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Getting to know Dell vWorkspace

Although Citrix, Microsoft and VMware are well known for their VDI products, they are not the only players in the game. Dell's acquisition of Quest Software brought the

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company into the desktop virtualization market with Quest's vWorkspace platform.

From the very beginning, vWorkspace was designed to offer more flexibility than competing products. VMware and Microsoft built elaborate virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software around their own hypervisors; Citrix offers a degree of flexibility with XenDesktop because it can be used with different hypervisors. Dell vWorkspace, on the other hand, takes a blended model approach to VDI by allowing administrators to take advantage of the VDI or Terminal Services mechanisms that make the most sense for their organization.

Version 8.0 is the first version of vWorkspace to fully support Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8. Here are other features and functions of Dell vWorkspace that help make this VDI product a contender in the market:

HyperCache

HyperCache is an intelligent caching algorithm that helps drive down disk I/O. It works by monitoring block usage. Blocks that are read frequently are cached to memory so that they can be accessed much more quickly. This caching can go a long way toward improving virtual desktop startup times.

The nice thing about HyperCache is that it is very dynamic. HyperCache constantly monitors the frequency with which cached blocks are accessed. If HyperCache determines that a disk block is being accessed more frequently than a block that has been cached, then the less popular block will be removed from the cache to make room for the block that currently resides only on disk.

HyperCache has been updated in Dell vWorkspace 8.0 and now supports Hyper-V 3.0.

HyperDeploy

HyperDeploy reduces storage costs through storage optimization. It also reduces the amount of time required to provision a virtual desktop.

Normally the virtual desktop provisioning process begins by copying a gold image to the location where the new virtual desktop resides. A gold image can easily be 20 GB or more in size, so the copy process can take a while. HyperDeploy makes it possible to provision the new virtual desktop and then boot it almost immediately. This is accomplished by streaming the virtual desktop components required for boot first, then copying the rest of the gold image in the background later.

RemoteFX support

Organizations that choose to use vWorkspace with Windows Server 2012 will see a major performance improvement because of the changes Microsoft has made to RemoteFX.

Although RemoteFX includes the core Remote Desktop Protocol, it is also made up of a number of additional components that are designed to boost performance for (or to simply enable) various remote connectivity features. For example, it adds multitouch support to remote sessions, while the RemoteFX for WAN component provides a more fluid remote desktop experience over low bandwidth connections.

It is worth noting, however, that Dell vWorkspace provides its own accelerators that are meant to supplement RemoteFX. The accelerators are based around the Experience Optimized Protocol, which is designed to augment vWorkspace. The vWorkspace accelerators improve printing performance and performance for Flash applications, among other things.

User experience monitoring

One of the most welcome features in Dell vWorkspace 8.0 is the User Experience Monitor. It helps administrators determine whether or not any users are experiencing subpar virtual desktop performance. A dashboard interface provides detailed information about individual end-user experiences, even going so far as to identify the users who are currently experiencing the worst performance.

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Dell has integrated the Foglight engine into this feature and uses it to provide a wealth of statistical information for each session. Administrators can use this information, which is presented in an easy-to-follow graphical format, to determine the underlying cause of the user's performance problems.

Although Dell vWorkspace has a smaller market share than some competing products, features such as HyperCache and the User Experience Monitor help make it a worthy competitor.

This was first published in July 2013

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