National Science Lab Testing, and Liking, New VDI Deployment

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is currently testing a ground-breaking 250-seat, 1,250-account deployment consisting of a joint Citrix/Kaviza software package.

Virtual desktop and thin-client manufacturers have been banging promotion drums about their products for more than a decade, yet they haven't seen optimal sales numbers. That finally may be changing in 2011.
In just the last year or so, a number of longtime VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) skeptics have come around to admitting that the time may finally be right for virtualization to go big time in the enterprise desktop world. IT managers, their budgets frozen or lessened in the tough macroeconomy of the last two years, are seeing some better numbers for 2011, and VDI deployments are on many wish lists.
Virtualization is now about two years into being a data center staple; corporate cubes and home and remote offices appear to be next.
The main reasons for this change of opinion: 1) general weariness of the three-decades-old Windows client-server/licensing model, especially cyclical operating systems upgrades and frequent security patching; 2) much-improved overall system bandwidth (read that: broadband); and 3) vastly improved VDI hardware and software.
And don't forget what might be the No. 1 reason in many people's minds: better control of corporate data stores. They're all legit reasons for a corporate desktop revolution. And it appears to be happening.
A prime example of where corporate VDI might be going exists at the federal government's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., where IT project manager Robin Goldstone is currently testing a ground-breaking 250-seat, 1,250-account deployment consisting of a joint Citrix/Kaviza software package.
Kaviza, a relative newcomer in the virtual desktop business, makes a Java-based application that is installed on a server with a hypervisor-Citrix Xen or VMware ESX 4.1 or later-which enables enterprises to run Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 across multiple desktops from one or more company servers. Citrix, of course, has a long list of software products, but for this deployment it supplied the Xen hypervisor and its HDX virtual desktop app.
LLNL is one of the most celebrated think tanks in the world. Its scientists are working on numerous projects involving global nuclear and environmental security, weapons development, geophysical studies, and complex integration projects.
"It's a unique use case. Kaviza actually made some modifications in their software to accommodate this use case. Indeed, there are other customers that have a similar need for this sort of sandbox disposal desktop environment that we built here," Goldstone said.
VDI not replacing corporate desktops-yet
LLNL is not using the Citrix/Kaviza virtual desktops in place of employees' standard desktops. Yet.
"It's a secondary desktop that any user can bring up on their screen; that desktop is outside of enterprise network boundaries," Goldstone said. "Essentially, we had to limit access to certain external sites, due to our own security posture, and that's including blocking access to things like [Google's] Gmail and Facebook.
"We've had overwhelming feedback from our employees that they require that access, for just incidental personal use as well. Plus, there are plenty of legitimate business reasons to access social networking resources."
When she looked at the risks it was introducing into the IT environment, Goldstone came up with a model "where we could provide that access outside our corporate boundaries, yet everyone could have one on their desk.??í"
After securing permission to test the VDI environment, Goldstone and her staff installed the Citrix client on each corporate computer.
"Employees can fire this [virtual desktop] up either through a browser URL or through a little desktop shortcut, which results in launching the Kaviza client, which is a little Java application," Goldstone said. "The Java app gives them a log-in window, they put in their username and password, that gets sent back to the Kaviza provisioning server, and then the provisioning server sends back a Citrix configuration file that gets executed by the Citrix client. Up pops a desktop as a window on the user's desktop."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...