Should Small Businesses Adopt Desktop Virtualization? - Page 2

By Drew Robb
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Desktop Virtualization and Small Business

6. How about High-End Workstations or Special Applications?

In some instances, a virtual desktop might not be a good idea.

"In cases where you have a high-end workstation running graphic-centric workloads, desktop virtualization may not be the best solution," said Ryan Makamson, systems engineer for the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Additionally, not all applications are designed to be virtualized and, even if they are, it may be a waste of resources to create a customized virtual desktop for a single user.

"Companies really need to understand what they're trying to do and where they're trying to go, before blindly adopting this technology," said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at the Kusnetzky Group. "Properly designed and implemented, this approach can offer many benefits. Done improperly, it can reduce overall productivity and create staff satisfaction issues."

7. What Virtualization Products Should I Use?

Here's a sampling of the many desktop virtualization products and tools on the market.

VMware Horizon View

Suited to small businesses that wish to access desktop services from every device while in the office, remote and on the road. It can run Windows desktop applications on iPhone, iPad or Android mobile devices. This includes gesturing, swiping and screen pinching. Junod said the company offers it in increments of 10 or 100 licenses. Price: $250 per concurrent connection.

Dell Desktop Virtualization Solutions (DVS) Simplified Appliance

This product combines the latest Dell PowerEdge servers with factory-installed software in one appliance that you plug in. Dell says it takes four hours to install, and one appliance can support over 100 users. The virtualization software comes from Citrix, a big competitor of VMware. With support included, the solution costs less than $500 per user. On the client side are Dell Wyse cloud client computing devices, which are little more than a keyboard and a screen.  

Other major desktop virtualization players include:

8. What about the Rest of IT?

Do not embark upon desktop virtualization without a full assessment of your entire small business IT infrastructure. Some companies have implemented desktop virtualization only to see desktop speeds suffer badly. The mistake didn't lie with the chosen desktop virtualization software/hardware, however. It was caused by a small business IT infrastructure that wasn't capable of supporting virtualization. 

"Fast virtual desktops need fast networks, fast servers with fast storage," said Greg Schulz, an analyst with consulting firm StorageIO Group.

Desktop virtualization takes away much of the processing power and memory that used to sit under people's desks. That processing power and memory is instead centralized in the main server or the office server room. Failure to beef up those resources will mean sluggish response rates and dissatisfied users.  

"Deploying virtual desktops exchanges lower-cost desktop processing, memory and storage for higher-cost server processing, memory and storage," said Kusnetzky. "Furthermore, it is likely that the organization's network infrastructure will need to be enhanced to support the increased network traffic."

9. What are the Potential Storage Issues?

Remember disk drives spinning inside those individual desktops? When you virtualize, those go away. You have to add that storage capacity to a central server. Even if your organization already keeps user files on your central server, you have to add more storage. Each virtual desktop requires disk capacity to store user preferences, settings, and applications. That software is retained virtually on the main servers.

"Storage performance can be a potential issue, since many virtual desktops trying to access storage all at once can create a bottleneck that results in response-time degradation. This can happen at peak loading times, for example when everyone checks their email at the start of the day," said Hill.

Bottom line: virtual desktops require a whole lot of storage. If, for example, you get all users logging on at the same time in the morning, you can notice a big drop in performance since the server can't take that much traffic – much like rush hour gridlock. A variety of tools address such storage performance issues:

  • Nimble Storage sells storage arrays certified by VMware for the virtual desktop that combine solid state drives (SSD) for speed with high-capacity hard drives
  • NexGen n5 Storage System takes a similar approach to Nimble Storage
  • The Tintri VMstore appliance is all solid state storage
  • Greenbytes IO Offload Engine allows the server or storage hardware to offload traffic to prevent a bottleneck
  • Sanbolic also provides storage tools to improve desktop virtualization storage and performance.

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on April 29, 2013
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