VMWare Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
We're about to start a pilot to test VMWare's virtual desktop infrastructure with a view to deploying it across 50 primary schools and 8 high schools.
I'm interested to find out if anyone else has been down this route for the desktop environment, and if they have experienced issues with the myriad of end user devices used in a school (particularly Smartboard's). From what I've heard, I'm not overly convinced about how well it can handle streaming audio and video or high end graphics apps etc.
I'm currently of the opinion that VDI should be able to cope with areas like English, History, Admin, Business Education etc. What I'm not convinced is how it will hold up with the likes of Music and D&T.
Any advice or help would be welcome.
Thanks in advance.
VMWare Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Thanks for getting back to me and apologies for the delay! I'll be writing a blog and daily project diary through this one and can make it available to interested parties. We are currently looking at running a VMWare VDI trial towards the end of the year, and have plans to test server 2008 Hyper V at the same time.
We currently support our local LEA, 50 primary schools, 8 secondary schools and a number of other specialised units which comes to a total of about 6000 machines. We currently have a staff compliment of 10 engineers, and as you can imagine trying to support a traditional client/server network of 6000 machines (along with all the usual peripherals and software) with only 10 bods is hard going.
We have numerous factors that are fueling our interest in VMWare/Hyper-V, and the following displays a few examples:
1) Reduce support overhead to sustainable levels
2) Reduce power consumption
3) Enable us to be more flexible
4) Potentially deliver virtual desktops to pupils outwith normal school hours
5) Greatly enhance reliability and make the network more robust
6) Introduce application streaming (Thinapp/Softgrid)
7) React quicker to changes in our customers operating environment
8) Increase the lifespan of our existing PC estate
9) Deliver a greatly enhanced disaster recovery and backup scenario.
To be honest I could go on and on detailing the reasoning behind all of this, but the examples above should give you a feel for what we are trying to achieve.
We have looked at Citrix, and we are aware of the Xen series of apps they provide. We haven't ruled them out, but it's VMWare and Hyper-V that we are currently concentrating on.
The ability to migrate live virtual desktops/servers from one physical host to another is something that interests us. The ability to backup and move virtual desktops/servers as flat files is also interesting, particularly from a DR point of view.
I'll keep you posted and let you know how we get on - I believe we are looking at November/December for our pilot.
VMWare VDI implementation
We have recently implemented VMWare's VDI using 96 Wyse v10L thin clients.
This is supported by:-
3 x ESX servers - IBM x3650s each 2 x 3GHz quad core, 24Gb memory, 2 x 4Gbit HBAs, 2 x dual port Gbit Nics, 2 x 72Gb HDs (raid 1)
2 x IBM SAN 16Bs fibre switches
1 x Dual controller DS3400
1 x EXP3000 expansion unit
24 x 300Gb 15K SAS drives (4 hot spares rest carved into 5 raid LUNs)
One virtual broker per classroom room (20 machines), Single template image (XP SP3 + office 2003 - rest of apps (all curriculum stuff) are either on a mapped drive or virtualised using VMWare's ThinApp) 515Mb memory 8Gb HD
Brokers are hosted on VI enterprise (seperate implementation to above but similar only had 3 x EXP3000s fully populated 6 LUNs all Raid 10)
Access to staff from home at all times using VDM client & Cisco VPN concentrator.
Issues/observations to date:-
1. Air con failure over a weekend, all servers shut down. Testament to IBM kit self survival. Restarted and back in action within 1 hour
2. Machine pool size needs to be roughly 2 machines bigger than physical count as some sessions don't always disconnect straight away, even though they are set to.
3. Zoning the fibre switches can be a pain but have done this several times now but just watch out for that.
4. Setup of FTP server, DHCP settings for WNOS and the Wyse V10L can be a bit of a pig but worth it.
5. Spend some time learning the WNOS ini file settings, makes all the difference to the user experience AUP and all that. (Make sure it's locked down) oh and make a note of the mac address of each unit. Trust me you'll need it.
6. If you are using virtual brokers that service around 20 clients then allocate 2Gb memory, backup the settings (see broker command line document) using a scheduled event, set a scheduled event for about 4 in the morning to reboot the broker. This solves all kinds of issues really worth doing.
7. Make sure automatic updates (especially the big ones like SP3 .Net SP2) occur well into the night as these affect performance quite a lot.
8. There are approximately 40 VMs of the above spec on each ESX server, initially set vMotion and DRS to aggressive to spread the load on the ESXs is a good start. Once stable then move back.
9. With this number of machines and this spec of VM, performance is as good as a 1Gb Dell 745.
10. If you want to use a USB memory stick or any USB device then you'll have to buy a software addin to the Wyse V10L (annoying when you just spent a shed load of money buying them, TCX virtualiser). Be warned it doesn't support all types of USB memory stick as we are slowly finding out.
11. Don't use Photoshop CS3, Moviemaker, or Windows media player or multimedia apps cos they don't work well. (I think VMware have just announced a collaboration with Wyse to include the multimedia plugins in the next version of VDI). I'd wait if you want this capability.
12. A little off beam but ThinApp.... brilliant. From... staff room at break...Q: Can you just install this on all machines (735) before this afternoon...please. A: Maybe this afternoon next year! to A: Yes certainly are you sure you would'nt like it for your next lesson. (No I'm not a VMWare rep in disguise)
13. Get VMWare VDI starter kit if you don't have VI already and buy the VDM 10 packs to make up the numbers. If, like us, you have VI then theres no need to use the VI foundation server in the starter kit
14. This one really annoyed me. We had to purchase the Microsoft VECD licenses for each of the thin clients. The downside of this is that the licenses are non-persistant but there's no alternative. Microsoft need to revisit this one soon.
The true test is how the kids get on with them. Their verdict... "Are they different to the others? Just look a bit smaller and theirs no CD drive for me to keep pressing in and out and in and out and in......". If they don't notice any difference in speed they it must be OK.
We were originally only going to have 2 ESXs but thought 60 VMs might be a bit too much. TCO with 19" Dell TFT and all infrastructure costs (ESX, SAN etc) around £530 per unit. Not cheap when compared to a physical machine but manageability, scalability, no memory upgrades needed, life expectancy, no bits that can be pulled off. It all seemed to make sense. Ask me again after half term and I might be feeling different.