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Local Media Processing for VDI

As I blogged earlier this year, there has been a rift for collaboration enabled users migrating from the traditional desktop computing model to a virtual desktop environment. Specifically many collaboration clients require some time of local media processing for either video or audio. In either case, when the desktop is moved to a centralized datacenter and is separate from the client with low speed connection, a degradation in these features can be experienced.

Now, after much anticipation, Cisco’s VXI consortium has produced a client that will solve this. Enter the VXC 6215 client.

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Rather than being a zero client like the previous VXC 2100 and 2200 models, this client contains a local linux image that will allow for local media processing while simultaneously communicating with the upstream VDI infrastructure, whether it be Citrix or VMware View.

Out of the gate this thing will support video termination with Cisco Unified Personal Communicator or any of the Cisco Client Services Framework integrations with Microsoft Lync. Initial protocol support will include RDP7, ICA Agent 11+, XenDesktop 4.x,5.x, and PCoIP compatibility with VMware View 5.x.

This product announcement finally lets us realize what VXI is meant to be. Product availability Q4CY2011 to Q1CY2012.

June TBL Lunch & Learn – Windows 7 Migration and VDI

Join us for lunch to learn more about VDI and how it can help you migrate to Windows 7. TBL’s own VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) Harley Stagner will lead the discussion and allow you the chance to ask questions. 



Richmond, VA – June 9th – Hondo’s
Virginia Beach, VA – June 10th – Ruth’s Chris


  • What is VDI?
  • The components of a virtual desktop.
  • How do we gain operational benefits from VDI?
  • What does Windows 7 have to do with it?
  • How VDI can help with pre-Windows 7 software.

Who should attend:

Anyone interested in virtual desktops and simplifiying their infrastructure. 

Save your spot! Register now!


11:30 AM – Registration
11:35 AM – Order Lunch
12:00 PM – Discussion with Harley Stagner
  1:30 PM – Event Close

About Harley:

Harley Stagner is the lead VMware Engineer at TBL Networks. He is the first VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) in Virginia and just the 46th person worldwide with that title. Harley is also the author of Pro Hyper-V, which was published in 2009.

About TBL Networks:

TBL Networks, 2010 Cisco Collaboration Partner of the Year and certified VMware Enterprise Solutions Provider partner, provides our customers a wide range of advanced technology solutions, with a focus on Unified Communications, Virtualization and Storage.

The iPad is VDI Ready!

This has been a very cool couple of weeks for the VDI landscape with VMware View. The View client for the iPad that was first seen in a demo at VMword US in 2010 is finally here. Now I know what may have taken them so long.

VMware View 4.6 was also released in the past couple of weeks. With version 4.6 came the ability to use the PCOIP protocol on the VMware View Security Server that sits in your DMZ. This eliminates the need to set up a VPN for the endpoint device to access a desktop pool using the PCOIP protocol from outside your firewall.

I can now see where this functionality would be absolutely necessary to access a View desktop from the iPad. Super-mobile VDI is really cool, but it would have been a drag to only access your desktops over RDP. Also, having to set up a VPN connection from your iPad would go against the ease of use that the iPad offers.

Below is a video demo of the new iPad client. Among some of the coolest features are the virtual laptop track pad and the touch gestures built into the client to take advantage of the iPad functionality.

And also some use cases in the field. This one is for Children’s Hospital Central California. I think this is a great use of the technology.–s&feature=related

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact me. Also, if you would like to see the View Client for iPad in person, we can schedule a demo for you with our VMware View Lab running on our Cisco UCS blade infrastructure.

Solving the Virtual Desktop Puzzle Part 3

In this series we’ve already looked at virtual desktop storage efficiency with “linked clones” and user profile management options. In this post we will discuss another piece of the desktop image that can potentially be offloaded to the network. The applications.

Remember that in a virtual desktop environment one of our goals is to make the “gold” master image as vanilla as possible. We do this by offloading unique components of the desktop off of the image and onto the network. VMware has a way to virtualize your applications so that they can be offloaded onto a network share. This means that the applications can be streamed to the user when they log in to their desktop. So, the desktop becomes disposable and the user gets the appropriate applications when they log into any virtual desktop. So how can we do this?

We do this with a VMware product called ThinApp. It even comes bundled with the VMware View Bundled licensing. ThinApp allows us to package an application as a single executable file. All of the DLL’s and bits that the application requires at runtime are packaged in this single executable file. So, nothing actually gets installed on the desktop in order to run the application. Once the application is packaged it can run from the desktop hard drive, an external hard drive, a cd, a dvd, and even from the network. Basically, if you have an operating system and a place to store the packaged ThinApp’ed application, you can run it.

If you run the packaged application from the network, then each user can have the application streamed to their virtual desktop instance when they log in. There is also the added benefit of the packaged applications running on the appropriate storage tier if we are running a tiered storage solution. So, we’ve taken care of the user profiles and applications to make the desktop image as vanilla as possible. Our user profiles and our applications can be centrally managed along with our desktops. We can now treat multiple desktops as a single pooled unit. No more Microsoft patch Tuesday woes, no more uncontrolled virus or spyware outbreaks, and fewer user desk side trips.

Solving the Virtual Desktop Puzzle Part 2

In part 1 of this series, we explored the possibilities that VMware View’s linked clones technology unlocks. We can begin move closer to deploying a single “gold” image with this technology and managing only that “gold” image. That is a very powerful prospect. However, if we truly want to get to that state, some other items in the image need to be offloaded. This post will discuss strategies to offload the user data from the virtual desktop images.

First, let’s define what typically can be found as part of the user data.

  • My documents
  • Desktop
  • Application Data
  • Shortcuts
  • Basically any “user” customization data that makes that desktop unique to the user

If the user data is part of the virtual desktop image, then the virtual desktop is not disposable (from the point of view of the user, at least 🙂 ). We need to store the user data somewhere else if we do not want to lose it if the virtual desktop is refreshed, recomposed, or provisioned again. There are several ways to tackle this particular design consideration. Let’s go over a few of them.

First, the built in Windows methods.

Roaming Profiles


  • Built in to Windows
  • Well understood
  • Capable of offloading the entire user profile, including files for third party applications (e.g. Favorites for third party browsers like Firefox.)


  • Downloads the entire user profile every time a user logs on
  • Large profiles can cause very long logon times for users
  • The virtual disk on the virtual desktop image will grow with the profile data every time a user logs on
  • Cannot really be monitored for consistency or functionality
  • May be problematic when upgrading from an older Operating System (like Windows XP) to a new Operating System (like Windows 7) due to profile incompatibilities.

Even though it is the first listed, I would actually recommend roaming profiles as a last resort. Long time Windows administrators know the frustrations of roaming profiles. Dealing with roaming profile problems may lessen the operational efficiencies gained by deploying a virtual desktop environment in the first place.

Folder Redirection


  • Built in to Windows
  • Well understood
  • Folders redirected truly reside completely off of the virtual desktop image
  • Logon times are not an issue like they can be with roaming profiles


  • Does not take care of the entire user profile. Third party application customizations (like Favorites for third party browsers like Firefox) may or may not be redirected depending on where that data is stored.
  • Cannot really be monitored for consistency or functionality
  • May be problematic when upgrading from an older Operating System (like Windows XP) to a new Operating System (like Windows 7) due to folder differences.

I have used Folder Redirection many times in different environments. When set up properly it works reasonably well. My wish list for improvement would be the ability to audit when a user does not have their folder redirected to avoid any user data loss.

Outside of built in Windows solutions, there are several third party solutions that are trying to tackle the “user identity” offloading consideration. These solutions vary in functionality, complexity, and price. So, I will just list the general Pros and Cons with this category of software solution.

Third Party Profile Management


  • Profile management is what it does. It had better be good at it 🙂
  • May have more robust monitoring of the user data for consistency and functionality
  • May have the ability to seamlessly migrate user data from an older Operating System (like Windows XP) to a newer Operating System (like Windows 7)
  • Can be a more robust profile management solution vs. built in Windows tools
  • Will likely scale more efficiently than built in Windows tools


  • May add more complexity
  • Added price
  • Not all profile management is created equal, research must be done to ensure that the solution fits the need for your environment. (At least with Roaming Profiles and Folder redirection you know exactly what you are getting and not getting)

As you can see, we must offload user data if the virtual desktop environment is going to be as efficient as possible. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this goal. Part 3 of this series will go over offloading the applications from the virtual desktop image. Until then, if you have any comments or questions feel free to post them.

Solving the Virtual Desktop Puzzle Part 1

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.














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.









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.