By: Robert Baesman, Director of Product Management, VMware End User Computing
Several months back, I got up in this forum to talk about some good stuff for the branch office from our friends at Riverbed. As part of that discussion, I described a tech-preview of a VDI deployment architecture where the virtual desktops themselves are distributed to servers in the branch, while management stays centralized at the datacenter. Well, today I’m excited to announce that we’re moving out of tech-preview and into full support of distributed branch architectures with partners like Riverbed, Cisco and others.
The first solution to come to market in this space is indeed from Riverbed Technologies. You can read all about it in the press release.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this announcement, but what I’m going to focus on right now is the potential of this new architecture itself.
If you look at the way virtual desktops are typically accessed from a branch office, it’s a centralized desktop model, and that has many benefits. However, it’s a well known fact that not all WANs are created equal, and there are times when in spite of the appeal of VDI, and its potential security, business agility and OPEX benefits for branch offices, a centralized desktop model just isn’t feasible due to the unreliability or latency of the network connection to the datacenter.
Enter a distributed desktop architecture for VDI with VMware Horizon View! In this model, we keep the management components like Virtual Center and the Horizon View Connection Server up in the datacenter so that the admin view of the world remains unified. However, we setup an ESXi server in the branch which now hosts the virtual desktop VMs themselves. When a user in the branch subsequently connects to their desktop, they initially authenticate with the datacenter to gain desktop access, but from that point forward, the actual PCoIP™ remote desktop connection goes straight from their client to the VM running in the closet down the hall. So end user productivity remains high, even if the connection back to the datacenter could never deliver a satisfactory experience.
So why haven’t we done this before? So glad you asked! In VMware Horizon View 5.2 we explicitly did some work on the Horizon View Agent. This is the bit of Horizon View that runs inside your guest VM and connects to the mother-ship so to speak – it’s what makes a random Windows VM a true, Horizon View virtual desktop so to speak. Well, we took that thing, made a few tweaks and tested the heck out of it to make sure it works well – even it if it is separated from its parent Connection Server by a high latency, and potentially unstable WAN. The result is that we are now ready to support partner solutions like this one with Riverbed.
And how do partners like Riverbed and Cisco fit in? Well, it’s one thing to stick a virtual desktop in a remote office and wish it well. It’s still another to have a truly wonderful experience for both end users and administrators. Now that the virtual desktops are in the branch, they can suffer from all the ailments that classical desktops in the branch face – e.g. slow web connections, email download times, etc. So it’s great to accelerate this with traditional WAN acceleration solutions. What’s more, I haven’t yet mentioned how the virtual desktop images make it down to the branch… Without a partner solution, IT admins would be left on their own to figure this out, and I can already tell you that VMware won’t advise rigging up a View Composer based linked-clone and trying to drive a standard provisioning operation with many GBs trying to flow out to the branch as the disk image gets transferred – alas that just doesn’t work. This is where Riverbed’s Granite™ technology comes in: they’re able to optimize the movement of large amounts of data (virtual disks), and cache it securely in the branch for optimal Horizon View desktop operation. Pretty cool!
So bottom line, the end user computing possibilities for the branch office just keep getting better. VMware’s branch office desktop solution just got a big additional dose of cool with this latest announcement from our friends at Riverbed, and I fully expect the goodness to just keep on coming.