Quest vWorkspace 7.5 plus Hyper-V: Worthy competitor to VMware, Citrix

The latest version of Quest vWorkspace includes Hyper-V Catalyst Components, which optimize memory and disk I/O to boost virtual desktop performance.

On Monday, Quest Software released vWorkspace 7.5, the latest version of its virtual desktop deployment and management tool with new capabilities for integration with Microsoft Hyper-V.

In case you're aware of Quest's code names, this is the Aberdeen release. This release introduces a new feature set, dubbed Hyper-V Catalyst Components, as well as a new "VDI-in-a-box" focus that goes along with their traditional implementation, among other things.

Catalyst is the umbrella term for all the new technology Quest has built into vWorkspace to use with free Microsoft Hyper-V Server. The first two components, HyperCache and HyperDeploy, are designed to optimize memory and disk I/O, respectively.

How HyperCache and HyperDeploy work
HyperCache works by caching the most commonly used blocks of virtual desktops into the host's memory, reducing the I/O operations per second (IOPS) load on the storage. This drastically increases provisioning and startup time, and while this technology isn't that new across the industry, having something tailor-made for Hyper-V is pretty cool. This is all done with or without a storage area network (SAN), so you can imagine the possibilities of a free hypervisor with this kind of power running on local storage.

That easily covers the read IOPS, but writes are inherently more difficult to optimize since they can't be cached the same way that reads are. This is what leads to the "logon storm" effect, which is more write-heavy than a boot storm. To deal with write IOPS, HyperCache employs serialized writes. Serialized writes essentially cache data in RAM and write it to the disk sequentially, rather than randomly writing while at the same time trying to randomly read data. Since all I/O is essentially random, this doesn't have much of an effect on read IOPS, and anything used frequently would get picked up in the read cache.

HyperDeploy, on the other hand, allows you to boot an image before it even finishes copying, by starting the copy and requesting certain bits first. That sounds like streaming, but that term was never brought up. In this case, I think that the HyperDeploy/HyperCache combination is just aware of what's going on and can source things accordingly. For a deeper look at HyperCache and HyperDeploy, you can check out Michel Roth's blog post.

According to Quest, which used the Login VSI benchmarking tool to test a 150 desktop environment across many platforms using default installations, the Catalyst technologies result in up to a 56% reduction in IOPS when compared to native Hyper-V. According to the document, they outperformed VMware View 5 by 36% and Citrix XenDesktop by 31%.

In addition, the same document lists the time taken to provision 150 virtual desktops. Not surprisingly, vWorkspace 7.5 was ahead of the pack. What is surprising is by how much. Out of VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop and Citrix VDI-in-a-Box, nobody had a better time than 79 minutes. The vWorkspace time to provision the same 150 desktops was 11 minutes.

Naturally, these documents can be misleading, but Quest has been transparent about their test methodology (as they usually are). This is a given environment, of course, and the results will almost certainly vary from place to place, but it is pretty clear that the Catalyst technologies have a positive effect on performance. I'd recommend checking out the document for yourself. If you have any thoughts on that, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

More Hyper-V integration
Going beyond Catalyst, vWorkspace 7.5 offers tighter integration with Hyper-V to the point where Quest believes it has a tool that can rival Citrix VDI-in-a-Box in simplicity. Expansion of the environment now amounts to standing up a new Hyper-V box and telling vWorkspace to add that server to the mix. From there, it will install the appropriate bits and import it into the environment without so much as a reboot. Quest calls this environment the Desktop Cloud.

Quest believes that this ease of expansion and integration with Hyper-V will give vWorkspace a distinct cost advantage, since you can do so much without having to purchase Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) licenses to manage the Hyper-V servers. Granted, there are limitations, and you still need SCVMM to manage shared clustered storage for tasks such as live migration, but out-of-the-box vWorkspace makes Hyper-V much more powerful.

Other changes in Quest vWorkspace 7.5 include:

  • The Desktop Optimizer has been fully integrated into the management console. While you can still download and use it in any environment, using it within vWorkspace 7.5 amounts to right-clicking on a desktop virtual machine and selecting Optimize.
  • The Web interface has been completely redesigned and is reportedly much faster than before. They've also added Citrix Farm support because they've run into customers that have both Citrix and Quest environments. Now, you can use one interface for both farms.
  • User virtualization has been improved, and the interface to configure those settings is more intuitive. Quest has apparently realized the gap between their solution and the competition, so they're working on it.
  • Advanced Targets allows you to intelligently provision apps, desktops and session settings based on specific rules. For instance, you can provision an app or desktop to someone based on their location, time of day and whether or not they're using two-factor authentication. This sounds like a more powerful version of Citrix policies in some regards.
  • They've worked with Microsoft to develop a solution that allows people to use Microsoft Communicator or Lync across the WAN, which isn't possible with RDP. This is one of those things that I think lots of organizations are interested in, but I'm not sure how many are actually doing it today.
  • RDSH Provisioning allows you to provision Terminal Servers the same way you'd provision a VDI desktop. This means you can deploy virtualized Terminal Servers much faster to adapt to changing capacity needs.

There is much more information in the What's New document associated with the Quest vWorkspace 7.5 release, and I recommend checking it out.

Read more from Gabe Knuth

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabe Knuth is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

This was first published in January 2012

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