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Roll Your Own VDI -- On the Cheap

I've been wondering if people are rolling their own VDI, as it were, and now I have run across at least one company that has done just that. The story of this implementation comes from David Davis, who is Director of Infrastructure at TrainSignal.com, a global company offering video training for IT Pros. He has a number of certifications including CCIE #9369, MCSE, CISSP, VCP and vExpert. The prolific Davis also writes for a cool site called VirtualizationAdmin.com.

His roll-your-own description was part of a larger piece he wrote on the benefits and pitfalls of VMware's VDI package (which has since been supplanted by VMware View).

So as Davis tells it, TrainSignal.com is a frugal company that didn't want to pay the big ones for a full-blown VMware VDI solution. The company has a large Citrix farm with over 400 concurrent Wyse thin clients connecting to 16 servers, with users sharing applications that are installed on each server.

The problem, Davis discovered, was that a number of older applications were not multi-user enabled, and when a second user ran one of them, it would lock or crash.

"What we did," Davis wrote, "is create a VMware virtual desktop (on Server 1.x or ESX), and enable RDP to run it. We installed the old application, and we made it so the workstation would automatically login using Windows credentials, and the application would start -- maximized in the virtual desktop -- when the user connected and logged in.

"Back on that user's Citrix desktop, we put an icon with a name of the application. The application actually ran an RDP connection, full-screen, and connected to the virtual desktop system. When the connection was made, the user immediately saw their application, but it was running on the other server. However, because that user was the only person using the application, it worked fine with just a single server."

Davis calls this his "sort-of-ad-hoc VDI system," saying it enabled his company to hold down costs (no PCs required), keep its network secure, and easily roll out more of these virtual desktops.

Question: Is this kind of roll-your-own virtualization a good idea? E-mail me your thoughts or post below.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/15/2009 at 12:48 PM


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