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Remote desktop services seems theoretically attractive, but I'm struggling with a practical aspect of deployment: mobile (laptop) users.

I would say about 99% of the time, mobile users would be able to obtain an internet connection - either a hard-line, wifi, 3g, or 4g that would allow them to access RDS outside of the office. Granted, establishing, maintaining, and providing an an acceptable user experience on any of those connections may, more often than not, require an investment of valuable time, and become quite frustrating to the end user versus "just having the damn OS installed on the laptop".

The other 1% of the time, say on an airplane, which is apparently the xen garden of productivity for certain salespeople, they will not have internet access, hence no access to RDS - an unacceptable, non-negotiable situation.

My question is: does the ability exist to "check-out" or "cache" a remote desktop session to a laptop so the user can use the computer offline, but will then resynchronize with the RDS server once the mobile user's internet connection is reestablished?

VMWare View has just come to my attention, which appears to do so. Any experiences with the software?

What, if any alternatives, especially Microsoft native solutions, exist? And how have your experiences been with such?

Finally, should I just dismiss this type of infrastructure configuration as untenable and opt for a more traditional Active Directory roaming profile deployment?

Our desktop infrastructure is rapidly shrinking, being replaced by laptops - what makes the most sense in terms of scalability and long-term manageability?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

VMware's View product supports offline virtual machines/desktops.

View Client with Local Mode

The VMware View Client with Local Mode increases productivity by allowing end-users to run managed virtual desktops locally or in the datacenter through the same administration framework. Simply download a virtual desktop onto the local client device where the operating system, applications and data can be accessed with or without a network connection. Offline users can synchronize desktop changes back to the datacenter when they return to the network. The entire contents of the desktop are secure within an encrypted desktop image while all existing IT security policies for that virtual desktop continue to be applied and enforced regardless of network connection.

We run about 2000 View desktops, and love the technology. We are not at the point yet to trial offline desktops.

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Citrix Xenapp has a feature for exactly this- it's called application streaming. It works just like normal Xenapp/Presentation Server published apps, except after you compile the application into a streaming app package, that package is downloaded to the client's computer through the Citrix Offline Plugin, and the cached application is run on the client, self-contained.

I probably did a horrible job explaining it as I haven't used it since Citrix training a few years ago.

Some good reading on it if you are so inclined:

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No, I gotcha - this is what I'm looking for... It's just that I want to do it with the entire OS, not just applications. – Earls Mar 15 '11 at 13:48
Ah, so instead of Xenapp, you could look into XenDesktop with XenClient: - virtual desktops for laptop users. – KJ-SRS Mar 15 '11 at 15:06
Microsoft MED-V is enterprise management of virtual machines on client computers. Microsoft App-V is application streaming like Citrix app streaming. – Bret Fisher Mar 15 '11 at 17:17

95% of Citrix deployments are either for apps that won't run on new Windows OS's or because those apps need close proximity to their app/SQL servers to perform well. If the apps you're talking about require connections to their data to work, then no VMWare/Citrix/Microsoft technology will help you go offline and "store" the network packets for later replay. I've not seen that solution yet.

If you have a stand-alone app in Citrix that you want people to use offline then @Izzy, @KJ-SRS and others have good answers here in technology but they don't answer the "why".

Why is the app not installed locally on the laptops? Why was it originally installed on Citrix? Discussing these issues helps to point you to a different technology to solve the problem for offline access, as the different ones mentioned here are to solve specific problems and have their own limitations. Some are to support legacy apps (MED-V), others are to support using apps that don't conflict with your locally installed ones (App-V, Citrix app streaming), etc.

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He's talking about the whole OS, not just a single app. – Izzy Mar 15 '11 at 21:26

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