Join Martin Guidry for an in-depth discussion in this video Virtualizing desktop computers, part of Learning Virtualization.
In this section I'd like to talk about one of the common uses for virtualization, and that is virtualization of the desktop. Organizations have many challenges of maintaining desktop computers. They have to troubleshoot unique set ups if every user has a different desktop computer. Different hardware, different operating system, different software, that can make troubleshooting scenarios much more difficult. There's a constant race to upgrade applications and that can be very labor intensive, if you have to manually walk to every single desktop, put in a disk, and do an upgrade.
That is very time-consuming and it seems like as soon as you finish one upgrade, now it's time to upgrade a different application. And then there's the hardware of the desktop computer. It'll need to be refreshed periodically, either upgraded or buy a whole new machine. Some of these challenges can be overcome by using virtualization, particularly a technique called virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI. In a VDI scenario, a central server pushes a VM to each user. So when a user comes to their PC in the morning, and they log in, the server will create a copy of the VM, and it will be pushed to their local machine.
Most of the processing on that VM will typically occur remotely. So even though the user sees the VM on their local PC, the virtual processor is actually run on the server from which it was pushed. At this point the desktop is basically a dumb terminal. It's a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, but all of the processing is going on remotely. When a user leaves for the day and logs out, a copy of that VM is not saved. Any document saved to the desktop would be lost. Therefore it's very important for users to save their documents to a network drive.
An example of VDI, I spoke to a colleague of mine recently, who works at a call center, and they have the goal of reducing troubleshooting. They went with a VDI solution. They were able to use one virtual machine for every user. So every single employee, when they sit down at their computer, they get a copy of this virtual machine. That means the help desk only ever has to troubleshoot one situation. Everyone's running the exact same operating system and the exact same software. It also means that if there is a problem on one of these virtual machines that would be very difficult to fix, you have the option of deleting just that copy of the virtual machine, and providing to the user a fresh copy from the original image.
So the call center was able to accomplish their goal of reducing troubleshooting. They also found that they reduced the administrative effort of upgrading applications. They no longer have to walk around to every single PC to upgrade an application. They really just have to upgrade it once on the virtual machine, and the next time a user logs in, they get a fresh copy of that virtual machine with the upgraded application. They also found that it reduced their hardware costs. Now, all of the desktop machines are low-cost dumb terminals.
They did have to make an investment in a pretty nice server to serve up these virtual machines, but that cost was lower than the cost of all of the PCs. And it's also allowed them to expand quickly. If they want to hire five or ten or 15 new employees, all they have to do is go out and buy that number of dumb terminals, connect them to the network, and as soon as someone logs in they will get a copy of the virtual machine ready to go. Many of these benefits were magnified because everyone was using the same VM.
And in some organizations, that is certainly possible. In other organizations, you might need to create two or three different versions of the VM, because different users will have different needs. That's okay. If you get into a situation where every single user has really unique and different needs and therefore you're creating a new virtual machine for every single user, then VDI may not be the best solution for you. Some of the top vendors for VDI solutions. Citrix has been focused on desktop virtualization for quite a long time, with their product XenServer.
VMware has a product focused on VDI called Horizon and Microsoft now has gotten into this with what they call Microsoft VDI. It's not really a product. It's a feature of Windows Server 2012. It's built on top of the hyper V functionality. If you install hyper V, you don't necessarily get VDI. It's a separate installation.
- Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of virtualization
- Virtualizing computer desktops
- Designing a private cloud
- Choosing the best virtualization solution for you
- Creating a virtual machine with Hyper-V and VMware Workstation
- Configuring your network for virtualization
- Backing up, restoring, and migrating virtual machines