VDI review: NComputing vSpace and L-Series virtual desktops

NComputing takes different approach to desktop virtualization, combining low-overhead OS virtualization and proprietary hardware client

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Your organization will have to make a philosophical decision with respect to vSpace's OS-based virtualization versus the full virtualization provided by Kaviza and Pano Logic. Because vSpace divides a single operating system among multiple users (versus providing each user with a distinct VM as Kaviza and Pano Logic do), some admins will consider it nothing more than a Terminal Server replacement. Although this is a fair argument, it doesn't do vSpace justice. vSpace handles resource allocation far more efficiently than Terminal Server, and it did a good job of isolating each user session to help prevent one bad session from affecting others.

NComputing virtual desktops
Much like the other VDI solutions, NComputing wouldn't be a good fit for a large office full of AutoCAD or Adobe Premier Pro users. But for small to medium-size offices running mainstream business apps, vSpace can handle most day-to-day production tasks with ease. I had no trouble using Microsoft Office 2003 or any of the big three browsers from inside a vSpace session.

For the administrator, provisioning desktops couldn't be more straightforward. There are no virtual machines to create or templates to manage as in Kaviza and Pano Logic. Just install all of the applications on the host and create your users. Like the other solutions, NComputing uses Active Directory roaming profiles to personalize each user session, configuring the desktop with the user's My Documents folder, Outlook email settings, printer assignments, desktop icons, and other personal settings at logon. Unlike Kaviza and Pano Logic, NComputing doesn't support persistent, personalized desktops. If one user installs a new application, then that application will be available to all users on the same host.

Management chores are handled by the vSpace Console. This Windows-based utility is a mix of vSpace configuration settings and a sort of pseudo Group Policy engine for users' desktops. Using vSpace Console, I was able to set specific user, software, and local computer policies such as logon/logoff scripts, network settings, and printer handling. For instance, I created a policy that prevented access to the command prompt, denied access to other critical Windows options (such as Control Panel), and removed the My Computer icon from the desktop. Admins can define these and other policies using Windows' Group Policy engine, but vSpace makes it much easier to implement them for vSpace users. The vSpace Console also allowed me to view and manage connected user sessions, going so far as to let me shadow a live session.

NComputing vSpace and the L300 endpoints may be the easiest of the three turnkey VDI solutions to install and maintain; there is almost no learning curve to deploying the solution. The L300 client is not only small and power efficient, but the fact that there are no moving parts means no noise and greater reliability. I don't like being locked into one specific endpoint, but for small or initial VDI deployments and moderate workloads, the NComputing solution works well.

Read the introduction to this review, "Desktop virtualization made easy," and the reviews of Kaviza VDI-in-a-box and Pano Express.

Also on InfoWorld:

This article, "VDI review: NComputing vSpace and L-Series virtual desktops," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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