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A Thanksgiving recipe: Desktop virtualization, with all the trimmings

In the spirit of the holiday, gorge yourself on this virtual desktop infrastructure recipe. But you'll need to mix and match ingredients to suit your preferences.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, which nowadays is mainly about eating too much food, I thought today we could cook up a Thanksgiving reference architecture for virtual desktop infrastructure. This stems from the fact there's no single perfect prepackaged desktop virtualization solution that's right for everyone. So instead of buying a prepared product, you need to buy the raw ingredients and bake it yourself.

Thanksgiving dinners across the U.S. as are varied as the people who cook them. Perhaps the only thing they have in common is turkey. The same can be said of desktop virtualization environments. There are so many different ways of doing things that the only thing they really have in common is a Windows client OS. (So I guess Windows is the turkey?)

But people have been installing Windows forever. What do we need to convert this single piece of food into a feast of virtualization?

Maybe we should start with some simple things that will analyze environments to help you determine your needs, like products from Liquidware Labs or Lakeside Software.

The next ingredient is the hypervisor, which could be VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V or Citrix XenServer. And then IT chefs need a way to manage the Windows images, which could be done with Citrix XenDesktop, VMware View, Microsoft Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager or a more dedicated product such as Atlantis Computing's ILIO or Double-Take's Flex.

But let's not forget that we actually have to manage the instances of Windows themselves, so toss in a helping of Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager or Symantec Client Management Suite. Oh, and to avoid virus spoilage, throw in your favorite McAfee/Symantec/Sophos/F-Prot utility.

Now how are your users going to access their desktops? You can't forget a connection broker, like those from Citrix, Microsoft or VMware or Symantec Workspace, Ericom PowerTerm or Leostream.

And what about printing? Toss in a helping of ThinPrint, UniPrint or triCerat Screw Drivers.

In addition, you probably want diners to be able to help themselves by saving their own changes, so don't forget about a user environment management tool from AppSense, RTO Software, Scense, RES Software or triCerat.

But what about your applications? They're going to conflict like crazy without an antacid like Microsoft App-V, VMware ThinApp, Citrix XenApp Streaming, Xenocode, InstallFree, Symantec Workspace or Endeavors.

And of course, you need a remote delivery protocol, so pick your favorite: Citrix ICA, VMware PCoIP, Microsoft RDP or one of the products that spices them up, such as Wyse VDA or Quest EOP.

If your users are connecting across a wide area network, you'll probably want a WAN optimization dish, such as Citrix Branch Repeater, Cisco WAAS, or something from Riverbed, Expand Networks or F5 Networks.

Or maybe you prefer to run desktops on local client hardware in WAN environments. So now you can choose from Type 1 client hypervisors from Neocleus or Virtual Computer, or Type 2 virtual machine monitor engines from MokaFive or RingCube. But how will you actually deliver those disk images down to your clients? You'd better sprinkle in some Wanova just for good measure!

Wow! This seams pretty complex, so think about a holistic monitoring system to wash it all down, like something from Lakeside or eG Innovations.

At this point, you should have a complete feast. Although you might feel like you overindulged right now, you'll feel better tomorrow knowing that your meal is over. (Just don't tell your boss that your "complete" solution costs $4,325 per user!)

Brian Madden, Independent Industry Analyst and Blogger
Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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