Sep 23 2010

Client-Side Virtualization

Client-side virtualization offers potential for putting truly hardened devices in the hands of mobile and desk-bound users.

It’s quite common when thinking about virtualization technology to focus on the server side. But moving forward, it’s the client side that will take on a greater role in deploying new operating systems, maintaining those systems, and ensuring their stable and secure use.

A popular virtualized client environment includes a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) running on a thin client or zero client, with a connection back to a data center of virtualized clients. Although the VDI approach is a solid one, it’s worth considering alternatives. Why? Because mobile users, for instance, need an OS that travels with them and isn’t completely dependent on a steady Internet connection to ensure remote desktop functionality.

New desktop and notebook computers now include built-in Type-1 hypervisor support, making it easier to power virtualization from within the devices themselves. The problem, however, with native hypervisor support is that a native hypervisor needs to be able to “talk” to various graphic cards, network and storage adapters, and so forth. The server world certainly has a lot less to worry about in terms of diversity than the client world does, making a native client hypervisor a bit tricky.

Nevertheless, solutions are finally arriving. There are three essential aspects to planning ahead for the bare-metal, client-side virtualization world that’s unfolding:

First: You have to identify a manufacturer that is designing both the hypervisor and the backend management solution for the client systems that will help you create, update, deploy and manage your enterprise VMs easily. An example is Citrix System’s XenClient. Built using XenServer technology, XenClient allows for multiple desktop systems to run as VMs on the hypervisor.

Second: You have to consider the hardware that may be necessary to ensure a smooth rollout. Not all systems perform equally well. For example, with the XenClient solution, systems running the Intel vPro technology are ideal because that’s what XenClient is built upon. Imagine the cleanest system possible considering both the hardware and software that will be used.

Third: Ensure that the cost of the virtualization solution you choose is justified for your environment. Needs and wants are two separate things in this recession-battered world, so you have to look at total cost of ownership and return on investment.

In considering where the benefits lie for a large-scale deployment of bare-metal systems (both desktop and notebook systems), there is a greater level of control achieved when you have a management solution that can provide the following:

  • an easy way to deploy OS updates or predefined VMs to users;
  • a secure connection to the data center to ensure data backup;
  • a quick way to remotely disable any system that is lost or stolen.

The bare-metal client is going to become the norm in modern IT. It’s time to start investigating your options. Pick a platform you can trust, with a solid reputation for support and product excellence, and go bare.

J. Peter Bruzzese is triple-MCSE, MCT and MCITP: Messaging certified. He’s also an Exchange 2010 instructor for technology training firm Train Signal and the mind behind ExclusivelyExchange.

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