14 Replies Latest reply: Jun 13, 2012 3:34 PM by 805861 RSS

    VDI best practices


      Is there any documentation that outlines best practices when implementing VDI, the install guides are great but they are just that; install guides...I'm looking for real life examples, worked out issues and such; case studies with instructions if you will. I've done the Google searches, but as with most things like this there are bits an pieces of the puzzle but none that I've found have start to finish examples.

      For instance, where would I go to look for documentation for the best way to convert an environment of about 100 or so Windows desktops (all together around 4-6 different templates), so that I have a near zero IT workload maintaining 4-6 different installs vs. 100 hardware desktops. Do I still need a WUS server...etc.

      My goal is near zero IT at least for the desktops. Has anyone gotten close?

      As an example; Creating templates - install guides work fine; but what is the best way to configure a template so that each clone gets registered (assuming a flexible pool is the best way to go) with AD, or does one have to go to each cloned machine and add it to the MS domain?

      What issues are there integrating all of the normal MS stuff with the VDI environment.

      I'll contribute what I find as I go along but if there is anyone out there with links to docs; I'm sure I'm not the only one that would appreciate it...thanks

        • 1. Re: VDI best practices
          Dave Smulsky

          I think your thought process is a little flawed. While you can implement VDI for 1 or 100 desktops being replaced, that doesn't mean you need near zero IT to support your users. Just because VDI works, and the template is solid still doesn't remove the human factor of supporting users (applications, etc).

          Maybe I just misunderstood that, but it sounds like you think VDI is replacing an IT desktop support which is far from the truth. In some respects you will need less IT because no more "physical" maintenance is required, etc.

          You wouldn't need a WSUS server IF you were planning on patching and re-cloning templates out - to do this you need to really pay attention to your templates and the software installed. As with many shops, users want a different apps that you didnt include in your templates which means recloning would "revert" those changes.

          You would want to have a WSUS or WSUS/SCCM setup to patch desktops IF you never planned on recloning desktops automatically.
          • 2. Re: VDI best practices

            Your right we still need someone to support the users, maintain the VDI install and the templates...etc; never achieving zero IT. What I want to eliminate or minimize is the make-work stuff...adds/moves/changes, and a whole host of other stupid stuff; so what's left is the high value help the business do their job time for IT.

            Our environment is locked down for the most part (health care), we don't allow user apps, installs, etc. Generally speaking we have no more than 6 different standard desktop environments, based on need to know access.

            What I'm hoping to discover is what does a model look like that supports this type of environment. It would seem to me that its easier than most (environments), but how does VDI apply. I'm still having some struggles with the RIO, as it appears its at least a $20k investment in additional software (100*150 {VDI} + 100*50 {VBox}) plus a couple of servers, then ongoing additional hardware (assuming Sun Ray boxes) and some more software for those; albeit that cost can trickle in as PC are replaced over time. Almost forgot, add maintenance into the equation, another 4k or so per year. So am I really going to gain back a whole person (3 month payback) in the first year, or is this really just another cool thing, (it is cool no doubt) that never has a payback. I'm not convinced, so again what I'm looking for is examples of setups, successes and case studies.

            What I've found so far is a ton of antidotes with very small scope and very little big picture experiences. Hopefully, someone has stumbled across some good information they would be willing to share.

            • 3. Re: VDI best practices
              Dave Smulsky
              You should talk to a VDI sales rep to get more solid pricing, because VDI is sold as a single VDI license per user.

              You would need to purchase servers, storage (shared if you can), 100 VDI licenses, 100 SunRays with hardware support. Its certainly a larger up front cost, but as we have witnessed, it ends up being cheaper than 1-off desktops, especially when you start taking desktop-hardware refresh/maintenance into equation, and that ROI gets larger when you start seeing how much less "desktop support" guys spend on "boots on the ground" type support. If a user destroys their machine, its just a single click to get them back up.

              I don't work for healthcare, but I do work for pharma and just in the last year we standardized on Oracle VDI/Sun Rays globally after very in-depth ROI studies. We have a similar audience, we have scientists that move around often, etc - it made sense.
              • 4. Re: VDI best practices
                daniel whitener
                Hey Ron

                I am running VDI environment in a healthcare setting... we are a 250 bed hospital. We have about 350 thin clients in service at the moment. I can tell you that your helpdesk calls for failed hard drives, noisy fans, viruses, etc, will largely disappear. That is one huge benefit. Problem with your "machine"? Here's a new one! There are some big benefits, but as you mentioned, costs as well. We have a 6 server VDI (sun ray) cluster, and a 15 host VMware cluster that runs the desktops. When you start looking at how Microsoft and your other vendors license VDI, you'll realize you're not saving any money there either. Whatever money you may save on helpdesk calls, you'll make up for it in server costs and licensing fees.

                For us, VDI is more about:

                1) user portability: sign in on 3rd floor, see patients, then move to 7th floor, see more patients and pick back up where you left off

                2) security: we disabled USB so no thumb drives, fewer viruses getting in that way, and if somebody steals a thin client out of a room, we don't care anymore

                3) consistency: the majority of our users use dynamic pool machines.. so if they get download a virus or some trash on their shift, it doesn't matter because when they log out, that machine gets reset to a clean snapshot. The apps that should work, always work consistently. And no more midnight machine cloning because someone in the ED trashed a machine earlier that day.

                So instead of cloning machines and replacing desktop hardware, you'll more likely start spending time planning VDI version upgrades, back-end server/storage upgrades, and dealing with remote access issues. In our environment, the desktop image management went from being something the desktop guys did to something the server guys do. They don't quite grasp the idea of snapshots and you don't want them screwing something up and 400 virtual desktops not working at once... talk about shutting down a hospital... not good.

                If you'd like to know more, I'd be happy to share either here or offline in a phone call or whatever you like. We've had it for a little more than 2 years now and it's doubling every year. This time next year we expect to have more than 600 thin clients deployed, and closer to 500 users.

                • 5. Re: VDI best practices

                  I definitely will bring in a sales guy, the pricing is a bit microsoftesk confusing. It looks like you pay for a VDI server per user (perpetual use down to 1 year...pricing changes), then VBox either per user or per socket, and then the Sun Ray box and software for it...add the maintenance at typical Oracle 22% and you have a 5 figure number.

                  I need to understand if the VBox license is concurrent or named so to speak...

                  I like the one-click fix, that's the stuff that turns into hours otherwise...thanks

                  • 6. Re: VDI best practices
                    Moderator Advice:
                    I'd be happy to share either here or offline in a phone call
                    Keep all information here in the forums.
                    Going offline would deprive others of learning through your observations and experiences.
                    It also obviates the whole premise of having a forum.
                    • 7. Re: VDI best practices
                      Dave Smulsky

                      VDI is a single license that entitles you to run the software (I think list is $150 per user - don't quote me.), it includes RTU Sun Ray, VirtualBox, and MySQL Enterprise cluster. You do not need to buy any other licensing. If you plan on using Oracle Enterprise Linux, you will want to buy that support license for the amount of servers you use, but that's something like $100 each per year (so 10 servers = 1k).
                      • 8. Re: VDI best practices
                        daniel whitener
                        According to what we've been told, there is the VDI license you mentioned, and then there is support on that license. Along the same lines, there is support for the server software as well. The Oracle licensing is the worst part of the entire product. Someone mentioned in a previous thread to simple "speak with a sales rep"... we have never had one in our area to speak with, and even some of the bigger resellers/partners aren't clear on the rules... we were told the wrong thing for years and only recently discovered what we now believe to be the correct answer.
                        • 9. Re: VDI best practices
                          Dave Smulsky
                          I hear that, some Oracle VDI sales people have no idea how to even quote it. Luckily we've been around that block a few times and it boils down to this:

                          All of these figures are list price- you will need to contact a sales rep to get things tuned for your enviroment:

                          OVDI Named User: $150
                          OVDI SW Update & Support: $33

                          Sun Ray 3: $249
                          Support: typically ~22% of cost of the device

                          Just assume this is the cost based on those list prices:

                          Licensing: $18.8k
                          Sun Ray: $30k

                          Total: $48.8k

                          Basically $488 for the hardware/support per seat + Windows VDA licensing (or outright Windows license purchases if you use windows (try Ubuntu!)).

                          Then add the cost of your infrastructure, then deduct whatever non-tangible costs (less IT labor, etc) to figure out if it makes sense. Keeping in mind while $$ matters, the infrastructure is easier to manage, easier to deploy, and not to mention saves power (4-6watts per Sun Ray)
                          • 10. Re: VDI best practices

                            I'm replying to this thread to make sure that everyone has the correct pricing on Oracle VDI and Sun Ray clients. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

                            OVDI Named User License List is indeed $150.
                            It includes: a RTU license, Oracle VBox as hypervisor, Sun Ray Software, and VDI broker and tools (One price, components complete and engineered together)
                            OVDI SW Update & Support is 22%, $33 per year

                            Sun Ray 3 thin client device is List of $249
                            Support enables you to access Firmware updates plus break fix assistance

                            Sun Ray 3 thin client Support is 12%, or roughly $30 per year and includes replacement if broken.
                            An 8% Support option is available if you do not want replacement coverage

                            Assume 100 users:

                            OVDI License at $150 + Sun Ray 3 Device at $249 = $399 $39,900 for 100

                            Support on License and device annually = $63.... and includes replacement if broken while under Support. $6,300 annually to Support 100 licenses and devices

                            Total of above in year 1 = $46,200

                            Not all Oracle Reps would know how to quote our desktop virtualization products...especially if their specialty is Database, Identiry, eBusiness suite etc...

                            I can help with connecting you to the right OVDI Rep! Send me a note for all things VDI and I will make sure you get to the right people!

                            • 11. Re: VDI best practices

                              I get it...everything you mentioned resonated. These are exactly the types of things we see everyday, even though we are not a hospital; (large billing, practice management, accounting firm). We have a mix of employees and clients who demand consistency and rightfully so, deserve it, and our current environment can't deliver it..even on its best day.

                              A couple of questions:

                              How big are the 6 VDI servers, cpu/memory
                              What do you have on the VM Cluster, is any of it dedicated to VDI or all other stuff (the usual admin, accounting, his, clinical...etc.)
                              Has performance, network, disk, user experience ever been an issue.

                              I'd like to take you up on a conversation...I promise the other forum members that we will publish the highlights.


                              To all who contributed on pricing...nice explanation. I was a little confused, thinking that it is a requirement to additionally license VirtualBox @$50 per user. That's a bit of a relief, $5k is $5k to be spent elsewhere.
                              • 12. Re: VDI best practices
                                daniel whitener
                                Hey Ron

                                Regarding the VDI servers, we could probably get by with less.. only a few months ago, we had only 3 and we were getting by. Then one day I took one down for maintenance and things got a little dicey for the users... but we were eeking by. Then we had some crazy network issue which I am blaming on our switches and so we lost one of the remaining two, leaving us with only one for 300+ thin clients. It didn't work out well... basically the system was unusable. So on that day I vowed to have enough servers to have one or two down for maintenance, and still have failover capacity. Luckily we were blessed with extra servers, so I doubled the server count and now I can take one down for maintenance or testing, and we still have plenty of space for any random failures, and the users will still be able to work fine. Hard lessons learned.

                                We are an Oracle hardware shop as well, so all 6 of those servers are some of their older blades... Sun/Oracle x6250 with 2x quad core 2.5ghz procs, and maxed out on ram at 64GB. In the VDI admin/install guide, they do a pretty good job of helping you size your VDI servers for the number of users. Pay attention to the number of users and the number of available cores in your servers. RAM is plentiful and cheap these days, so that's generally not an issue on the core VDI (sun ray) servers. And Oracle's ALP protocol the thin clients use is pretty optimized so network traffic is relatively low compared to other VDI vendors out there.

                                We are a VMware shop, so instead of vbox virtualization, we are doing VMware. Those are older blades from HP - hp bl460 g1 I believe. They are 2x dual core 2.2ghz and only 32gb of ram each. Our virtual desktops are stored on our SAN. Honestly we probably have plenty of extra space in this arena too... according to what VMware tells me, we could turn off close to half the blades and still be fine. This cluster is dedicated to VDI -- all our other virtual servers for the rest of the business live on other vmware clusters on separate hardware.

                                We maintain basically two types of desktop images... one, the dynamic desktop I referred to in an earlier post. Users log in, use the machine, and they get reset back to a clean state when they log out. There is nothing persistent and we have preloaded all the apps we know they will use. We have about 400 of this type sitting around available for us. The apps our clinical people use are pretty lightweight, so we get by fine with 512mb of ram and 1vcpu on XP SP3. Our second desktop image is a "static" desktop... basically it's assigned to a user and it remains theirs permanently until we blow it away. These are reserved for special people who use special software that is not preloaded on the dynamic desktop image. The more we try to expand use of VDI, the more we end up handing these out... we just have too many types of software and don't want to clutter up our clean little clinical desktop image. That image is XP SP3 again with 1GB of ram and 1vcpu. They also get a bigger 25GB hard drive to give them plenty of space for their special crapplications.

                                Our biggest bottleneck on the virtual desktop side is SAN I/O. Unfortunately we're forced to use full clones of these desktops rather than "linked cloning" or what you get with vbox and zfs which make much better use of disk space and I/O. I think we currently have most of this squeezed onto about 10 600gb 15krpm fibre channel drives and this is a bare minimum. We recently had an assessment that said we need to probably triple the number of spindles to get the proper I/O. This seems to be a trend in virtualization lately... space is not a problem with modern drives. The problem is that you can squeeze 60 virtual desktops on the space of one hard drive, which is a bad idea when you consider the performance you're going to get. Oh, and the ONLY way we have made this work thus far is by fine tuning our antivirus settings on the virtual desktops to not scan anything coming off the disk (which is clean because it was clean when I built the template). Before we did that, things were crawling and the SAN was doing 3x the I/O.

                                Again, read the install/admin guide if you haven't yet... I'm pretty sure they give some basic guidelines for storage sizing and performance which we should have read closer early on.

                                If you have other questions you think you'd like to talk about offline, you can send me an email at my personal address and we'll set something up - dwhitener at gmail dot com. Otherwise, keep the questions coming here and I'll give out whatever info I can.
                                • 13. Re: VDI best practices
                                  A couple of questions to add to the mix...

                                  What is the best configured memory size for XP, Win7...etc.

                                  What is the best networking setup, NAT, host...

                                  How do you avoid Windows activation issues (legally) when changes are made to VM's

                                  What is the best cloning setting reset, reuse, delete; and why?

                                  • 14. Re: VDI best practices
                                    What is the best configured memory size for XP, Win7...etc.
                                    - It depends. I think the most important thing for you to remember is that don't allocate way too much memory (wasting server memory and reducing scalability), but you don't want to allocate too little (swapping in VM is BAD for everyone when it's running in your data center.) So, best advise I can give you is to monitor the amount of memory being consumed with your daily usage.

                                    What is the best networking setup, NAT, host...
                                    - It also depends. NAT is great that the VMs do not consume DHCP addresses on my corporate LAN. However, if you have applications that require connecting into a VM, then you'll need to use bridged network.

                                    How do you avoid Windows activation issues (legally) when changes are made to VM's
                                    - Get the proper Volume License (if such a thing is still available from MS.)

                                    What is the best cloning setting reset, reuse, delete; and why?
                                    - This DEFINITELY depends. To minimize administration (and in a way maintaining optimum performance), I would tend to use dynamic desktop, and set to have it reverted back if idling for more than 4 to 5 hours. But you'll need to train users to save anything that's important to them outside of the VM (like a network share, or use folder redirection.) Any other desktop pools would be asking for "administration", which I am trying to avoid doing.

                                    Hope this helps.