Understanding VDI Solutions

There have been lot of buzz for last few years on Desktops going virtual and accessing desktops and applications over any device, from anywhere. While Application Virtualization existed for more than a decade now (since Citrix Winframe/Metaframe days back in late 90s) and has also been very successful, VDI (termed as Virtual Desktop Interface) took longer time to capture the market and most importantly the attention of corporate audience. When Microsoft came up with RDP Protocol and Terminal Server editions way back in Windows NT Server 4.0, it gained lot of momentum. Around the same time and perhaps slightly before than that there was another interesting project in the Linux community: Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP). While RDP based Terminal Services gained momentum, LTSP in spite of being an interesting and very promising technology initiative could not gain that much user attention. Perhaps due to the dominance of Windows in the Desktop arena…

And when VMware started it’s flagship ESX/GSX initiatives in the Server Virtualization, customers came up to them to build Virtual Desktops for them. VMware started with the probably the first true VDI initiative as a product called VMware VDM (later developed further and rechristened as VMware View and now called Horizon View). But perhaps VMware didn’t have the long term vision and conviction in Virtual Desktops Business and Citrix made a wonderful use of the opportunity. With Presentation Server/XenApp already established it’s wide presence, Citrix extended VDI offerings with Citrix XenDesktop. Although eventually VMware steered its business focus to End-User-Computing as well and made VMware View (with Teradici PCoIP Protocol) a very matured and enterprise class product, Citrix XenDesktop still holds slightly higher market cap. But in future it will probably be a tie between these two since both of them offer same rich feature-set, support, partner supported joint initiatives.

Having said this let’s start our journey to understand the world of VDI. Do find few links with a brief description here:

VMware VDI Solution: VMware View or Horizon View 5.2

Client Software: Horizon View Client (available for Windows, Linux, iOS and Android platforms)

Application Virtualization used with View: VMware ThinApp

Server-side Hypervisor used: Only VMware vSphere (But it has a very tight integration with vSphere)

VDI Protocol used: Teradici PCoIP Protocol (Micosoft RDP can also be used but PCoIP preferred for optimum performance and better WAN capabilities)

Reference Links related to VMware (Horizon) View:

Overview of Horizon View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XpkPNgfl7jE

View Secure Mobile Desktop Solution:


Branch Office Desktop Solution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=R6xqBi7WZco

Cisco, Nimble Storage, VMware Ref. Architecture for VMware View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VSE_XlICSLQ

Pivot3 and View-in-a-box (Converged Appliance Solution): http://pivot3.com/solutions/vdi/ (please look at the .pdf links on the right side of the page)

Nutanix (another Converged Appliance vendor) & View Ref. Architecture: http://go.nutanix.com/TechGuideNutanixVMWareViewReferenceArchitecture_LP.html

V3 Systems (one more converged Appliance vendor) with VMware View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkiqtWtq4zc&feature=player_detailpage

PCoIP Protocol Overview from Teradici: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OSHSA1tnHmg

Excellent Product Documentation from VMware: http://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/view_pubs.html

Plenty of Business and Technical Resources on the Product Page: http://www.vmware.com/products/desktop_virtualization/view/technical-resources.html

There is also an excellent VMware View Overview Training Course by VMwarehttp://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrreg/courses.cfm?ui=www_edu&a=det&id_course=134581 (MyLearn Free Registration is required)

Some wonderful Learning Videos from VMware on VMware Viewhttp://vmwarelearning.com/view/

Worth looking at this Train Signal Traininghttp://www.trainsignal.com/Course/158/VMware-View-5-Essentials


Citrix VDI Solution: Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 (current version)

Client Software: Citrix Receiver (available for Windows, Linux, iOS and Android platforms)

Application Virtualization used with XenDesktop: Citrix XenApp 6.5 (current version)

Server-side Hypervisor used: VMware vSphere or Citrix XenServer or Microsoft Hyper-V

VDI Protocol Used: Citrix HDX (earlier knows as ICA)

Reference Links related to Citrix XenDesktop:

Citrix XenDesktop: http://www.citrix.com/products/xendesktop/overview.html?ntref=prod_cat (Product Home Page)

How XenDesktop Works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYaPkPPp0p0

XenDesktop Features: http://www.citrix.com/products/xendesktop/features.html

Business Reasons to go for VDI/XenDesktop: http://www.citrix.com/products/xendesktop/how-it-helps.html

Citrix HDX Technologyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYaPkPPp0p0

Citrix  FlexCast Technology & Use Cases: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYaPkPPp0p0

XenDesktop Case Studies: http://www.citrix.com/products/xendesktop/how-it-helps/success-stories.html

Step by Step Guide: http://blogs.citrix.com/2012/11/18/five-steps-for-setting-up-vdi-using-xendesktop-5-6/ [This guide should be a good for POC]

*There is an excellent paid CBT by TrainSignal on Implementing and Administering Citrix XenDesktop: http://www.trainsignal.com/Course/13/Citrix-XenDesktop-5

*There is also a FREE XenDesktop Overview Training by Citrix itself. You need to register here: http://training.citrix.com/mod/ctxcatalog/course.php?id=54

I was hoping to cover some lesser known yet potential VDI solutions in this post, but looking at the growing size of this, I think it deserves an individual post… Stay Tuned, we will talk about them and some other exciting stuffs like LTSP( VDI in Linux World), Microsoft RDSH (Their so called VDI!), Thin & Zero Clients, Server OffLoad Solution from Teradici/NVIDIA and probably a separate post on Converged Solution covering Pivot3, Nutanix & V3…