InfoWorld review: Desktop virtualization made easy

Three low-cost, low-fuss VDI solutions prove that desktop virtualization is within anyone's reach

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Making the virtual desktop connection
The connection broker is another important component, especially when it comes to handling a VDI infrastructure with dozens of users. With respect to VDI, a connection broker is a service that handles incoming user requests and automatically directs them to an available host server.

Kaviza does a good job of handling user access to desktop VMs and load balancing among host servers as part of its management platform. NComputing doesn't really have the concept of connection brokering because each user that connects to a vSpace host will run a session of the same operating system as the host itself. Users can pick and choose among vSpace hosts, but it is not an automatic process. Pano Express, like Kaviza, does provide connection brokering. The Pano Express solution can work with third-party connection brokers, too, to provide load balancing.

A major differentiator is the remote access protocol and the endpoints each solution supports. Kaviza will allow any client, fat or thin, that can run Microsoft RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) or Citrix HDX to connect to a guest VM. NComputing developed its own UXP protocol that works only with its proprietary endpoints. Finally, Pano Express uses a proprietary UDP-based protocol to extend the desktop VM's hardware bus to its proprietary endpoint device.

From a deployment standpoint, Kaviza isn't locked into a single endpoint and can work with a wide range of devices. Both NComputing and Pano Logic are locked into using their specific endpoint hardware, eliminating Web-based access. There are advantages to using NComputing's and Pano Logic's client devices -- they draw very little power; have no CPU, RAM, or local storage; and fit in the palm of your hand. There is no chance of anyone walking away with business secrets if a device is stolen, and if a device fails, you simply plug in a new one. They are an excellent way to provide everyday access for moderate line-of-business use.

With all three solutions, virtual desktop OS support is limited to 32-bit Windows. All three will work with Windows XP Pro, and Kaviza and Pano Logic also work with Windows 7 Pro. NComputing's vSpace will run on Windows Server 2003 R2, with support for Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 coming in future releases. Look for 64-bit Windows support to be addressed by all three vendors in future releases.

The result of my testing is that VDI on the cheap is here and quite capable of fitting into the enterprise regardless of your stage of virtualization. I very much like Pano Logic's complete bundle concept, and NComputing's vSpace virtualization software is a real technological achievement. I am not overly fond of being locked into proprietary endpoints with both NComputing and Pano Logic, but I have to admit that in all my testing, the endpoints worked very well and performed all basic office tasks without a complaint.

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