Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has come a long way in the past few years. In short, VDI is the practice of hosting one or more virtual desktop operating systems on a desktop operating system. The desktop OS is referred to as the host, and the virtual systems are referred to as virtual machines, virtual images, and sometimes just virtual applications. You can run an instance of Windows 7 as the host OS.
Then, within the Windows 7 host, you can run other operating systems such as Windows XP, another virtual machine running Windows 7, and a third running Windows Server 2008. With the cheap but abundant processing power built into desktop computers, using VDI is now being seriously considered an alternative to Remote Desktop Services (RDS). Desktop computers rarely use much of their processing power, and VDI applications and operating systems can provide distinct isolation from the host OS.
Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services in Windows) can be configured on a server to allow users to run individual applications or entire desktops over a network From the users' perspective, the application or desktop appears to be running on their individual system but is actually running on a server.
Microsoft introduced Windows Virtual computer (VPC) with Windows 7. This was previously known as Microsoft Virtual computer and was often used by administrators, technical trainers, and students. It's been available as a free download for years. If you've used Microsoft Virtual computer, you'll notice similarities with Windows Virtual computer, but the underlying technology provides some significant improvements. VPC is not just for techies anymore. It can be installed and configured for regular users to run applications in virtual isolated environments using Windows XP Mode. It can be used to host applications running on other operating systems. It can even be used to host a dual-boot system using virtual hard disk files.
The choice between a complete physical environment and a hybrid physical and VDI environment requires considering several different elements related to how the VDI environment will be used. These include the following:
There are several things to consider with existing hardware. First, if it's 32-bit, you're limited to no more than 4 GB of RAM. You're much better off if the hardware is 64-bit and has more than 4 GB of RAM. Second, if the processor doesn't support virtualization, or the BIOS doesn't support virtualization, you won't be able to use Windows XP Mode. However, you can still use virtual machines.
VDI environments require more resources. These include newer processors and more RAM. However, if the computer supports it, the environment may allow you to remove another computer. I've worked in some environments where users had to maintain two computers - one to do most of their work and another for legacy applications. Two computers cost more to maintain than one; this includes more electricity and more cooling power. Many companies consider VDI environments a "greener" alternative.
Most computers will have only a single network interface card (NIC). This NIC will be shared with the VDI machines. If the virtual machines are connected to the network and have a lot of network activity, you may want to consider upgrading the NIC.
Windows XP Mode requires a minimum of 1.6 GB of disk space. If you start adding additional virtual machines, you'll find that they take significantly more. A Windows Server 2008 virtual hard disk takes about 6 GB with an initial installation, and Windows 7 takes about the same. These are dynamically expanding disks, so as more is installed or added to the virtual systems, they will take more and more space.
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Note: This article was sent to us by: Aaron C. Ledlan at 09152010
1. Signed drivers under Windows 7
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