LAS VEGAS — Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is not all hype, it’s here now, though some issues remain to be solved. That’s the message coming out of a panel here at the Interop conference this week on VDI delivery. Panelists included representatives from vendor firms Citrix, VMware, Red Hat and Teradici.
The issues that could face end users include WAN optimization as well as standardization. Moderator Barb Goldworm of analyst firm FOCUS, noted that there is a real need for VDI as it can help enterprises deliver desktops more security and in some cases more efficiently than having to deal with local installation on thick desktops.
Goldworm asked the panelists if VDI was an actual reality today as opposed to just being a hyped technology for tomorrow.
“We’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Aaron Cockerill, Senior Director of Product Management at Citrix said. “So we have seen uptake and have about 100 million people using XenApp today to virtualize desktops or terminals..
XenApp is Citrix’s app delivery platform and was recently updated.
VMware’s Jerry Chen, Sr. Director, Enterprise Desktop Solutions, VMware also said that VMware has had customers doing various forms of remote desktop since 2001.
What is changing however is the ability to just delivery terminal services or specific applications to delivering complete user desktops based on Windows XP or in Red Hat’s case, Linux as well.
Michael Ferris, Director of Desktop Virtualization at Red Hat, commented that it took some time for Linux to prove its worth in the enterprise and he expects the same will now occur with Linux for VDI.
Barriers to Adoption
Goldworm questioned the vendors about their abilities to deliver high quality graphics as well as their abilities to deal with the large storage requirements of a centralized compute infrastructure. For the most part, the vendors do not see graphics or storage as an issue that they cannot solve.
Citrix’s Cockerill said the one of his customers is Boeing who is using Citrix to help build the new Dreamliner aircraft. That situation involves heavy CAD (Computer Assisted Design) graphics and is being developed across 8 different countries.
“I can’t think of a more difficult application for VDI,” Cockerill said. “For regular everyday users our belief is you won’t be successful unless the end user experience is equal or better than their own local operating system.”
Enabling VDI at local speeds is no easy task, but Cockerill explained there are things that can be done to achieve that goal. For one, in an environment where, for example, multiple users all start their work day at the same time, the VDI can be scheduled to spin up before the users typically start their day. That way the system will have a faster startup time for the actual users.
The vendors also noted it’s important not to deliver everything remotely. Some items still work best on the local desktop.
“Some content that does not work as well over a remote experience, things like Flash and video we don’t render on the sever but on the end point device,” Cockerill said.
Red Hat’s Ferris discussed his company’s Qumranet acquisition. With Qumranet, Red Hat’s VDI technology has a protocol that creates virtual GPUs (graphic processing units) that offload the graphics to the appropriate place, based on the situation, to either the client or the server side.
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One concern that a member of the audience had with VDI was how much bandwidth it consumes. Citrix’s Cockerill responded that bandwidth isn’t too much of an issue.
“We’ve done some testing and to do an average hour’s work with opening apps and maybe looking at video, running XenDesktop at 1280×1024 will consume about 15 kbps,” Cockerill said. “The bandwidth consumption of our ICA protocol is very low and we keep optimizing it.”
VMware is working on similar bandwidth optimization techniques. Chen said that in the second half of this year his firm will roll out new WAN optimization technologies for VMware VDI products.
The effort will revolve around ensuring that the only items that are refreshed on the user desktop are the items that change.
Red Hat is in a similar position where they are working on optimization technology.
“What we’ve done over last 6 months and will continue until we launch later this year, is adding in compression and tuning,” Ferris said. “We’re aware of the issue and it’s been the number one focus for us.”
While optimization may be coming to all of the VDI vendors, one thing that isn’t in the cards anytime soon is standards for VDI.
“I can’t see standardization any time soon,” Cockerill said. “That’s a big part of our differentiation and how we deliver the user experience.”
Red Hat’s Ferris though has his own ideas on how standards might potentially evolve.
“At Red Hat we’re big fans of open source,” Ferris said. “Open source could help to establish standards.”