Citrix XenDesktop hits the VDI high notes
Citrix XenDesktop 2.0 leverages streaming applications, server virtualization, and swift tools for a scalable and manageable virtual desktop infrastructure solutionFollow @pvenezia
That's all well and good, but other problems crop up in a VDI environment, such as the cost of storing all those VM images. A 16GB footprint may not seem like much, but that's the absolute minimum for a Windows Vista desktop with Office 2007 installed. If you have a few hundred of those (you'll need one for each concurrent user), suddenly you're talking real storage requirements and real I/O.
This would seem to be the primary reason Citrix acquired XenSource. The company clearly saw the opportunity to tie its application streaming and hosting technologies to a virtualized infrastructure to reduce these problems. So far, Citrix has done pretty well.
Pieces and parts
To picture how Citrix XenDesktop works, you need to understand the various components. Obviously, there's a hypervisor that handles the VMs themselves. Citrix XenDesktop is built around XenServer, but can play with VMware VI3 as well as Microsoft's Hyper-V. Then there are the management tools, provided by XenDesktop Provisioning Server and XenDesktop Desktop Delivery Controller.
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The Provisioning Server is a major component within XenDesktop. It serves as the central proxy for all desktop VM vdisks (virtual disks) and allows administrators to build, configure, and manage all the desktop VMs. The wizard-based approach to building and managing those VMs is well appointed, and handles nearly everything fairly seamlessly. Building large groups of VMs is simple: Create a "gold" VM disk that contains the OS, all supporting applications, and settings, and is joined to an Active Directory domain, and then create a VM template that sets the RAM requirements, I/O devices, and so forth. Once that's done, you can easily create one or more VMs from that image to be served to users as desktops. In this way, it takes no more time to create 20 VMs than it does to create a single VM.