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Print 16 comment(s) - last by deeznuts.. on Jan 30 at 3:25 PM

Desktop virtualization can be of huge benefit on the desktop

In past blogs, I’ve discussed some of the big-picture benefits for server virtualization. This week, I wanted to give some thought to the concept of desktop virtualization. Of the two technologies, the desktop variety has been much slower to take off in the marketplace, and frankly, there are some good reasons for that.

In both cases, the fundamental underlying technology operates on the same basic principle: By uncoupling the operating system and application software layers from the binary code layer that actually operates the chip-level hardware, you can accomplish some cool things. Perhaps the number one benefit is being able to create the illusion of multiple independent physical machines (AKA “virtual” machines) all living side by side on a single hardware platform. These virtual machines can lead diverse and independent lives, being dedicated to various tasks and even running on different operating systems.

The benefits at the server level are almost self evident. For one thing, running multiple virtual machines on a single box can be more efficient, because you can eliminate underutilized machines. As a result, you can reduce hardware costs, eliminate redundancy, and slash you electric bill. Support and maintenance costs can also be reduced, as you consolidate your data center.

So what’s the value proposition for doing this at the desktop level? For me, at least, the picture is a little murkier. If you assume one user per desktop, which is the norm in most computing environments today, then the economies mentioned above for servers no longer apply. You can virtualize any number of desktop machines one a single machine, and give users access to those machines over the network, but you still have to put some kind of physical device on each user’s desk. These devices can be slimmed down, stripped of many of the features commonly included in a PC, but with hardware costs so low these days, you’d really have to sharpen your pencil to uncover significant and compelling savings in the hardware department.

To read more on virtualization, head on over to IBM’s Server Virtualization website.



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Software Testing
By TomZ on 1/27/2009 11:16:30 AM , Rating: 3
I use VM's a lot for software testing. They are perfect for that. For example, if I am developing a Windows app, I'll want to test it on various versions of Windows, e.g., XP, Vista, Windows 7.

I maintain VM images for each of these OSs, so when I want to do some testing, I just make a copy of the master OS image, start the VM, do my testing, and then when I'm all done, I delete the VM (keeping only the master).

That way, each test has a "fresh" state, which is especially useful when testing installers. Works great for me.

I am currently using Virtual PC 2007 SP1, which works fine, but of course there are other VM packages available.




RE: Software Testing
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 1/27/2009 1:59:21 PM , Rating: 2
Turn on the no save state TomZ, that way you can choose not to commit all the changes to the virtual machine once its shut down. Saves time having to copy the VHD file and plug it into the machine manager.


RE: Software Testing
By TomZ on 1/27/2009 3:42:40 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the tip. I had noticed that feature but I didn't try it yet.


RE: Software Testing
By hemming on 1/28/2009 10:58:51 AM , Rating: 2
You should take a look at the features in VMware Workstation. Snapshots are your save states, and the Unity Feature to run applications in headless mode (make a vm's program look as if it's native on the host system).

Tons of useful features in there too.


Two words: Viruses, Pirating
By exploderator on 1/27/2009 7:54:39 AM , Rating: 2
Virtualisation is probably the only secure way to sandbox pirated software. If Windows OS'es and all AV offerings were actually good safe and sensible, if that were even possible, perhaps we wouldn't need VM's. But alas, utopia is but a dream.

Back on earth, we need something truly secure and convenient, and this seems like the only real candidate. Sad really, that the OS'es can't flex like VM solutions can, but I guess that crazy things like automatic decompilation, analisys, and subsequent automatic executable patching, are just too sophisticated for something you would supposedly pay for (Windows), but easy enough for free software (VirtualBox).




RE: Two words: Viruses, Pirating
By kattanna on 1/27/2009 10:27:24 AM , Rating: 1
i would actually love to see the next major versions of browsers all launch their own virtual machines to then run inside of when you launch them.


RE: Two words: Viruses, Pirating
By hemming on 1/28/2009 10:56:49 AM , Rating: 2
Why not do it yourself? VMware ThinApp or equivalent.

http://www.vmware.com/products/thinapp/

I run a ThinApp built version of FireFox so everything is caputred there. When I close the browser it will delete any temp data it had created.

Then again, I work there ;)


RE: Two words: Viruses, Pirating
By Spivonious on 1/28/2009 12:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
IE7 and IE8 both use sandboxing on Vista and above. Read about Protected Mode.


Missing the point
By bxero on 1/27/2009 11:19:37 AM , Rating: 2
The post is talking about virtualized desktops if I'm not mistaken. Think of it like this: You are at work, you login at your desk. Later on that day you have training in another room. You log out at your desk, go to the training room, and log back in to the "same" machine in the training room.

It's not just roaming profiles, but entire roaming virtual machines.

I agree, that most of the time, unless you have some overriding security policies, roaming profiles are enough for most end users in a corporate environment.




RE: Missing the point
By wordsworm on 1/27/2009 1:29:26 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it be just as useful to use a live USB key? I guess you wouldn't be able to use Windows like that... somehow they haven't quite gotten around to that innovation yet.


RE: Missing the point
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 1/27/2009 1:58:05 PM , Rating: 2
Live USB keys I have experimented with here in the office. Frankly USB keys are too slow to do anything practical. Nor are they particularly large enough once you drop a big heavy corporate image on them. The other problem I ran into was people "losing" or "forgetting them". Burning a new image to a flash drive took a considerably long time. In the range of 25-45 minutes depending, plus post-setup configuration. Nah, forget it, Live USB keys are still not practical, easier/cheaper to go with virtual desktops and a little dumb terminal box to connect peripherals to.


By VultureTX on 1/27/2009 10:30:43 AM , Rating: 4
For the Home PC user /Small business person there comes times when you need to do task X. And your google search only turns up previously unknown websites for the app you need right now that will accomplish X . So you DL and run the app in a virtual taking that 5-10% performance hit in exchange for knowing that after the task is finished only the results get saved. The app and any changes it did to your environment disappear as you unload the virtual. So no malware/ adware/ XYZware get installed into your permanent OS.

At least that is why I do it.




weird subtitle
By tigen on 1/27/2009 9:03:31 PM , Rating: 4
why does the article start with "Desktop virtualization can be of huge benefit on the desktop" when the article itself is doubtful about any such benefit?




re-dated post?
By Screwballl on 1/27/2009 2:04:18 PM , Rating: 2
This was a previously posted "blog" that was listed on this site... looks like it had the comments cleared and the advertisement... ahem I mean blog was reposted with no actual wording changes.




By netmasterjohn on 1/29/2009 12:24:01 PM , Rating: 2
I am currently looking at implementing desktop virtualization using Virtuozzo. The biggest benefits I see are savings on both software installation and maintenance and the hardware. You only install a program once on the server and all the updates/protection programs are centralized and easily managed plus if we hire a new employee, I can have a perfectly configured desktop ready in a few seconds. Also, the physical desktop machine in front of the computer doesn't have to be anywhere near as powerful as if it were running Vista or soon Windows 7, because all you need is an RDP client to connect to the virtual desktop. Think cheap hardware + free linux OS + RDP client = gateway to safe & easy computing experience that is the same for all employees regardless of desktop vs. laptop, or onsite vs. anywhere in the world.




Where to Start?
By deeznuts on 1/30/2009 3:25:31 PM , Rating: 2
Where does a non-VM knowing person like me go to learn about setting this stuff up? I am not tech-averse, so I can figure it out on my own if pointed in the right direction.




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