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VDI: Coming To Life

With the upcoming release of VMware's Virtual Desktop Manager 2 (VDM) product, the
customer-installable Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) draws closer to becoming a reality.
VMware has yet to release pricing, nor have they published a SKU for direct customer consumption,
but nonetheless, it lives in a private beta format now with a public beta to come in the next
month or so. If you want to participate in the public beta, go here to get started.

The Virtual Desktop Manger (VDM) is the connection broker piece that allows administrators to
manage desktops distinctly from their server counterparts. Minimally, it will require Windows
2003 SP1, and if you have an Infrastructure 3 Enterprise installation, you can install the VDM
onto a virtual server. No additional hardware needed. And VMware recommends that you keep your
desktop on ESX hosts separate from your virtual servers.

In the article "Virtualization: Not Just For Servers Anymore," we touched briefly on the
connection broker as part of the unique VDI infrastructure. Desktop Pools, or Resource Pools, in
desktop virtualization, refer to a grouping of virtual desktop workspaces made available in a
persistent or non-persistent state. In the former you'll be able to allow users to save their
settings and return to the saved workspace, while in the latter you can destroy the desktop
workspaces altogether. These pools can also be static or dynamic. For example, in a 25 desktop
pool, the pool can either always contain 25 desktops, or it can grow (to a max of 25 in this
example), spawning new workspaces as the requests arise. The pool can also shrink if the
machines are not in use, destroying the idle workspaces. Obviously, destroying desktop
workspaces isn't super efficient for answering on-demand, real-time requests, however it keeps
things lean. Additionally, you can utilize ESX resource pools as a way to provide users, that
say, partake of pool X to have 75% of the available machine resources, while the users of pool Y
have access to the remaining 25%.

Now consider a complementary solution. Say you have a need for real desktop horsepower. What if
you could round out your VDI solution with an integrated hardware/virtual workstation solution?
IBM has an HC10 workstation blade system that can be fronted by a connection broker to distribute
out higher end desktop resources. This blade configuration is similar to an HS20 or HS21 blade
configuration with a BladeCenter E or BladeCenter H chassis, but the blades have been configured
with workstation-class processor and graphics. If only this could be fully integrated with
VMware. According to IBM reps, these blades cannot be virtualized, so you'd have two management
points: your VMware VDI solution for knowledge or call center workers, and the other to broker
our workstation blades to garner additional horsepower requirements. So, it's not quite there
yet, but the possibility exists.

VMworld attendees got a glimse of VDI in action at the HP-sponsored terminals scattered across the
Moscone Center and in the hands-on labs. So even without the hardware-based solution, VDI is
coming to life.