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VDI / XenDesktop / Presentation Server

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  • VDI / XenDesktop / Presentation Server

    I'm in the process of prepairing an upgrade plan for our 120 desktop PCs (currently dedicated machines). i'm trying to move away from dedicated workstation to a virtualized environment like vdi / citrix. currently looking at these options:
    Vmware VDI
    Citrix XenDesktop
    Citrix Presentation server

    about 80% of our user base can be categorized as normal users (WinXP, office XP & office2003, internet browsing). rest 20% are using light weight CAD applications like autocad LT and using videos for training. Can someone please recommend the ideal technology to be used in such a scenario with their benefits / flaws?

  • #2
    Re: VDI / XenDesktop / Presentation Server

    What hardware do you plan to replace the 120 desktop PCs with? What I mean is, what's going on the desktops? A thin client? Or are you letting it depend on the back end solution?

    I can't speak about Citrix XenDesktop but I can talk about VMware VDI and Citrix Presentation Server. I'll try to pick this back up tomorrow when I have more time. What you ask for simply in a sentence or two is a pretty big deal which requires thorough analysis. The answer may not be as black and white as you wish it to be.
    VCDX3 #34, VCDX4, VCDX5, VCAP4-DCA #14, VCAP4-DCD #35, VCAP5-DCD, VCPx4, vEXPERTx4, MCSEx3, MCSAx2, MCP, CCAx2, A+ - VMware Virtualization Evangelist
    My advice has no warranties. Follow at your own risk.


    • #3
      Re: VDI / XenDesktop / Presentation Server

      VMware VDI:
      Requires ESX virtual infrastructure hardware and licensing. Assume 4 desktops/users per ESX host core. This comes out to 30 cores required plus 1 additional ESX host for HA.
      VMware VI licensing lists at $2,995 for VI Standard (includes HA), or $5750 for VI Enterprise (adds DRS, DPM, VMotion, and Storage VMotion), plus you'll need a VirtualCenter server license which lists for anywhere from $6,000 to $8,200 depending on what level of support and how many years you purchase up front. Additionally, for this solution you'd need some sort of shared storage to take advantage of VMotion, DRS, and HA. This can be iSCSI, NAS, or fiber channel SAN. The cost on your shared storage solution will vary significantly depending on your choices.

      Also requires 120 Microsoft Windows XP licenses - 1 XP license per VDI VM. Each user will still need a PC on their desktop (requiring a desktop OS license) or a thin client that can take advantage of a bundled brokering solution such as VMware VDM.

      Optional requirement: automated/fancy client brokering

      A benefit with this solution is that each user gets their own isolated XP desktop workstation environment.

      A drawback is that this may wind up being your most expensive solution, albeit the solution with the most flexibility. You're also paying for two client OS licenses per user now. One for their physical desktop, one for their virtual desktop.

      Citrix XenDesktop:
      Again, don't know much about it. Don't much care either.

      Citrix Presentation Server:
      Requires Citrix XenApp infrastructure hardware and licensing. Depending on workloads and XenApp server hardware, you may get anywhere between 10 to 60 users to each XenApp server. Again, you'll want an N+1 configuration to allow an additional server to pick up the slack should 1 server fail. Short of using the Citrix Program Neighborhood administrative type client, you're going to need a Citrix Web Interface server running IIS to host either a web client interface or a Citrix Program Neighborhood Agent config.xml. On the subject of clients, each user will still need a PC on their desktop (requiring a desktop OS license) or a thin client to connect to Citrix.

      The benefit with this solution is probably going to be cheaper licensing costs.

      A drawback is that not every application is written to be multiwin (Terminal Services) aware/compatible so you may experience software that will not function properly on Terminal Services either right out of the gate or sometime in the future. Another drawback is isolation of all the user sessions on each XenApp server and the complexity/security implications involved in publishing a desktop on Citrix. Another drawback is no VMware HA. If a Citrix XenApp server goes down, you'll drop your 10-60 users and they lose everything they've been working on that hasn't been saved.

      Lastly, I'll just throw in that I've been working with Citrix for over 10 years and in a nutshell, their software development, QA process, and regression testing IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE WORST EVER. Citrix is a great product when it's working but it's a nightmare to troubleshoot depending on environment complexity. They frequently retire individual hotfixes and roll them into rollups (the Citrix version of service packs) requring you to install large service packs on all your servers and then upgrade all your client software to keep them in sync with the server increment, just to squash a small bug. I often refer to Citrix as a house of cards in that when a hotfix or rollup comes out, it fixes 1 thing and breaks 2 more things.

      One solution that you haven't mentioned which is often considered in VDI is PC on a blade. In a nutshell, 120 blades (plus a few spares in case of failure). Each user gets their own blade workstation. This solution has a lot of hardware in it. Go cheap on the blade. We're not talking about dual or quad multicore blades for each user. Think "Celeron" cheap *LOL*

      We could and you should dive deeper into each solution in much more detail than what I've provided before you make any decisions. Consider what I wrote a primer. I'd be happy to answer more questions later on but I've put enough effort for one night into this reply.
      Last edited by jasonboche; 2nd September 2008, 01:50.
      VCDX3 #34, VCDX4, VCDX5, VCAP4-DCA #14, VCAP4-DCD #35, VCAP5-DCD, VCPx4, vEXPERTx4, MCSEx3, MCSAx2, MCP, CCAx2, A+ - VMware Virtualization Evangelist
      My advice has no warranties. Follow at your own risk.


      • #4
        Re: VDI / XenDesktop / Presentation Server

        Thank you very much Jason. I really appreciate your efforts and the level of details you have provided along with your suggestions. Just a few points:

        you said 2 x os licenses are required in VDI solution. I believe its only true if you have a full workstation and connecting to your VDI image. Would you still require 2 x license if you are using a wyse thin client?

        how does app performance in VDI & Citrix? I have seen a few videos of VDI where powerpoint was not very responsive and the refresh lag was pretty bad.

        I guess PC blades are not bad for CAD users as VDI is pretty crippled when it comes to CAD apps. does xendesktop/xenapp work well with light weight CAD apps like autocad LT?