Only a couple of years ago, many IT professionals considered VDI to be overly complex and cost prohibitive. But since it’s now a mainstream technology, solution providers need to know the products available and VDI’s core components.
Whether you choose to sell your customers a VDI solution or you prefer to host your own VDI cloud while leasing virtual desktops to your customers, it is important for you to know the available VDI technologies and how they differ from one another.
Microsoft Remote Desktop Services
Desktop Services is Microsoft’s enterprise VDI solution. All of the required components are built into the Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system (OS). This service uses Hyper-V to host the virtual desktops, while connectivity to the remote desktops is provided by the Remote Desktop Services (formerly known as the Terminal Services).
VMware View is one of the most popular enterprise-grade VDI solutions. The technology is based on three main components – VMware vSphere Desktop, VMware vCenter for Desktops and VMware View Manager. VMware also offers a Premier Edition of VMware View that includes a number of additional features such as application virtualization.
VDI in a Box is a VDI solution that is most suitable for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs). VDI in a Box allows you to configure commodity hardware as a VDI server. Any time that VDI capacity needs to be increased, all that’s required is to add additional hardware.
As you do, the VDI infrastructure will automatically load balance and provide a degree of fault tolerance. VDI in a box is best suited to SMBs because you can use mix-matched, low-end hardware as VDI servers and the servers require minimal configuration.
Microsoft MultiPoint Server
Microsoft MultiPoint Server is a VDI solution that is geared toward SMBs and classroom environments. The standard edition supports up to 10 non-domain-joined virtual PCs; the premium edition supports up to 20 virtual PCs and allows for domain usage. MultiPoint Server is a single-server VDI solution and customers can connect to it using thin clients or they can plug directly into the server itself using a monitor, USB keyboard and mouse.
From this sampling of VDI products, you can see that there are major differences in the way that the various VDI solutions work. Even so, there are two basic components in nearly all VDI solutions (even if the vendor has different terminology).
The first is the hypervisor, which makes virtualization possible. The hypervisor stands between the virtual desktops and the physical server hardware. In the case of Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, the underlying hypervisor is Hyper-V. In the case of VMware View, the hypervisor is the vSphere Desktop. VDI–in-a-Box and MultiPoint Server also use hypervisors, but because these products function almost like appliances, the hypervisor is tightly integrated into the products.
The other core VDI component is the connection broker, which manages client connectivity and is used differently with each product. VDI clients establish a connection to the connection broker and the connection broker links the client to a VDI session.
Besides the hypervisor and the connection broker, you may find other VDI components in some of the high-end VDI solutions. One of the more popular components, for instance, is a remote desktop gateway. Every vendor refers to this component by a different name) but it’s designed to allow users who are working outside of the perimeter network to connect to a virtual desktop.
The most important thing that VARs should take away from this article is that although VDI solutions use the same basic components, the various solutions available tend to be geared toward certain classes of customers. It’s crucial for VARs to understand the scope of the various VDI solutions so that they can recommend the most appropriate products to customers.
About the expert
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.
This was first published in November 2011