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I am looking into virtualizing desktops for a large office, and I haven't been able to figure out how I would accomplish access to a VM instance per user.

We are considering using sunrays as our point of access, from which I assume we would launch a VNC connection into a VM. At this point I'm at a bit of a loss -- how would I ensure that we either launch a VM if it is not already running, or connect to their existing VM if it is already running? Or would the solution here be to make sure that all possible instances are already running, but 'paused' until someone tries to connect to them?

We are are still considering our options in terms of virtualization -- Hyper-V, KVM, Xen, or other.. on one hand we're enthusiastic about open-source products so KVM and Xen are attractive choices, but on the other hand we want administrator training to be as painless as possible so products like Hyper-V have their allure too.

I know this is a fairly sprawling topic I've put up, but I'd appreciate any advice anybody has to offer on the topic.


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I can answer the question about the Sun Ray solution. The VMs are just running, there's no pausing of the instances or the like. If it's shutdown, they won't connect to it. – Aaron Copley Aug 31 '12 at 14:10

You should consider desktop virtualization with specific applications such as Citrix XenDesktop. They deliver the applications to the user's desktop while being executed on the servers.

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Minor nitpick - XenDesktop is a full blown Virtual Desktop solution not an App virtualization solution, that would be XenApp. They are both "executing on the servers" but XenDesktop really is creating full VM's while XenApp is more at a session level. – Helvick Sep 26 '09 at 17:53
You are perfectly right. I felt something was wrong with what I said =) – Antoine Benkemoun Sep 27 '09 at 8:20

Look into VMware View. They are working on version 4 which should greatly improve performance. I am looking at this product for a small number of desktops.

Also Windows Server 2008 R2 has some new VDI features to take a look at.

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That's what Qumranet used to sell before being bought by Redhat.

For this, they developed KVM as open source (and quickly got included in the Linux kernel), of course, the rest of the stack was closed source, including the remote display protocol which they claim is the best there is. They also had an admin console, simple clustering of hardware and load-balancing by live-migration of VMs

The website is still up, and the product (SolidICE) seems to be available.

I haven't used the product, but would be my first stop if I wanted to virtualize desktops.

share|improve this answer………… this is basically the next generation of solidICE, and much more. – dyasny Sep 29 '09 at 12:23

There are several layers that you need to understand and separate,

  1. Access point (your sunray)
  2. Connection broker, this is a service that the access point connects to, to retrieve either a list of desktops, or to auto launch a desktop
  3. Connection protocol the protocol the client will use to intimate the connection to the VM, e.g. RDP, ICA, PCoIP.
  4. Hypervisor, the host with VMs running ontop.
  5. Application Virtualisation, this layer is optional, and realistically unrelated to VDI. This just allows you to make your VMs relatively stateless by allowing users to connect to any VM to run their applications without a lengthy install.
  6. Profile management, another optional layer to allow user settings and preferences to roam with them.

You can generally mix and match solutions from different vendors. E.g. Hyper-V with XenDesktop for broker and protocol.

Some brokers allow you to spin up VMs on the fly, keeping a list of idle machines, rebooting / re-building on logoff etc...

Keep in mind the significant 'porting' effort you'd need to undertake to virtualise your applications (re-package everything), and profile management if you go down the stateless route.

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