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Choosing a connection broker for your virtual desktop

Choosing the appropriate connection broker is tantamount to ensuring the proper management interface, licensing model and virtual server support for your virtual desktop infrastructure.

The virtual desktop market has evolved from a young, exciting technology to a mature desktop solution. During this maturation process, the concept of the connection broker has become much more defined. Most end-users now wonder not if they should run VDI but how to do it, and one of the biggest decisions in that regard is what connection broker would best suit them.

As VDI has developed, the connection brokers available on the market have also become more robust and flexible. When deciding which connection broker to choose, you should know what you want to accomplish. Is VDI going to be a solution for remote offices or the entire company? Will VDI will be the enabler for the cloud computing model your CIO has requested you design? Knowing your end goal is a large part of choosing a broker.

Once you've gotten that far, a set of criteria needs to be defined. Some of the most common ideas an end user should think about are:

  • Management interface:

    • Is the interface web-based or a standalone application?
    • How easy is the interface to use?
    • How responsive is the graphical user interface (GUI)?
    • Is all functionality controlled from one or multiple GUIs?
  • Virtualization server support:

    • Does the connection broker support a single virtualization platform, or do you have the option of multiple platforms?
    • How tightly integrated is the connection broker with your platform of choice?
    • Does the connection broker take advantage of the virtualization platforms native functionality, such as VM provisioning, resource management or permissions?
  • Licensing model:

    • How simple is it to license the connection broker?
    • Is there special licensing needed by other vendors, such as Microsoft for Windows, or other components such as the virtualization platform?
    • How is the licensing model affected in a disaster recovery scenario?
  • Feature set:

    • What display protocol is supported?
    • Is multimedia supported?
    • Is there multi-monitor support?
    • How easy is printing?
    • Is there a client that has to be installed?
    • How do you manage users?
    • What is the desktop's performance level?
    • Does the connection broker handle more then virtual desktops, such as physical blades or servers?

These are just some of the criteria that need to be taken into account when determining the connection broker for your deployment.

The industry now has many players, including VMware (View), Citrix (XenDesktop), Leostream (Connection Broker), Quest/Provision Networks (vWorkspace), Microsoft (TBD), Ericom (PowerTerm) and a few more. All of these connection brokers bring something different to the table, and all should be considered, depending on what you are looking for.

The VDI race is tight, but on the horizon, I can see several leaders emerging in the connection broker race. Only time will tell which ones emerge as the industry standard.

Brad Maltz is CTO of International Computerware, a national consulting firm focused on virtualization and storage technologies. He holds certifications from VMware and EMC for many technologies. Brad can be reached at [email protected] for any questions, comments or suggestions.

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