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Take a walk down the VDI image management tightrope

It's easy for the number of VDI images to spiral out of control in an organization. IT can turn to app virtualization and app layering to avoid image bloat.

VDI image management is a real pain for IT professionals who are knee-deep in the trenches of their nonpersistent...

VDI deployment.

One of the main benefits of a nonpersistent VDI deployment is that IT can, in theory, create a single golden image and deploy that image to everyone throughout the organization.

It is, however, a fine line between the utopia of a single, locked down, optimized golden image and the horrors of multiple golden images based on a mixture of operational needs, departmental differences and siloed teams. Throw in the occasional new business acquisition or OS upgrade, and everything can spiral into chaos with one false step.

Why is it so challenging to have a single golden image?

Mystery swirls around VDI image management. IT pros can build a single golden image with all their applications and use Active Directory (AD) Groups to manage access -- the same way they did with server-based computing.

The problem is, if IT pros are not careful, they can easily risk violating an application vendor's licensing regulations by using AD Groups because some users can end up with access to apps they shouldn't. Violations could leave an organization subject to steep fines. As a result, IT pros must be selective about which applications they deploy and to whom, even in nonpersistent deployments. The more app variety they have, however, the more images they need and the more image bloat they are going to run into. If they're not careful, IT pros can end up with one image for the finance department, another image for the marketing department, a third image for human resources and so on and so forth.

One way to combat image bloat is to use a tool such as Ivanti Application Control to whitelist applications based on AD Group membership. Application Control hides applications from users who are not allowed to use them.

How app layering and app virtualization can help

There are other tools IT can turn to to aid with VDI image management.

There are other tools IT can turn to to aid with VDI image management in nonpersistent deployments. Application virtualization, which includes tools such as Microsoft Application Virtualization and VMware ThinApp, and application layering, which includes tools such as Liquidware FlexApp and VMware App Volumes, are two of the top options. By using these technologies correctly, IT can realize the utopia that is a single golden desktop image, which contains all the necessary core applications, PDF readers, browsers, C++ redistributables and more.

With app virtualization tools, for example, instead of deploying the apps hidden in the base image, as they would with AD Group membership controls, IT pros can add apps when users log on. If IT uses persistent desktops, they can activate application virtualization caching mechanisms to permanently add an application to a virtual desktop. It is important to remember that persistent desktops have issues, though. They are, for example, very expensive in terms of storage needs. IT can mitigate some of these costs with linked clone technology, but the overlying snapshot that the machine runs on still consumes a large amount of data store space. Further, if IT pros use application virtualization for custom application delivery, storage consumption will continue to grow with each new application they add to the image.

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App layering allows IT to layer the apps on each time the user logs into his desktop. Application layering mitigates storage growth because each application is encapsulated in its own virtual disk, which is merged but not added to the base image or users' desktops. Layering technologies give users the benefit of persistence without the downsides of bloated and ever-expanding link clone snapshots. It also eliminates added apps using up all the logical space in the base image system drive, which is common with app virtualization.

Next Steps

Create a gold standard for your VDI image

When golden images go bad

Ensure your VDI deployment goes well

This was last published in August 2017

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What steps do you take to combat image bloat?
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You should use VERDE VDI. They have Dynamic desktops so there is always only one gold image for a given class of user.
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