will remain high; that is not shared within VDI
DELL-ToddM Yes, if you can use less storage, then these things would pretty much be true
DELL-ToddM Another aspect of virtual desktops that may not be a clear need until you have looked into it in a bit more detail is what is known as a connection broker. The broker manages the connection between the client and the virtual desktop VM. So all users go to a single Web site and log on. The connection broker then knows what session the user has access to and either gives them a list or automatically connects them to the virtual desktop session.
vmdoug Don't forget about the streaming protocol—also very important
DELL-ToddM The user doesn't have to know the hostname or IP of the VM or anything else to connect
DELL-ToddM The streaming protocol? I was just going to use TCP/IP; what else do you need :)
vmdoug I meant, are you going to use RDP [Remote Desktop Protocol]? Not exactly rich multimedia
DELL-ToddM The protocol used to connect to the VM can have a big effect on the type of client that you can use and what the experience can be. For example, ICA, from Citirix, offers a much broader range of options than RDP
vmdoug Correct, do most clients have their own protocols? Do you get locked in?
vmdoug <thin clients>
DELL-ToddM I'm not as up to date on the client protocols, but I do believe that this is the case sometimes
vmdoug Okay, not sure either. Also wondering if the connection broker has to be aware of the protocols
DELL-ToddM I'm a server geek and should probably pay more attention to the client side :)
Eric_Simpson I'm not sure either. So far, all I've seen in documentation is the RDP protocol. I have seen references to other technologies for high(er)-end graphics support. For some reason, I'm thinking Teridici comes to mind?
stevemarfisi Microsoft will be improving their streaming protocol with the software from their Calista acquisition. Provision Networks (Quest) has also improved multimedia over RDP
DELL-ToddM The new OptiPlex FX160 that we announced today supports ICA RDP
vmdoug So, besides all these questions, what's the biggest management hurdle with virtual desktops?
stevemarfisi Patching/updates?
vmdoug Isn't that supposed to be "easier" with VDI?
stevemarfisi Well, one central location, but how to handle hundreds or thousands of desktops?
DELL-ScottH Yes, patch once on the server
brennels Bandwidth management I would think would be the biggest challenge to manage
DELL-ToddM If you use the single image strategy that we talked about earlier, then it is much easier to patch and manage
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vmdoug Hey Paul!
Paul_Shadwell Hey Doug :-)
DELL-ToddM Paul, the hour is almost over!
DELL-ScottH Paul, get a new watch :-)
Paul_Shadwell Fancy seeing you here
Paul_Shadwell Sorry guys
Paul_Shadwell Only just saw the tweet
DELL-ScottH Just poking you :-)
brennels Another good session guys; thanks for the invite and see you next week
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DELL-ToddM Scott and I actually have to run to make another meeting: Blog Training :)
Paul_Shadwell %%%%, did I miss it?
DELL-ScottH Sorry to hit and run, we have a meeting over in another building
vmdoug Okay, it was fun
DELL-ScottH Yeah, can someone tell me how to blog?
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DELL-ToddM Next week we will get into some detail about VMware and Citrix Virtual Desktop architectures with some example configurations
DELL-ToddM Thanks to all for coming!
vmdoug Sounds cool, later!
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DELL-ScottH See you next week