VDI review: Kaviza VDI-in-a-box

Kaviza's desktop virtualization solution scores with straightforward installation, easy expansion, and nearly universal client support

Kaviza VDI-in-a-box comes closer than either Pano Logic or NComputing to being a one-size-fits-all desktop virtualization solution. It is also straightforward to deploy. Available as a preconfigured virtual machine, Kaviza installs into an existing VMware ESX/ESXi or Citrix XenServer infrastructure, and it provides connection brokering, load balancing, user access control, and guest VM management in a single browser-based console. It supports both Microsoft RDP and Citrix HDX remote access protocols, as well as Kaviza's own Java-based client, so client access is nearly universal.

Unlike Pano Express, Kaviza doesn't come in a big box with lots of geeky goodies to install and configure. For deployment, IT will simply download the Kaviza virtual machine from Kaviza's website and import it into their existing VMware or XenServer host (support for Hyper-V is forthcoming). At first glance, the requirement to have a hypervisor already in place would seem like a deal breaker when compared to other solutions that include the server hardware (Pano Express) or require nothing but a good desktop PC (NComputing). But if you crunch the numbers, a typical virtual desktop using Kaviza can be had for about $425 per concurrent user (based on 50 users) -- including server hardware, VMware hypervisor, the Kaviza software, and Windows client licensing.

One reason the cost is almost half the price of a standard desktop PC is that Kaviza runs just fine on a "commodity" server, by which I mean a server with about eight CPU cores, 32GB of RAM, and some form of fault-tolerant local storage. There's no need for an expensive high-speed SAN or redundant servers. Kaviza claims this platform can handle at least 30 concurrent users. I didn't try to replicate that in my lab, but I had no trouble with 10 simultaneous users running 32-bit versions of Windows XP Pro and Windows 7 Pro on similar hardware.

Kaviza installation and configuration
For my test, I installed Kaviza on a dual-Nehalem server with 24GB of RAM and 900GB RAID 5 array of SAS drives. My hypervisor of choice was VMware ESXi 4.1, and while I had two Gigabit Ethernet NICs in the server, I connected only one to my production network. Installation of the Kaviza virtual machine into ESXi was very straightforward, and it took only about 15 minutes. Once Kaviza was installed and running, I was able to complete the initial configuration using my browser in just under 10 minutes.

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