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Virtualization's Promise And Problems

The virtual desktop and data center are here, but for this technology to continue taking over the enterprise, I/O and security issues need to be addressed.

Experienced desktop virtualization vendors such as Citrix, VMware, Virtual Iron, and Hewlett-Packard offer a range of options. They can generate virtual desktops on central servers and let thousands of end users access them there or stream them to end-user machines, though this is more resource intensive. They also can generate virtualized applications and offer them as software as a service or stream just what's needed to users on demand.


Arnett has tested the virtual desktop waters but isn't ready to let his entire company jump in

Arnett has tested the virtual desktop waters but isn't ready to let his entire company jump in

Sun Microsystems joins the vendor lineup, with the ability to interpret Microsoft's RDP networking protocol into user presentations on top of VMware, providing users with Solaris, Linux, and thin-client options.

But the trick to successful implementation of virtual desktops isn't which technology you pick, say two early adopters, but rather starting out with small, well-defined groups of users and developing a plan as you go.

Tony Arnett, senior systems engineer at Pentair Water Pool and Spa, has been testing virtual desktops with various groups of users for more than a year. For each target group, he builds a customized desktop, or "golden image," of a virtual machine suited to that group's needs. A golden image for accounting will have different applications and perhaps a different version of Windows than one for sales or manufacturing, though, he says, for testing purposes, he's made the images "very vanilla."

Arnett has implemented the virtual desktops on a set of three high-availability servers running VMware's ESX hypervisor and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 3, with its tools for generating and managing VMs. Users get a Wyse V10L thin-client machine, a diskless presentation device that links to VMware's Connection Server. They self-install the thin client, connecting it to the virtual desktop using Connection Server, which manages users' access to VMs through the company's identity management system, Microsoft Active Directory.

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