OpDesk has a unique approach to solving many of the problems faced by IT to achieve a successful roll-out of VDI either in the cloud or on premises.
Our team has spent a lot of time working with Symantec’s Workspace Streaming product (SVS) to successfully push out virtualization applications to thousands of workstations quickly and reliably. While we’d love to continue working with this product, Symantec has recently decided to end of life both Workspace Streaming and Application Virtualization. While this is understandably frustrating for customers, this news does provide for an opportunity to look at their streaming/virtualization product and redesign it from the ground up with more of a VDI centric point of view. We can use some of the concepts that worked and avoid others that didn’t work so well.
The goal of most VDI solutions is to make them non persistent. It’s very expensive to keep a Virtual Machine up and running while users are not using the system. Even putting a system in standby mode, can become very expensive over time. And yet end users still expect to be able to login to their Virtual Desktops and be able to continue working within a short period of time.
All successful Non Persistent VDI solution requires the following features:
- Fast login times, users should be able to start working within a couple minutes. This requires kernel driver level profile redirection to prevent profile files (including desktop shortcuts) from being read synchronously over the network. Also the windows search database needs to be redirected at the kernel level to prevent the search indexer from having to reindex the user’s profile every time they login to new virtual machine.
- Users files and data and some application settings should follow them from VM to VM
- As part of the normal application software life cycle, applications need to be patched, updated and eventually removed. Customers don’t want to maintain several “golden images” to be able to provide multiple versions of some applications.
- Not all users have the same roles, applications should only be provisioned to the users that need them. Applications need to be able to be associated by workstation, workstation group, user or user group or AD container.
Our OpDesk Resource Manager addresses all of this requirements efficiently and reliably with the following features:
1. An application packager to repackage your applications into the OPK file format. You only need to install your application while our packager watches what files and registry settings get installed. The packager then creates its own package that you can then upload to the server.
2. An administrative console that allows you to import and provision applications to specific users, user groups, computers or computer groups or Active Directory Containers. The console also provides canned reports, basic tasks and policies.
3. A complete Virtual Profile redirector that redirects the user profile at the driver level to a VHD mounted profile which avoids many of the problems with other profile solutions that have to take time to re-sync data. You can specify what data to redirect and more importantly what data not to redirect. Additionally this approach as the additional advantage of allowing multiple users to read their profile data asynchronously vs the normal Microsoft folder redirection that causes all files to be read one at a time (synchronously) for all users trying to login at the same time.
4. An application distribution system that relies on Microsoft’s proven NTFS and DFS file shares to deliver both application content and their meta data. This simplified approach means your workstations don’t ever have to communicate directly with the backend server(s). This means even if the database or administrative console goes down your users won’t be affected.
5. Applications are streamed from your NTFS file share automatically through VHD mounted volumes or they can be pre-cached overnight and installed almost instantly on demand.
6. We can redirect the workstation’s search database to the virtual profile VHD to prevent a newly created VM from having to reindex the entire profile. This can become a major problem in any VDI environment causing login slowness and requires a lot of expensive disk and network I/O.
7. Our solution does not depend on other third party solutions like ESX or Citrix. Our server system requirements are very small compared to some of our competitors.
8. Our framework can handle persistent or non persistent VDI, physical computers and laptops. The framework works on prem or in the cloud with services like GCP, Azure or AWS. Some customers find it useful to use the product both in the cloud and on prem at the same time to “transition” end users and their applications to the cloud over time.
9. Instead of investing in expensive local data centers, customers can move most of their infrastructure to the cloud and pay for just what they use.
Each Virtual Desktop is comprised of several groupings of files, registry settings and other data that all need to be managed differently. A base OS that needs to be upgradeable when Microsoft Patches come out or a new service pack. This Base OS layer needs to be kept separate from applications and user data so both new and existing users can grab any general Virtual Machine as a starting point. User data needs to be stored out on the network (prefereable as a mounted VHDx file). This lets the user roam from system to system without losing their data. Additionally customers typically train their end users to save data that is shared with a group to a common file share. Applications are usually also stored in VHDx mounted volumes in a format that lets the OS “install” it almost immediately without the user having to be aware that the installation took place. By combining user mounted data and application mounted VHDs, the end user shouldn’t even realize their new VM is new each time they log in. Finally, application settings can either be stored with the user profile or in a re-settable local cache that lets the administrator to be able to “reset” a specific application when needed.