The target audience of my blog is enterprise virtual admins running deployments of vSphere, XenApp, XenDesktop, View, and other enterprise class virtualization solutions. And while these are each companies flagship products, we often overlook other products that can be used as solutions to scenarios that arise.
My company is going through a merger, and part of that merger is a systems conversion. However, since we are a larger bank, the usual approach of performing conversion of everything on one night cannot be taken. Attempts were made to try to run our applications on their environment, but a few major issues were found and progress was very slow at resolving them. Naturally, with target deadlines approaching fast, other solutions were looked at. My team suggested we look at using some sort of virtualization solution, such as VMware Player or Workstation. We were greenlit to start looking into a solution and gather design ideas, specs, and cost.
After some digging and dealing with volume licensing issues, support from VMware, and centralized management, we stumbled upon VMware ACE. For those who aren’t familiar with ACE, VMware describes it best as:
Deploy and manage secure, portable client PC environments across the enterprise and beyond. With VMware ACE, your organization can combine the power and versatility of virtual machines with the security and control of centrally managed PCs, making it easier to:
Manage virtual desktops from a single point of control, even in remote and branch offices.
Increase security and flexibility for secure mobile computing.
Safely extend corporate resources to 3rd party unmanaged desktops.
Basically its a virtual desktop environment using a secure Type II Hypervisor. ACE allows you to create a VM inside of Workstation, and then package it into an ACE package installer, complete with security and lifecycle policies as well as its own copy of ACE Player to run the VM on the target host. Throw in an ACE Management Server, and you now have a centralized place to manage all of your ACE packages, update and centrally push new policies to packages already deployed, activate or deactivate packages in the field, as well as track which VM is running on what physical host.
ACE includes a host of features including support for Windows 7, 128bit AES Encryption of the VM files, SmartCard Support, Kiosk and Unity modes, all while provide an easy solution to deploy a standardized VM image to multiple PCs. It can be managed centrally, without the need for a large infrastructure investment that more complicated virtual desktop solutions require.
In our case, we were under a time crunch, so while a more in-depth virtual desktop solution would have worked wonders, and cut back on some post deployment management task such as patching, AV deployments, troubleshooting and adherence to a gold image standard for all PCs regardless of user interaction, ACE certainly solved the major hurdles the project team was finding. ACE allowed us to create one image, secure it and deploy it across 2000 machines, all while being able to perform a large degree of centralized management. And if all goes well, it appears we may have created a standard deployment solution for future acquisitions going forward.
I certainly think products like this have a valid existence in enterprise environments given the proper circumstances, yet they are overlooked because they may not be considered an enterprise class solution. In our case we needed a quickly deployable solution, with little financial investment, that contained a central management solution, and could be removed quickly post conversion. ACE fit all those needs, and is a great product that I would recommend highly if it fits your requirements. Remember, just because you are an enterprise level IT shop, doesn’t mean you only can deploy enterprise class productions for all requirements that arise. Its always good to think outside the box and explore all options.
Desktop Virtualization. It’s the hot topic these days. But is it all just hype, or will it revolutionize the workplace? There are many forms of Desktop Virtualization, ranging from Client Hosted Virtual Desktops (CHVD) to Server Hosted Virtual Desktops (SHVD) and even those two categories can be broken down into multiple subcategories, including Type I and II hypervisors, blade PCs, Hosted VDI and Shared VDI. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in the middle of the Sahara, you’ve heard something about Desktop Virtualization.
And while it seems that every vendor under the sun is scrambling to get a product related to Desktop Virtualization out to market, is this really a technology that’s gonna stick or is it just the next fad destined to fade away when the next thing comes along? Honestly, how many people reading this have deployed some form of this technology on a large-scale rollout? And the more important question, which was recently posed by Brain Madden, ‘If Virtual Desktop is so great, then why aren’t YOU using it?’
I certainly think that this is a viable technology, but it’s not going to be as big as the hype is making it out to be. In my case, the push for this technology came on a whim from upper management in what seemed like an attempt to stay up on current technology and prove we could be on the cutting edge. The problem was, as we got into the project and performing use case, this technology wasn’t a viable option for mass deployment. Sure, we could have deployed it locally at our back office, or at a few locations, but there was no way this was going to be a mass roll out across all the branches and front offices due to current limitations.
And that’s where I draw my opinion from, because those conclusions we drew from our pilot are the same conclusions that a lot of my colleagues at other companies were realizing. I think Desktop Virtualization is a niche technology that has a viable place in part of the over all desktop solution, but it certainly wont be the death of the traditional desktop machine anytime soon. And to end, here’s a strong quote by Brian, who shares the same view:
The collected masses aren’t stupid. If VDI were so cheap, convenient, manageable, flexible, and wonderful then everyone would be using it. Don’t kid yourself: VDI is a niche. 10% max* at best. Mark my words.
*VDI will be 10% max. That might be 10% of all users, or 100% of users for 10% of their apps.