VDI review: Pano Express

Pano Logic's all-in-one bundle makes desktop virtualization a snap to deploy, from VMware hypervisor to proprietary zero clients

The Pano Express hardware and software bundle is a complete soup-to-nuts VDI deployment that can be up and running in less than an hour. Although Pano Express does rely on a third-party hypervisor -- either VMware ESX/ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V -- the Pano system is far more than just a connection broker. Pano Manager provides complete lifecycle management of virtual desktops, while the Pano Direct protocol connects the zero-client Pano Devices directly to the guest virtual machines. Pano Express is a good solution for small to medium-sized installations -- as long as remote access to the virtual desktops via Web browser or thick client isn't required.

Pano Express includes a back-end server running VMware ESXi 4.1 with 50 client access licenses for Windows XP or Windows 7, plus the Pano Manager virtual machine and 50 Pano Devices, all for $24,450, at $489 per user. When deploying to end-users, IT only has to provide a USB keyboard and mouse and an analog monitor to deliver a complete virtual desktop with no DVI connection. For organizations that wish to install the Pano Manager and Pano Devices in an existing VDI infrastructure, Pano Manager will work with VMware 4.1 and Microsoft Hyper-V. (Note that Hyper-V installations require Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, an additional $869 purchase.)

My Pano Express test system included an HP ProLiant 1U server with dual Xeon E5620 quad-core processors, 48GB of RAM, and seven 146GB SAS hard drives in a single RAID5 array. I also received 10 of the zero-client Pano Devices. Setup of the system, which took me just over an hour to complete, included an easy-to-follow, scripted setup routine that assigned IP addresses to all of the major virtual components: the ESXi host, the Pano Manager virtual machine, the setup VM, and the VMware vCenter VM. Note that each Pano Express solution requires four static IP addresses on the local network.

Pano Express virtual desktops
Once the server installation was complete, I was able to plug in the rest of my Pano Devices and access the preconfigured Windows XP Pro and Windows 7 Pro guest VMs. As with the NComputing solution, performance was great over the LAN, but suffered when the virtual desktops were accessed over a WAN link. Kaviza was the only solution of the three that worked well over the WAN, due to its use of the RDP and HDX protocols. The Pano Logic and NComputing solutions are effectively LAN-only solutions. 

The secret sauce to the Pano Logic system is Pano Direct, a patent-pending technology that effectively extends the PCI bus from the guest operating system across the LAN to the Pano Device. The Pano Device endpoint essentially becomes a hardware extension of the guest operating system over the LAN. The Pano Direct UDP protocol talks to the Pano Direct Service (Pano DAS) running on the Windows virtual machines. The two pieces provide the connectivity layer as well as allow the guest VMs to detect and work with other USB devices plugged into the remote Pano Device.

Test Center Scorecard
  25% 25% 15% 15% 10% 10%  
Pano Express v3.5 9 9 7 8 9 9


Very Good

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