Navigate the virtualization technology maze
What is in this article?:
Microsoft VDI Suite. The Microsoft VDI Suite is really something of a misnomer. The name implies that it’s a product, but it’s really a bundling of several different Microsoft virtualization technologies, including Hyper-V, Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) for managing the desktop VMs, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager for monitoring hosts and VMs, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) for creating desktop images, and Windows Server’s Remote Desktop Services (RDS) with its Remote Desktop Session Broker and Remote Desktop Gateway. Microsoft markets two versions of this product: the Microsoft VDI Standard Suite and the Microsoft VDI Premium Suite. The main difference is that the Premium Suite includes Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), in addition to the other products that comprise the Standard Suite. None of these products are specifically intended for VDI. However, they can each play a different role in making VDI work. The suites are simply a way to help customers handle the licensing complexities of this mishmash of different technologies. Most customers who want to use VDI with Hyper-V gravitate to the next product I discuss: Citrix’s XenDesktop.
XenDesktop. XenDesktop offers a simpler and better VDI solution for Hyper-V than Microsoft’s own technologies, mainly because it’s specifically designed to address VDI. XenDesktop can deliver VDI services to all types of devices using its FlexCast technology. As you might guess, clients connect to the server using Citrix’s ICA protocol. In addition, XenDesktop lets you manage all VDI services from a single console. Citrix offers way too many editions of XenDesktop to make any product decision easy. It offers a free Express version, as well as Standard, Advanced, Enterprise, and Platinum versions. The Platinum edition includes Citrix’s high-performance HDX technology for 3D graphics. You can learn more about the XenDesktop editions by clicking here, and you can download the Express version.
VMware View. Not to be left out of any part of the virtualization market, VMware provides its own VDI solution with VMware View. VMware View 4.5 uses VMware’s own PCoIP protocol to communicate with client devices, and the VMware View Client supports a local mode that lets you use VDI services without an active connection to the virtualization server. VMware offers two editions of View: VMware View Enterprise and VMware View Premier. The Premier edition includes the View Client with the local mode, as well as the application virtualization product VMware ThinApp. You can learn more about VMware View 4.5 by visiting VMware's website, and you can download a 60-day trial.
vWorkspace. A lesser-known player in the hosted desktop virtualization market, Quest’s vWorkspace 7.2 has actually been in the VDI space for several years. vWorkspace works with Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, and Parallels Virtuozzo. vWorkspace offers a wizard-driven setup, as well as an integrated PowerShell management framework. Quest also offers the Experience Optimized Protocol (EOP), which enhances RDP support for screen updates and images. You can learn more about vWorkspace, and can register for a trial download of vWorkspace.
Although server and desktop virtualization are the technologies that you usually think of when you refer to virtualization, application virtualization is another emerging type of virtualization technology. Server and desktop virtualization work at the hardware level, whereas application virtualization works at the application level. Hardware virtualization and application virtualization solve very different problems. Server virtualization addresses server deployment, consolidation, management, and availability. Application virtualization addresses application deployment, isolation, and management.
With application virtualization, software running on the client system provides support for virtual applications. The client virtualization layer provides the virtual application with a copy of the system’s file system, registry, and other system I/O points. When the virtual application runs, it interacts with the virtual system environment and doesn’t modify the true underlying host system’s physical registry and file system. Application virtualization allows multiple applications that might normally conflict with one another to run together on the same system with no conflicts because each application runs in its own virtual environment. Likewise, because each virtual application runs in its own space, DLL hell is eliminated, in which installing one application can write over the DLLs used by another application. The two primary application virtualization products are Microsoft App-V and VMware ThinApp. Figure 4 shows an overview of application virtualization.
Figure 4: Application virtualization overview