Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in the Mobile World

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is here for more than a decade. With our team we have designed, implemented, managed terminal/remote desktop server infrastructure with almost all Windows Server releases, from 2003 to 2012 R2. We have seen many benefits to it in terms of IT management and daily operations but is it really practical considering today’s mobile world?

For any techie, accessing your server infrastructure from your mobile phone is fascinating at its best. If your only task is to restart the server. Seriously.

I have been there, I have done that. It is almost impossible to work with the traditional start menu structure from your mobile device. It is almost impossible to work with the traditional applications from a touch device. It is impossible to work with them on a 5-inch screen. To get your work done you will be panning, zooming in and out and firing up menu items which you have no intention to do so. It is not your fault and it is not the desktop application’s fault either.

Traditional desktop applications are designed to take advantage of the big screen estate, at least 11 inch and upwards. They are designed with small icons and text fields to used with a keyboard and mouse, which are really precise controls compared to thick fingers like mine. Don’t even think about using your nail tips, they do not work. On the other hand, these legacy applications are where the business runs: the ERP systems, CRM systems, in-house developed applications and the corporate productivity applications.

Here, the IT department has a couple of solutions: replace legacy applications with mobile-friendly ones, rewrite mobile interfaces or develop custom mobile applications/front ends for these applications. To be frank all these solutions are discouraging; not only in terms of time and cost but also due to the rapid changing in the mobile industry. At this point desktop virtualization presents itself as a relief but due to the real life situations I have just discussed, it is not the painkiller we, the users, expect.

If we cannot give up the legacy systems and at the same time we need to be mobile, what are our options?

The key solution is application virtualization: in Microsoft terms this is Remote App, in Citrix terms XenApp. These solutions bring the application to the mobile device without requiring the user to navigate the desktop. The user sees the application icon as any other icon on his mobile device and taps to open it. In some cases, these solutions also bring mobile elements to the application itself (such as bigger drop-down menus, pinch to zoom etc.).

As an administrator we know that any company-issued mobile device will be running the owner’s child’s games in no time, this is unavoidable. Trying to enforce company procedures and compliance requirements will not work: your compliance systems will fail, children will not (experience). Application virtualization helps to eliminate one of the biggest security concerns, which is securing the company data from the user’s personal data. Any application data is stored on the device itself whereas the virtualized application’s data is stored on the enterprise system. Since the remote application is somehow running in a sandbox or in a container/wrapped state, it is practically isolated from the other applications, easing the security concerns of the IT department. I do not argue that this is the most secure solution, but I argue that it is less painful to implement and manage.

Plus, legacy applications have compatibility issues. With the mobile world, where operating systems are updated more frequently, it is almost impossible to keep up with the latest releases together with the backward compatibility. Remote application deployments also ease the pain here. If the remote application infrastructure is compliant with the new mobile operating system release then you can pretty much think that your legacy application will continue to run. Because the legacy app does not directly run on the mobile operating system, it runs inside the remote application wrapper then on the operating system. It is abstracted from the mobile OS.

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IT departments can easily deploy virtual desktop infrastructure without too much thought and effort, but the usage and the efficiency results will be questionable. Developing mobile applications will take some time and may hinder the company’s mobile transition plans. Remote application delivery can be a temporary solution to the problems. It is certainly not as perfect as a pure mobile solution but is certainly a very good one. As always, do not forget to communicate with your end users openly about the deployment and the company’s mobile transition strategies.

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Planning Virtual Desktop Infrastructure? Be Careful With These Mistakes

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a virtualization service, which hosts your user desktop environments (user states) and applications on the remote servers. This enables the IT administrators to deliver consistent, personalized and secure desktop environments to users while enabling them to access their desktop environments regardless of their location. Most broadly, it is as if taking a user’s desktop – including applications, data, profile, everything – and putting it on a server, and telling the user that he can reach it from any device that supports VDI standards. For a detailed look, you can check Yung Chou’s excellent post on TechNet blogs.

VDI offers tangible returns in the medium to long run if planned and executed correctly. Having worked for 8+ years in a VDI environment, both as a user, administrator and consultant, I have seen that there are certain same mistakes repeated over and over in every company. Those mistakes not only lower the return on investment (ROI) but also leads to poor user experience.

The first mistake is planning for VDI for today’s requirements. When you have about 30 users working on the same server, there will be high resource uses. The users will highly consume CPU, memory, disk read/writes (I/Os) and network bandwidth. Make sure that you start small on the VDI implementation, measure before and after resource use, determine average resource use per user and plan accordingly. When measuring resources, do not forget to include various scenarios, from running an Excel macro to visiting a Java/Flash/Silverlight intensive web site, from running multiple applications concurrently to draw reports from ERP applications.

Next, be sure to use existing resources whenever possible. Evaluate your existing servers carefully. They may not be suitable for running a couple of users in a VDI setup but  they may as well be powerful as a Remote Application delivery. The same goes with your existing desktops. Your consultant may be telling you to purchase shiny new thin clients but that simply may not be the case. You can simply install a Windows Thin PC, lightweight Linux distribution or any other open source/free application to repurpose your dying PCs as thin clients. You can use your new desktops to run other workloads or use them in branch offices where you don’t have VDI implementation.

When these are in place, make sure that your administrators are well trained. VDI is not simply virtualizing a user’s desktop on the server with an image/restore. VDI is a detailed solution with user profiles (settings that define their wallpaper, resolution, location of the icons on the desktop, application preferences and the line) and/or folder redirection. A good understanding of both these concepts and their implementation scenarios are crucial for the administrators. In addition to these, administrators also need to know about VDI load balancing, VPN and mobile device access and desktop support at the very least. On the other side, the users need to know what to expect. Folder redirection can be a lot of headache if the users are left unsupervised by saving their personal data (music, videos, non-work related images) on the server. They have to be told that non-company data is strictly forbidden. They have to know how and with which credentials they can access their corporate desktops. Training for both the administrators and the users is essential.

Administrators also need to know how VDI works with various applications, such as collaboration, financial applications and in-house developed applications, if any. At this point, I recommend setting up a feedback mechanism – SharePoint, Google or a simple wiki – where users can log their experiences – what works and what not, performance and any other problems.

Then comes the importance of the redundancy. You cannot put all your eggs in one basket and let the business halt when there is an outage. There will be an outage and you have to be prepared for it. Make sure that you have pen and paper and you draw your entire VDI implementation. There you will be able to see what you have to do when a particular item fails – a switch, a server, a connection, whatever the name it is. According to my experience, VDI works best with Bladecenter – Storage implementations, where servers are clustered and virtualized. This way, hardware and software outages are eliminated altogether at once. Do not worry if that solution is too expensive for you, you can create clusters with any servers, for any resources with the current operating systems.

Security is another issue to consider. You cannot simply install software on a server and think everything is over. Or do not feel that disabling a user’s access to his desktop with a few clicks is all it takes to lock a user out. The same principles that apply to your data center and your servers also apply to your virtual infrastructure. This is the first point. The second point is to choose, implement and monitor your antimalware application. The third point is the problems that are introduced with the ubiquitous access that comes with the smartphones, tablets atc.. Make sure that you cover these scenarios with your implementation as well.

Last pitfall is the immediate cost savings. You will not benefit from immediate cost savings. Nor you will have a shiny income statement at the end of the quarter. VDI implementation is a medium to long-term investment. As you phase out desktops with thin clients, you will see lower replacement and maintenance costs, as well as lost time waiting for repair/replacement of the equipment. Next, you will see reduction in administrative efforts; since VDI is managed by a central policy, you will not have desktop support staff running around fixing end-user issues. You will have a predictable, standard, controlled, yet customized and a flexible working environment (Windows 2008 R2 SP1 VDI works very well over a 1 Mbit ADSL connection). You will be able to better utilize your IT staff – developing them and employing in business scenarios. Don’t bet on the immediate savings.

This is not an exhaustive listing of the traps, pitfalls and mistakes you will encounter down your VDI road. As goes with every project, plan, document, make mistakes, learn from them, document the outcomes and carry on. Hopefully, after you succeed in implementing VDI, you will wonder how you were living without it.

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April 17, 2013 — Cloud hosting provider CyberlinkASP announced on Wednesday that it has completed its migration to solid state drives across its hosted virtual desktop network.

Keep on reading: CyberlinkASP Deploys SSD to Improve Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Performance


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Install Drupal on your Windows desktop computer using WAMP Server

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Installing Drupal 7 on your Windows 7 Desktop Computer: Step 1 – Go to www.drupal.org and download & open the latest version of drupal. It should come in either a *.zip or a *.tar.gz compressed folder. Step 2 – Go to www.wampserver.com and download the latest version of WAMP Server. WAMP stands for Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (phpmyadmin). Step 3 – Install WAMP Server. Launch it after it has finished its install. Click the system tray icon that appears, and click “Start All Services” Step 4 – Click the WAMP server icon again in the system tray. Click on “localhost” – This should open a new browser window and take you to a WAMP server page. At the bottom of the page click on “phpmyadmin” and login as root. Create a new database and remember the name, don’t forget this will be case sensitive. Step 5 – Open your file manager and navigate to C – This is the folder that WAMP stores it’s html and website files. Create a new directory here. You can call it anything you’d like. I called mine Drupal Step 6 – Copy the contents of the Drupal compressed folder you downloaded to this directory. Once this is finished, click reload in your browser. Under “My Projects” there should be a link to the directory you just created. Click that. Step 7 – After clicking on your directory under My Projects, you should be forwarded to a Drupal install page. Remember to put in your database name (that you created in phpmyadmin) exactly how you did before. It’s case sensitive. Your login will be
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VMware Expands on Hybrid Cloud-based Desktop, Application Tools

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