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This blog has been created to share technical information, interesting innovations that I notice on daily basis and Architectural/Consulting overview of various technologies. My areas of interest, on which I would be blogging, are VMware, Microsoft and Citrix Technologies. I hope you will enjoy this blog and share your experience with me.

Disconnect, Log Off, and Reset option under VMware View vs. Windows 7 Virtual Desktop

Recently, some customers have been asking me: “What is the difference between the Disconnect, Reset, and Disconnect and Log Off options available under the VMware View client vs. the Log Off and Restart option under Windows 7 virtual desktop?”

ViewVSWin7

Well, the only way I can answer that is by comparing the two options in the following table:

Options under the VMware View Client

Options under the Windows 7/8 Desktop

  • Reset Desktop: When an end-user selects Reset Desktop under the VMware View Client, it shuts down and restarts the desktop. Any file that is open on the View desktop is closed without getting saved. Typically, this option is used when the desktop operating system stops responding. It is the equivalent of pressing the Reset button on a physical PC to force the PC to restart. The end-user will have to wait an appropriate amount of time for the system to start up before attempting to connect back to the View desktop.
  • Disconnect: When an end-user selects Disconnect under the VMware View Client, it disconnects the session immediately without logging off. But the applications that were running before the Disconnect would remain open when the end user logs in again. In the backend, the Desktop is switched on and consumes compute resources in the datacenter. The end user may notice that the re-connection to this desktop is extremely fast as the entire log-in procedure of the profile doesn’t take place and the disconnected session is picked and presented back to the user.

For example, if you have opened a Notepad or Word Document and typed something and pressed Disconnect. After the re-connection, you will see the same screen where you left the document.

  • Disconnect and Log Off: When an end-user selects Disconnect and Log Off under the VMware View Client, it disconnects the session immediately and further logs off without saving any open files or applications on the desktop. All important work is lost if the end user presses this option under the client. In the backend, the Desktop is in log-on screen (Ctrl-Alt-Del) and consumes compute resources in the datacenter. The end user may notice that it will take longer to login compared to the disconnect option, due to the normal Windows log-in process that takes place.

For example, if you have opened a Notepad or Word Document even for a second it will prompt you to Save the open files. However, in a couple of seconds the session force fully logs off and all the unsaved work is lost.

  • Log off: When an end-user selects Log off under the virtual Windows 7 desktop, it logs off the session but before that provides an option to save any open files and then logs off. There is even a choice to Force logoff, if the user decides not to save any open files.

For example, if you have opened Notepad or Word Document, it prompts you to save your work before logging off; once the work is saved, the user can initiate the log-off. There is an option to Force log off, if the user wishes not to save files.

  • Restart: When an end-user selects Restart under the virtual Windows 7 desktop, it restarts the desktop but before that it provides an option to save any open files and then restarts. There is even a choice to Force Restart, if the user decides not to save any open files and reboot the machine.

For example, if you have opened Notepad or Word Document it will prompt you to save your work before Restart. Once the work is saved; the user can initiate the reboot. There is an option to Force Restart, if the user wishes not to any save files.

I hope this information will help the customer in making the right choice and provide clarity on choosing the right option to disconnect/logoff/reset.

Feel free to post your comments down below.

Best Regards,
Aresh Sarkari

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DaaS/WaaS Service Providers: Time to Drink Your Own Champagne!!

Every Service Provider in the market today wants a piece of the DaaS/WaaS pie. Desktop-as-a-Service or DaaS and Workspace-as-a-Service or WaaS (fka VDI) are the newest buzzwords. I honestly feel it is high time we started drinking our own champagne. I believe all service providers should consume their DaaS/WaaS internally within their organizations first before proposing any such solution directly to customers. The Service Provider can analyze the perfect use case of using VDI within their own Contact Center and BPO divisions, where they can provide employees with Non-Persistent desktops and their managers with Persistent Desktops. They should also identify an engineering division with the requirement of a power user. Here, we can deploy dedicated 1x1 desktops. This will help Service Providers in understanding the VDI behavior, lessons learnt, best practices and cost effectiveness that can be shared with customers who would be consuming these services.

With DaaS/WaaS a new dimension of Desktop Management Services comes into play. In the traditional desktop management services, Image, Patch, Software Distribution (SD), and End-Point Security Protection were carried out on desktops/laptops within the enterprise. With DaaS/WaaS, all the desktop management pieces become central and are carried out within the Datacenter. I have been often asked what is the difference between traditional vs. DaaS/WaaS desktop management. Let me try and throw some light on these changes at a higher level.

Traditional Desktop Management

DaaS/WaaS

Comments

Image Management is typically done using Microsoft Deployment Tool (MDT). The image updating is carried out approx. 2-4 times in a year. Depending upon the customer, the number of Gold images ranges from 4-6 for each customer.

Image Management can be done using two options: MDT and New Virtual Machine Creation process. However, the image updating is the most critical process in VDI as any changes done to the image does not stick onto the desktop. The administrator has to update the image every now and then. The Service Provider and Customer need to decide how updated their image should be.

Mostly, there would be more than 20 + image updating tasks in a year per image*Number of Gold Images. They key is to minimize the number of Gold images.

Patch Management is typically carried out using WSUS/SCCM and pushed to end-points (Desktop/Laptop) on a weekly basis.

All operating system and application patches have to be updated using Image management process either via WSUS/SCCM. Again, Service Provider and Customer need to decide the acceptable number of days or weeks without the critical and important patches.

It is advisable to install all the critical patches bi-weekly.

Software Distribution is typically done using SCCM/Altiris where application packages are deployed to end-points (Desktop/Laptop) on individual work flow basis or organization wide.

All the applications either have to be baked into the Master Image or the app packages should be streamed to the virtual end-point in the datacenter using application virtualization techniques such as App-V, XenApp or ThinApp.

 

Endpoint Security Protection is done using an enterprise server from Symantec, MacAfee, etc. which distributes the updated signatures and using policies organization wide can performs a full scan of the end-point on a monthly basis.

Endpoint security protection is done using vShield or System Center Endpoint protection Manager and the latest signature updates are stored locally on individual ESX/Hyper-V host and the virus scanning processing is offloaded on the hypervisor level.

A full scan on the entire image has to be scheduled during bi-weekly or monthly downtime cycles.

 

For dedicated 1x1 desktops, the complete desktop management need to be done using the traditional tool set and the only difference is they would be virtualized and residing within the datacenter.

 

A lot of costing models on the Internet may hint at low-cost centralized management. However, one needs to remember that the entire process of desktop management is doubled in case of VDI. The advantage is all the tasks (distribution, scanning, etc.) have to be done within the Datacenter using server computing power against individual end-point compute or low network bandwidths. But by no means will it be cheaper than traditional Desktop management.

I would like to summarize that by using DaaS/WaaS internally, Service Provider will get answers to many unknown questions that one may face today.

How frequently should we update our Master Images?
How many times within a month do we need to execute the Full Scans?
How effectively are end-users able to use applications using app virtualization?
How frequently do we need to clean-up data on the storage array for the Non-persistent and Persistent desktops?
How frequently the end-users run out of personal disk space?
How long does a maintenance activity on the VDI infrastructure take for 1000/2000 desktops? How to plan maintenance activities in big deployments?
Is the solution working out cost effective for them compared to traditional desktop?

All these and more can be answered by just one simple exercise: Drinking our own DaaS/WaaS offerings (oops! Champagne!)

I hope this blog post is informative. Feel free to leave your comments in the section below.

Best Regards,
Aresh Sarkari

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How to activate Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise without Internet Connection

Recently, I faced a situation in which I had to activate Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise which didn’t have internet connection. In the earlier days of Windows 2003 there was a Phone Activation option within the wizard. However, in the current edition Windows 2008 onwards the option doesn’t exist.

I am going to show you the steps involved in quickly activated Windows Server 2008 onwards over the Phone using the following command line parameters:

  • Start –> Run –> Command Prompt right click and “Run as a administrator”
  • Type the following command to retrieve the Product Installation id slmgr.vbs /dti (A pop-up windows will appear with a long string of digits)
  • Call the Microsoft activation centers as per your locations from this Microsoft Activation Centers link
    • I used the India number 1800 11 11 00 or 1800 102 1100
  • Provide the Installation ID to the customer care representative and they will provide a Confirmation Number (A long sting of numbers)
  • Type slmgr.vbs /atp <confirmation number> (without <>) at the command prompt and you will receive a pop-up that your Windows have been activated successfully
  • To confirm your activation type the following command slmgr.vbs /dli

Go to your Server Manager and you will be able to see the Windows Server 2008 R2 activated Smile.

If you find this post useful, please provide your comment down below

Best Regards,
Aresh
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Comparison of VMware View 5.2 VS Citrix XenDesktop 5.6

Recently I attended the VMware Partner Exchange 2013 and there was a session called “Technical Battleground – View VS XenDesktop”. In this post I will try and cover the differences that VMware showcased during their session and I am going to add an additional column for my comments and thoughts on this comparison.

The following table shows the feature comparison between View and XenDesktop:

VMware View 5.2

XenDesktop 5.6 (XD)

My Comments

Uses only VMware Hypervisor. Use the power of vSphere 5.1 with capabilities such as Fault tolerance, VMotion and Site Recovery Manager

No tight integration with Hypervisor and flexible with XenServer, vSphere and Hyper-V

I seriously feel it’s better to have multiple hypervisor support. That way you have the choice to: stick with the current hypervisor the company runs and manages;   use lower cost alternative hypervisors; or use a hybrid hypervisor model

Content based Read Cache (CBRC) feature available on vSphere using RAM cache

IntelliCache feature available on XenServer using Local Storage caching

This feature is only available for pooled desktop delivery method. CBRC and IntelliCache have their own share of pros and cons.  However, CBRC will be faster because it’s based out of RAM. This feature is very vSphere specific

View Composer Array Integration – Offloading the creation of linked clones to the storage array

Not Available (**Can be made available using vSphere + XD 5.6 but not sure if Citrix will support it)

This feature is more related to storage array functioning with the hypervisor. VMware (vSphere) and a few other storage vendors (EMC and NetApp) have coded specific drivers to offload the creation of linked clones process from the hypervisor level to storage array. Very limited vendors  and new arrays would have such capabilities

Sparse Virtual Disk – space reclaiming (deleted files) on the virtual machines

Not Available (**Can be made available at the storage array level provided any OEM supports and has tested features with XD )

Using this feature you can surely save some expensive storage space by deleting unwanted old files.

vShield security & hypervisor offload

 

Offloading Antivirus architecture capabilities is available with all leading hypervisors today such as Hyper-V, XenServer and vSphere. Vendors such as MacAfee Move and TrendMicro Deep Security provide hypervisor level security

Single console to manage the entire View environment using View Management Manage

Multiple consoles such as Desktop Studio, Provisioning Services,

Current versions of XD 5.6 for sure has many consoles to manage. But Citrix has overcome the problem in the next version (Excalibur) where there is a single console to manage desktop and application delivery

Cheaper View licensing cost

 

Yes the list price for View is cheaper than the XenDesktop license for all variants such as enterprise and platinum etc. However, one has to evaluate various use cases before making the choice of the products

E.g. The Citrix Provisioning services can reduce the storage cost by 30% VS Machine Creation Services  

VMware Compared a 10,000 desktop reference architecture published on the Citrix website and claimed they are:

-          42% less Storage than XD

-          19% few servers than XD

 

No detail was given as to which Citrix XD architecture they were comparing View to.

Virtual 3D Graphics over WAN and LAN

Similar capabilities of 3D GPU sharing using OpenGL available with XenDesktop

VMware said there was no 3D GPU sharing/virtualization within XD. However it is available within XD

A website that gives detailed information about VMware’s competition

www.whychooseview.com

Citrix Flexcast & Project Accelerator websites where you can get more information

http://project.citrix.com/

VMware is the only vendor which has public information on competition on their website compared against Citrix, Dell etc. A detailed comparison of VDI products is carried out by ProjectVRC in their VDI Smackdown

 

In this study, VMware compared View 5.2 (which is only 2 month old) with XenDesktop 5.6 (which is 1.2+ years old).  In most of the cases, the highlighted feature is not part of View itself, but a VMware vSphere hypervisor capability instead. Almost 80% of the vSphere hypervisor features can be extended to XD, but it will become a very expensive solution.

How this study will change in the months to come: Citrix has announced the Excalibur version which is in technical preview since Citrix Synergy 2012 and will include both XenApp, XenDesktop, Provisioning Services and Profile Management capabilities and will be served as a single product just like the Horizon suite from VMware.

I hope this provides a good insight on View and XenDesktop features side by side. If you found this blog post useful. Do leave your comments below

Thanks,
Aresh Sarkari

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A comparative analysis of application delivery methods - XenApp vs. ThinApp vs. App-V

What is application virtualization? I am attempting to answer this oft-asked question here. Besides application virtualization, let us look at various other methods of delivery too. The minor differences between vendors and their capabilities often confuse our decision-making. Let us see how my blog helps in addressing these questions and more.

Let us first understand what the different types of Application Models are.

Traditional Application Deployment

Session Hosted Applications (SHA)

Application Virtualization (AV)

The application is installed locally on to individual desktops and laptops, either using manual or ESD methods

The application is installed on the server and only the screen pixels, keyboard and mouse clicks are sent back and forth between the server and the client

The application is separated from the OS, aka profiling, and installed in a virtual container. The entire package is stored at a fileserver from where it is streamed to the client or the server

Streamed to Server - The applications are put in profiles and stored on a file server; however, when launched, they stream to the server

Streamed to Client - The applications are put in profiles and stored on a file server. When launched, the files required to execute the application are streamed to the user device

All the compute processing takes place on the local desktop and laptop

All the compute takes place on the servers within the datacenter

All the compute may take place on the server or the client, depending upon the streaming method selected

Application compatibility required for various endpoint operating systems

There are chances of application conflicts as multiple applications are hosted on the same server

Application Isolation can be achieved and no fear of application conflicts

Application updates required for individual desktops and laptops using manual or ESD techniques

Application updates required on all remote desktop servers hosting the application within the datacenter

Application updates required on the single application profile

 

Vendor - XenApp

Vendor - XenApp, App-V and ThinApp

Vendors

There are mainly three popular vendors within this space: Citrix XenApp, VMware ThinApp, and Microsoft App-V.

Citrix XenApp: Industry’s oldest and no. 1 vendor for application delivery since last 23 years. The biggest differentiator that XenApp holds over its competition is the Session Hosted Applications, which is a proven and effective delivery method for incompatible, complex and cost effective applications. This delivery method is delivered using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Service. XenApp is also capable of application virtualization. This tool is considered to be an end-2-end application delivery. This software integrates with XenDesktop to provide Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) in which applications (SHA and AV) and desktop both can be seamlessly delivered to an end-user.

VMware ThinApp: A VMware tool used to perform application virtualization. The biggest differentiator that ThinApp holds over its competition is the Offline application delivery, Agentless, and portable apps in USB and removable storage devices. This software is integrated with View to provide Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) in which AV and desktop both can be seamlessly delivered to an end-user.

Microsoft App-V: A Microsoft tool used to perform application virtualization. The biggest differentiator that App-V holds over its competition is the centralized consoles and its marriage like integration with SCCM and other Microsoft products. This software is often the best choice with respect to cost ratio (if, and only if, you want to do application virtualization) and can be head-on compared against ThinApp.

Comparison of XenApp VS App-V VS ThinApp: (Source PQR Application Virtualization Smackdown v4 2013):

clip_image002

Important Note: The complete comparison is not detailed here. Whatever seemed important enough functionalities to me, I have listed them here, which can be used as a cheat sheet. However, the complete comparison can be found here; thanks to Ruben Spruijt, CTO – PQR  for developing such a document for the public.

My Recommendations

After going through the various application delivery methods and features comparison, I would recommend understanding the various business cases the customer is trying to solve. Few of my recommendations are as follows:

  • If you are looking for an end-2-end application, delivery product then there is only one player, XenApp, as it can do all Hosted Session Applications and Application Virtualization (there may be few pros and cons, but that’s true for every product)
  • If you plan to use XenDesktop, then using XenApp for application delivery makes better sense as the complete integration works like a charm
  • If you plan to use View, then using ThinApp for application delivery is a good choice. However, you will miss the favorite and most used feature of XenApp – Session Hosted Applications. The complete integration is a good choice.
  • Do not mix n match these products like XenApp and ThinApp, as this would unnecessary increase the cost and add more complexity to the solution. One or two feature trade-off is normal but think about ongoing maintenance and unknown issues going forward due to integration of multiple vendors!
  • Costing is another crucial factor in making the choice. I would recommend, weigh the pros n cons of each vendor and then make your choice based upon the features and business problems you are trying to solve
  • If you cannot afford expensive products like XenApp and ThinApp, I would highly recommend using App-V would be the best bet for value for money.

If you like this post and find it useful, please drop in your comments here.

Best Regards,
Aresh Sarkari

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“DATASWIPE” Application idea for the smartphones

Last month I submitted an idea @ Nokia Your Wish is my Command Contest. Unfortunately my idea was not selected due to poor responses of likes on Facebook since the user was required to allow Nokia application to access his or hers Facebook profiles and my dear techie friends refrained from doing that and did not caste votes for me.

On the lighter side I thought let me post this idea to my personal blog and see if there are any enthusiast to build an application which could be a solid Hit in the enterprise and consumer markets.

Challenges

There have been a lot of recent incidents in which group of data thieves spread across the country have been recovering data from old smartphones in which people think they have deleted all their data. But unfortunately these data robbers have been extracting people information and selling them to marketing\advertisement companies and adult websites with intimidating personal photos and videos.

In this modern era all smartphones have a lot of built-in storage of approx. 8-16-32 GB’s. The latest trend amongst the current generation is to change their smartphones every year. The 80% on the normal (technology challenged) end-user end up selling or exchanging phones by simply removing the SD card thinking they have all the personal data however, they forget that Smartphone has built-in 8-16-32 GB storage which might hold a lot of their other personal data. In the case of the remaining 20% extremely smart (technology champs) end-users they would perform a factory reset on the phone before selling or exchanging their phones in the market. The mindset is if you press the factory reset all the data is wiped and the phone behaves like new or out of the box.

With data privacy concerns this app will make sure the personal data is actually removed & irretrievable from the phone.

My App Idea: (AppName: DataSwipe)

My app would permanently wipe all data such as Files, Photos, Emails, Videos, Contacts, Music etc. from the phone flash storage/SD cards with a single click & even make it unrecoverable through any data recovery software. Ease of use & less complexity of the app will make it viable to consumers & enterprise markets.

Let me know, if you like this idea and point me to someone who would be interested in developing the same.

If you like this post please leave your comments down below.

Best Regards,
Aresh Sarkari

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