Back in 2005, when I managed the VMware infrastructure at a large insurance company, we had many contractors located off-shore. These contractors were located mostly in India and were primarily programmers working on internal systems. We had a number of issues with them having to do with inconsistent latencies, and inconsistent desktop designs when we had them VPN into our network. We decided to deploy a cluster of VMware hosts, and onto these deploy static Windows XP desktops with the goal of making the environment more stabile, consistent and manageable. While this was not what we consider today to be VDI, I’ll call it Virtual Desktop 1.0. It worked. We were able to deploy new machines from images, dedicate VLans to specific security zones, having them sit in the DMZ when appropriate, etc. Plus, we were able to mitigate the latency issues between interface and application back end, as the desktops resided inside the data center. We no longer had any issues with malware or viruses, and when a machine would become compromised in any way, we were able to swiftly respond to the end user’s needs by simply redeploying machines for them. The location of their data resided on a network volume, so in the event of a redeploy, they were able to retain their settings and personal drives from the redirected home directory. It was a very viable solution for us.
Citrix had accomplished this type of concept years earlier, but as a primarily VMware shop, we wanted to leverage our ELA for this. However, we did have a few applications deployed by MetaFrame, which was still a functional solution.
Time moved on, and VMware View was released. This had the added ability to deploy applications and images from thin images, and ease the special requirements on the storage. In addition, the desktop images now could be either persistent or non-persistent. Meaning, if our goal was to put out fresh desktops to the user upon log in. In this case, our biggest benefit was that the desktop would only take up space on the storage when in use, and if the user was not in the system, they’d have no footprint whatsoever.
There were some issues, though, in this. The biggest concern in this was that the non-persistent desktops, upon login, would demand such processing power that we’d experience significant “Boot Storms.” It would cause our users to experience significant drag on the system. At the time, with a series of LUNS dedicated to this environment, only spinning disc, we had IO issues forcing us to sit in a traditional or fully persistent state.
In my next post, I’m going to talk about how the issues of VDI became one of the industry’s main drivers to add IO to the storage, and to expand the ease at which we were able to push applications to these machines.
The promise of VDI has some very compelling rationale. I’ve only outlined a few above, but in addition, the concepts of pushing apps to mobile devices, “Bring Your Own Device” as well as other functions are so very appealing. I will talk next about how VDI has grown, solutions have become more elegant, and how hardware has fixed many of our issues.