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Solving the Virtual Desktop Puzzle Part 1

By Harley Stagner | Dec 23, 2010 | Insights, Virtualization

There is no doubt that desktop virtualization can bring greater operational efficiencies to many businesses. However, one needs to design for more than just pure desktop consolidation to gain the most from this technology. There are three general components that make up a typical desktop environment. These are the Operating System, User Data, and Applications. By separating these components, each one can be managed distinctively without affecting the the other two.

This post will specifically address how technologies within VMware View can be used to better manage the Operating System in your virtual desktop environment.

A virtual desktop infrastructure with VMware View allows you to maintain multiple desktops in a pool as a single, disposable unit. This functionality is enabled by the VMware linked clone technology. Below is a diagram of what a desktop pool may look like without linked clones. Each virtual desktop is a separate 20GB image. This means that 100GB of disk space must be used to house the virtual desktop images. Also, the virtual desktops are managed almost the same way that physical desktops are managed.

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Linked clones, on the other hand, allow you to manage the virtual desktops in a much more efficient manner. Below is a diagram of how a linked clone desktop pool might look.

 

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Here, there is a master image (20GB) and the linked clone virtual disks (1GB each) are based off of that master image. Not only does this save a significant amount of disk space, but it also allows you to manage the entire desktop pool as a single entity. For example, when you make a change (such as patching on Microsoft Patch Tuesday) to the master image, the linked clones can get that change as well. No more managing patches on a per desktop basis. You can even take a new snapshot of the master image before you patch and then point back to the pre-patched image if additional testing needs to be done. The workflow goes like this:

  • Keep the original master image snapshot
  • Patch the master image and create a new snapshot based on that patching
  • Point the desktop pool to the new snapshot
  • Have your users log off their desktops and log back in
  • They now have their new patches
  • Spend the rest of Patch Tuesday doing something besides babysitting Microsoft patches

This is just one example of the flexibility that VMware View can bring to desktop management. In order to streamline this process as much as possible, we want the master desktop image to be as vanilla as possible. To do that we need strategies to address applications that the users need and user data. Parts 2 and 3 of this series will address those portions of the desktop. Until then, if you have any comments or questions feel free to post them.

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