Planning your VDI deployment
There is more to VDI deployments than virtualization servers and hosted operating system instances. There are three main components to VDI: virtualization servers and infrastructure, hosted OS instances, and the connection broker.
Extending virtualization to the desktop has gained a lot of interest because of the cost and challenges of managing desktops in IT environments. With VMware VDI, end users can connect from a thin client or browser over the network to their own virtual desktop, which allows users to host virtual desktops on back-end ESX infrastructure. Virtual Desktop Manager (VDM) is VMware's VDI product and is the first piece in the puzzle of extending virtualization to the desktop. But despite VMware's lead in the virtualization space, some have challenged the superiority of VMware's VDI offering as a foregone conclusion.
When an IT staff need to build and deploy new workstations, it can use VMware Workstation to create new virtual machines (VMs) once and deploy them to whoever needs them. Admins need to learn how to use VMware workstation to take full advantage of VDI's, especially during the planning stages.
The Workstation product isn't necessary for most of the people on the receiving end of such deployments, however. For users who just need to use virtual machines created by someone else, VMware Player will fit the bill. IT managers should plan to use the two products in tandem on corporate networks.
VDI on VMware is still in its infancy, though, and some issues have yet to be worked out. In VMware VDI, for example, a client machine (such as a desktop, thin client, etc.) has a Remote Desktop Protocol connection to a guest VM. But disadvantages become apparent given that storage needs to be allocated to each guest virtual machine that will be used by the clients. At 10 GB to 15 GB per machine, this could add up quickly.
Connection broker specifics
System administrators working with VMware have another connection option, though, in Virtual Desktop Manager 2, VMware's enterprise connection broker that connects remote clients to centralized desktops and manages VDI environments.
Connection brokers provide functionality in four major categories:
- VM management
- Pool creation and management
- Network connectivity
- Policy assignment and enforcement
When deploying VDI, understanding the roles of connection brokers is crucial to controlling a VMware infrastructure in line. This is because the broker's integration with other components can play a significant role in many of the decisions regarding how a VDI environment is deployed in VI3.
For example, the integration between the connection broker and Active Directory may be a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol or may incorporate Active Directory Application Mode, each of which put forth different considerations.
Improving workflow with VDI
Virtual desktop infrastructures can improve a number of business process functions. For example, employees traditionally tethered to the office can become constituents in a mobile workforce that's been enabled by virtualization, along with technologies such as service-oriented architecture (SOA).
Virtualization expert Anne Skamarock contrasts implementing an SOA-like remote employee model where each person would have his or her own laptop and network access with VMware's ACE 2 software. Assured computing environment, or ACE, is a VMware VDI product that enables a desktop admin to duplicate and deploy a bundled OS and apps safely.
VMware offers other tools for managing and deploying VDI. Workstation, already mentioned in this guide as a VDI planning tool, can be used as an admin console to improve workflow, check for possible security vulnerabilities and enable backup and restores. But VMware Workstation best practices must be observed to maximize productivity.
This was first published in February 2008