Choosing your desktop virtualization software

There are several desktop virtualization solutions available, and each model meets different requirements. Available options include: Running centralized virtual desktops, using presentation virtualization through Terminal Services or running secure local virtual desktop images.

It's beneficial to consider your business needs first when trying to find the right software. In fact, I suggest using a decision tree to determine which option will best fit your needs (Figure 1). Consider the following:

  • If you need to run shared applications, the best solution is to implement presentation virtualization, something many organizations already have in place. Be aware, however, that when you work with presentation virtualization, you cannot isolate user environments. This method may also affect system performance.
  • If you want to secure and centralize data, isolate application environments, support volatile workloads and temporary employees or centralize machine control, choose a centralized virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
  • Both conditions above work when using thin clients, Web pages or connected PCs to access centralized resources. However, if users require offline access to virtual desktop images, then you need to choose a secure and encrypted solution with the virtual machine (VM) running on each user's desktop.

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Figure 1: A decision tree can assist you in choosing the right virtual software. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

When resources are executed centrally, they run on centralized servers. Therefore, to select either presentation virtualization or centralized desktop virtualization, you'll need the appropriate centralized systems. In the case of presentation virtualization, application environments are created directly on host servers. When centralized desktop virtualization or a VDI is chosen, it's necessary to run desktop VMs on server virtualization hosts.

Running VMs locally on distributed desktops or mobile PCs means you will need to rely on local resources to run VM processes. However, these VMs should be secured with proper encryption to protect them from tampering or theft. A synchronization mechanism should also be applied to replicate any changed data between the distributed VMs and the central VM repository.

VDI is a powerful architecture that reduces desktop management costs and helps you move toward a dynamic data center. But since there are many models to support VDI, make sure you fully understand your users' requirements before implementing a solution.

Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest
Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest are IT professionals focusing on virtualization and continuous service delivery. They are authors of multiple books, including Virtualization, A Beginner's Guide which covers all aspects of virtualization in datacenters of any size, and Windows Server 2008: The Complete Reference which is focused on building virtual workloads with this new OS. They are currently writing a training guide for Microsoft Exam 70-652: Configuring Windows Server Virtualization with Hyper-V for MS-Press. Feel free to contact them at infos@reso-net.com for any comments or suggestions.

This was first published in June 2009

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