VDI Rolling Review: Ericom's WebConnect Goes Above And Beyond
January 07, 2010
VDI lowers operating expenses while providing an extra dose of security--users can't install software, so a major attack vector is effectively closed down.
Citrix XenDesktop 3.0 brings a small technology advantage to our Rolling Review of virtual desktop infrastructure products.
Ericom's PowerTerm WebConnect makes a strong case for becoming a part of your VDI infrastructure.
Connection Broker 6.0 is a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product designed for organizations that have standardized on VMware ESX and VirtualCenter.
MokaFive creates a portable virtual machine that can run independently on any laptop or PC.
Sun Microsystems' new and improved virtual desktop offering, VDI 3.0.
OnDemand Desktop provisions and deploys VMs fast, but has a few quirks, too.
Since this review ran, Oracle says it will use the Virtual Iron suite to complement Oracle VM, its own server virtualization software. We have included this article for historical purposes.
Since this review ran, VMware has revved View to version 4. We have included this article for historical purposes.
The players in our review ran the gamut from smaller vendors that primarily act as connection brokers to brand-name server virtualization players.
As is the case with the other VDI players in our review, we rate products on their ability to serve out virtual desktops. We scrutinize how well each solution provisions and manages large pools of virtual desktops on the fly. We also evaluate support for multiple hypervisors at the virtualization layer. Some of the players in our rolling review, like Sun, only support a couple of hypervisors. Some support more, but they require substantial administrative effort. Others, such as Quest, offer an impressive mix of options for storing your virtual desktops and do a good job at serving them out. And then there' s Ericom.
WebConnect supports all the major virtualization platforms out there. Ericom offers extensive XenServer support. Other VDI players can serve up virtual desktops with a XenServer backend, but at the time of our review Ericom was the only vendor, other than Citrix, to offer power and state control and the ability to mass-provision virtual desktops. Ericom also supports some community versions of Xen, like Red Hat and Novell Xen, and easily takes the prize for the largest number of supported virtualization engines. WebConnect installed relatively easily in the lab, and can be deployed on a single physical server or on a virtual machine for smaller environments. The PowerTerm Connection Broker administration tool, which can snap in to the Microsoft Management Console, is fast and stable compared to the Web management platforms that some other vendors provide.
Creating pools of desktops with WebConnect is a snap. Just define the host storing the virtual desktops and create the pool that will manage those desktops. Both operations are wizard driven and take less than a minute. You can tweak performance and user security properties, such as who has access to the virtual desktops in the pool, with a right-click of the mouse. It's just as easy to set up a dynamic or static pool. The Ericom broker also does a great job at creating desktop pools sourced from multiple back-end hypervisors. For example, if your organization is slowly migrating away from ESX and toward Hyper-V or Xen, you can create a pool of desktops that spans both ESX and Hyper-V/Xen.
One minor annoyance was the need to run a separate management application, the WebConnect Administration Tool, to expose our virtual desktops via the Ericom Web Portal. However, this tool is where all the magic happens. Making a group of virtual desktops available to your users is just a small part of what you can actually provide with WebConnect. Based on AD login, you can customize Web portals for each user to offer a combination of virtual desktops, terminal services applications and/or legacy applications that can be streamed via App-V (SoftGrid).
Additionally, you can expose individual documents, spreadsheets, web links and terminal emulators for access to, for example, an AS/400 mainframe application, all on one portal. Ericom is the only VDI broker we've tested that lives up to the claim of being a replacement for Citrix as a Web portal for serving out virtual desktops and applications simultaneously.
Access to applications and desktops via the Web portal was seamless in the lab. Thanks to its integration with Active Directory, authentication to virtual desktops and other applications exposed on the portal are automatically passed through via WebConnect's single sign-on feature. On the whole, we struggled to find negatives with this product. List pricing for WebConnect is based on concurrent user count, and ranges from $79 - $229 per depending on options purchased.