Evaluating Your Options for Desktop Virtualization (Part 4)

by [Published on 24 April 2012 / Last Updated on 24 April 2012]

This article concludes the series on evaluating your desktop virtualization options by looking at VMware View.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

My goal in writing this article series has been to provide my readers with a representative sampling of the desktop virtualization products that are currently available. In this article, I want to turn my attention to VMware View version 5.

VMware View is an enterprise class VDI product that is capable of hosting thousands of enterprise virtual desktops. The product is available in two different editions – Premier and Enterprise. Contrary to the way that the name sounds, the Enterprise edition is actually the lower end product and lacks many of the features found in the Premier edition.

As is the case with many of VMware’s other products, the company has taken a modular approach in the creation of VMware View. The Enterprise Edition consists of three primary components (VMware vSphere Desktop, VMware vCenter Server for Desktops, and VMware View Manager), while the Premier edition uses eight separate components. I will discuss each of these components individually in the sections that follow:

VMware vSphere Desktop

One of the main VMware View components is VMware vSphere Desktop. This component, which is included with both the Enterprise and the Premier version of VMware View is similar to the regular version of vSphere, except that it has been modified and licensed specifically for hosting virtual desktops. VMware vSphere Desktop contains the actual hypervisor on which the virtual desktops run.

VMware vCenter for Desktops

The second component of VMware View is vCenter for Desktops. Like the virtual server version, vCenter for Desktops is used to provide centralized control. In large VDI deployments there may be multiple vSphere Desktop servers. These servers can be grouped into a common vCenter and managed collectively. VMware vCenter for Desktops is included with both the Enterprise and the Premier editions of VMware View.

VMware View Manager

The third and final component that the Enterprise and Premier editions of VMware View have in common is the VMware View Manager. This component serves two main purposes. First, it acts as a management console. Network administrators can use VMware View Manager to collectively manage the entire vCenter. The View Manager’s other purpose is that it acts as a connection point for end users. Users connect through the VMware View Manager when accessing their virtual desktops.

VMware View Premier Edition

The three components that I have just described make up a basic VMware View deployment, and are included in both the Enterprise and Premier editions of VMware View. The remaining five components that I am about to discuss are included only with the Premier Edition.

VMware View Persona Management

In some environments users need to be able to retain their own personal settings on a virtual desktop. This is where VMware’s View Persona Management component comes into play. This module maps a user’s persona to a stateless, floating virtual desktop. As such, users are able to retain their personal settings from one session to the next.

VMware View Composer

One of the biggest administrative chores in any organization has historically been that of maintaining desktops. Desktop maintenance tasks do not go away just because an organization has implemented VDI. Like physical desktops, virtual desktops require regular patching and application updates.

VMware View Composer’s job is to make desktop maintenance easier. The basic idea is that in any VDI deployment many of the virtual desktops will be identical. For example, there is a good chance that everyone in the Finance department uses the same basic virtual desktop.

VMware View Composer lets you create a series of master (or “gold”) desktop images, representing the various virtual desktop configurations that will be used throughout your organization. Once these gold images have been created, VMware View Composer allows you to clone those images for use on the individual virtual desktops. Whenever you have to apply a patch or perform any other sort of maintenance on your virtual desktops you can simply update the master and the virtual desktops that are clones of the master will be automatically updated as well.

VMware vShield Endpoint

In any VDI deployment, multiple virtual desktops reside on a server whose job it is to host the desktops (in this case it is the VMware vSphere Desktop Server). Because the server has to run multiple virtual desktops at once, it is important to manage server resources efficiently. In a virtual desktop environment it is easy to allocate resources such as CPU cores, memory and disk space, but disk IO can become an issue.

One of the ways that VMware seeks to prevent excessive disk IO (and CPU consumption) is by offloading the antivirus software to a centralized component called VMware vShield Endpoint. This approach keeps each individual virtual desktop from needing its own antivirus agent. By doing so, vShield Endpoint helps to eliminate “antivirus storms” that can occur when multiple agents perform full system scans or download updated antivirus definitions at the same time. In addition, offloading and centralizing the antivirus software helps to simplify antivirus related administration.

VMware ThinApp

VMware ThinApp isn’t a true desktop virtualization component, but rather an application virtualization component. In case you are unfamiliar with application virtualization, it is a process by which an application is packaged into a sandboxed environment with all of the registry keys, DLLs, and anything else that the application needs in order to run. Because of the way that virtualized applications are packaged they do not actually have to be installed onto desktops. Instead, the applications can be streamed to desktops on an as needed basis.

There are several benefits to application streaming in a VDI environment. For starters, application streaming can reduce the number of different gold images that the organization has to maintain. In the past it was common to create a series of gold images based on the applications that each individual department needed to run. With application virtualization however, it may be possible to create a single generic gold image and then stream applications to the individual desktops based on the user’s job requirements.

Another advantage to application virtualization is that it solves a number of compatibility problems. There are some applications which cannot normally coexist on the same computer. For example, you can’t normally install two separate versions of Microsoft Office onto a single machine (not that you would ever need to). Because of the way that application virtualization sandboxes each application it makes it possible for otherwise incompatible applications to coexist. In some cases, this sandboxing even helps to shield applications against each other if one of the applications contains a serious bug.

VMware View Client with Local Mode

The VMware View Client is simply the client component that allows users to connect to their virtual desktops. Right now View clients are available for Windows PCs, Macs, iPad, Android tablets, and a variety of other thin client and zero client devices.

Conclusion

As you can see, VMware View is a bit more complex than some of the other VDI solutions that have been discussed within this series. Even so, VMware’s modular approach makes sense in that it allows organizations to use the components that they need, without introducing unnecessary complexity.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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