Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2008-03-21 Print this article Print

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

For users requiring more control over their desktop environments than is possible with server-based computing, there's virtual desktop infrastructure-a route to desktop virtualization that basically works the same way server virtualization does. One or more pieces of server hardware running a hypervisor product such as VMware ESX Server or Citrix XenServer host multiple desktop virtual machines, which users then access through a remote desktop technology such as VNC (Virtual Network Computing) or Microsoft's RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol).

Because each user gets his or her own VM image, each person can run different operating system versions and-system performance permitting-whatever applications those operating systems support. What's more, the VM separation that virtual desktop infrastructure offers means that if one user's virtual instance crashes or must be restarted, it won't affect other users on the host system.

The downside of this additional isolation and control is much lower user-per-host density than you can squeeze out of a server-based computing solution.

How do you get the most out of virtualization? Find out here.

In addition, the fact that each user gets his or her own image can result in the sort of management chaos that administrators are looking to avoid. However, virtual desktop infrastructure may be teamed with so-called application virtualization products-such as the Ardence Desktop product that Citrix recently acquired-to smooth management by enabling administrators to layer customized application sets atop a generic virtual machine image.

VMware's virtual desktop infrastructure offering combines the ESX Server with a virtual desktop management product to help coordinate administration and provisioning. Citrix offers a virtual desktop infrastructure product of its own, called XenDesktop, that combines the XenServer virtualization host with the company's technology around remote desktop delivery.

Other vendors-such as Sun Microsystems and Quest Software, through its recent Provision Networks acquisition-work with third-party hyper??ívisor providers to knit together a desktop virtualization solution.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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