Using virtual desktop infrastructure can give you a degree of flexibility and ease of management using limited resources.
Adapted from “Microsoft Windows 7 Administrator’s Reference” (Syngress, an imprint of Elsevier)
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is an alternative desktop deployment model for Windows 7. Using VDI can help save time and money, provide greater defense against catastrophic failure, improve update speeds, and provide an easy way to customize desktops for certain users or groups of users. You should consider deploying VDI when desktop flexibility is more important than immediate cost savings.
Instead of running a local copy on each user’s desktop, you create a common image and store it on one or more servers in the datacenter. A hypervisor then deploys the image to a server. A hypervisor is a layer of software that lets you run several OSes simultaneously on a common computer while maintaining isolation between the different OSes. Hyper-V is the Windows Server hypervisor.
There are several major benefits to implementing VDI:
There are some barriers to implementing VDI. The start-up costs can be high, and the return on investment takes longer than it does on a server virtualization project. This is a business decision you should not take lightly. You need to plan and budget before embarking on the project. Consider the following specific areas:
A distributed desktop model lets you deploy different desktop images to a specific group of users based on their location or job function. This type of model can be useful if you have a number of different types of users in a single location or users in a variety of locations, such as branch offices.
Each group has different desktop requirements or is connected by a slow or intermittent link. The remote users may have a file server that stores their files and information.
The pre-boot execution environment (PXE) is another distributed desktop design. This method lets you deploy an image to a server and a desktop to download and boot that image at startup. You can develop and deploy several desktop images and have them assigned to a certain desktop or group of desktops. When the user starts that desktop, the image is streamed to the device as it starts up. Changing a desktop image is as simple as reconfiguring the device’s target image and restarting the desktop.
This is a viable design if you have to run applications from the local desktop. Some applications require a hardware key or a specific MAC address for licensing. Applications that require special graphics or additional cards or adapters not supported in a virtual environment are also good candidates for this type of deployment.
The drawbacks and benefits are as follows:
You can also opt to distribute desktops with something like Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). You can use this to distribute both applications and desktops to users’ desktops, both local and remote. This model will actually install the desktop OS on the targeted desktop.
Whichever model you choose, you’ll have to plan and test your solution for optimum success. You can also use SCCM in conjunction with another System Center component, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, to create, deploy and manage desktops in a distributed environment.
When it comes to deploying a user’s desktop, there are several options and one design rarely fits all situations. You can see from these different scenarios that you can use a combination of all available options to meet your specific needs.