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Vol. 17, #45 - November 5, 2012 - Issue #904
This week's issue of WServerNews puts the focus on VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) as an alternative to the traditional desktop computing architecture. If you're a sysadmin then you have THE POWER to decide whether to deploy VDI or not within your organization. But as the saying goes, with GREAT POWER comes GREAT RESPONSIBILITY:
We've still been getting some feedback concerning our Tip of the Week in Issue 902 about RAID arrays. Todd, an IT manager in Illinois, had this to suggest based on his personal experience with RAID:
Even though this is not well known, I highly recommend that a "consistency check" be run periodically on all RAID arrays. This provides early detection and repair of inevitable parity and block errors. This will prevent the nightmare of an entire array being lost due to the accumulation of too many such errors. I know, I've been there...
Yeah, I feel your pain.
Along a bit of a tangent, a reader named Peter offered up some additional food for thought:
In line with your articles about large computing storage requirements and RAID, I read an article this weekend in a British Sunday Paper (I don't remember which, and I cannot find it online) about the data storage requirements for the astronomical research projects with large arrays of radio telescopes. This article was suggesting that discs were not adequate for the large amounts of data, and also that the number of discs required would create too much heat and require too much power. The article was suggesting that tape storage would make a comeback for this. I have a problem with this in understanding how you would access easily data that is stored on an tape that is no longer mounted, and also wondering why discs that are not full cannot be switched off, as long as there is an index disc that can cause a disc to be switched back on when it's data is required. I suppose that this article answers my concerns:
What do other readers think about this? Is tape backup dead? Or will it come roaring back because of exponentially rising data archiving requirements? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any thoughts on the matter.
Some questions from a reader
Finally, a reader named Aaron sent us several questions, one of which we think we can answer but the others we're not sure about so we're throwing them out to our readership for help. Here is Aaron's email along with a few interpolations by myself:
I'm not sure if these are suggestions for newsletter content or simply questions for you, but I thought I'd try asking anyway.
Please do! We always welcome questions from readers, and if we can't answer any them we'll ask WServerNews readers for their help!
1) Remember Google Groups and how useful they were when it came to researching fixes to Microsoft Windows Server issues? About 5-8 years ago Google pulled the plug on them and as hard as I've tried I cannot find a good replacement resource. There are numerous 'sign up for an account with us' and fee based forums out there (many of them scams) but I'm wondering if anyone has found a good replacement to the speed, contributor base, or usefulness of the old Google Groups forums?
I would have to say that your go-to place for discussing issues relating to Microsoft products would have to be the Microsoft TechNet Forums:
You'll need to sign into the forums with a Windows Live ID in order to post questions, but the forums are free and they're manned by Microsoft MVPs and also various experts who work inside Microsoft.
2) As an IT Administrator for a small to mid-sized company I'm always looking for cost-effective ways to handle IT job tracking. Solutions like Blue Ocean's Track It are over-the-top for an operation our size and I'm wondering what others may be using. Ideally I would like to find a solution that can be accessed from a desktop on the company's windows network, as well as via a smartphone app. Not necessarily a billing application but more of a categorical time/resource-based application that can be used to track what IT jobs/projects/requests you're working on during the day, how much time was spent on each, what category it falls into (customizable categories available), and then some form of monthly/quarterly/annual reporting built in. I've custom developed a work order system in the past but do not want to re-create the wheel when there may be other solutions out there. Maybe even a cloud-based and/or pay-for-service type solution exists? The ultimate goal is to report to upper management and drive IT workforce sizing decisions.
Can any of our readers help out with this? Email me at email@example.com and I'll share your responses in the next issue.
3) I'm wondering what solutions may exist and what others may be using in terms of workforce collaboration via e-mail? I'm trying to find a collaboration tool that ties together customer and staff e-mail communication (Microsoft Exchange), a customer response status dashboard, desktop dashboard access, and smartphone dashboard access (Windows Mobile/iPhone). The primary goal of the workforce collaboration tool is to funnel customer-to-staff communication into a consolidated dashboard and prevent customer communication from falling through the cracks created by staff changes and availability.
Maybe our readers can suggest something here as well, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you've found a solution that meets some or all of these requirements.
I apologize if this is off-base from WServerNews content, but thought it worth asking considering your expertise and resources.
Thanks, your apology is accepted...just kidding!!
Thanks again for all the great content!
Let's start at the beginning.
What is VDI?
To answer this question, let me quote from a semi-authoritative book by a so-called expert in the field (yeah, that's me):
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is an emerging alternative to the traditional PC-based desktop computing paradigm. With the VDI approach, users access secure, centrally managed virtual desktops running on virtualization hosts located in the datacenter. Instead of having a standard PC to work with, VDI users typically have less costly thin clients that have no hard drive and only minimal processing power.
A typical environment where the VDI approach can provide benefits might be a call center where users work in shifts using a shared pool of client devices. In such a scenario, VDI can provide greater flexibility, more security, and lower hardware costs than providing each user with his or her own PC. The VDI approach can also bring benefits to organizations that frequently work with contractors because it eliminates the need to provide contractors with PCs and helps ensure that corporate intellectual property remains safely in the datacenter. A help desk also benefits from the VDI approach because it's easier to re-initialize failed virtual machines remotely than with standard PCs.
Although implementing a VDI solution may be less expensive than provisioning PCs to users, VDI can have some drawbacks. The server hardware for virtualization hosts running virtual desktops must be powerful enough to provide the level of performance that users have come to expect from using desktop PCs. Networking hardware must also be fast enough to ensure that it doesn't become a performance bottleneck. And in the past, deploying and managing virtual desktops using previous Windows Server versions has been more complex than deploying and managing PCs because it requires deploying RDS with Hyper-V in your environment.
You can read more in Chapter 5 of my free ebook Introducing Windows Server 2012 RTM Edition from Microsoft Press, which you can download in PDF, EPUB and MOBI format using the links on this blog post:
What about session virtualization?
But is VDI really so different from session virtualization? Session virtualization is where users connect to sessions running on a Remote Desktop Session Host (what used to be called a Terminal Server in Windows Server 2008 and earlier) so they can run remote applications (called RemoteApp programs) or work within session-based remote desktop environments.
At first glance the underlying difference between VDI and session virtualization seems merely architectural. Specifically, VDI provides users with virtual desktops that are virtual machines running on Hyper-V hosts. By contrast, session virtualization provides users with remote desktops and/or programs running on a RD Session Host or a Terminal Server.
However, VDI and session virtualization both have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of ease of implementation and management, performance and reliability, the user experience delivered, and CapEx and OpEx costs. As a result of these differences, deploying VDI makes more sense in certain scenarios and session virtualization in others. And there may even be scenarios where deploying both can make sense from a business perspective.
Rather than go into more detail on all this here, I'll simply refer you to a whitepaper I wrote awhile back for the virtualization team inside Microsoft. The whitepaper is titled "Achieving Business Value through Microsoft VDI Together with Session Virtualization" and although it deals with VDI and session virtualization solutions based on Windows Server 2008 R2, most of what is described also applies to Windows Server 2012. You can download my whitepaper from the Microsoft Download Center here:
Some VDI solutions
Microsoft of course provides an in-box VDI solution in their Windows Server platform, and with Windows Server 2012 deploying VDI is considerably easier than in previous versions of the platform. For a quick overview of how VDI deployment works in Windows Server 2012, see the previously mentioned chapter from my free ebook. If you're still running Windows Server 2008 R2 and want deploy VDI, you can find a quick overview of the implementation process in the TechNet Wiki here:
Citrix has several VDI solutions including their VDI-in-a-Box that provides an easy and affordable way for businesses of any size to quickly leverage the benefits of the VDI approach:
For enterprise-level customers, Citrix XenDesktop can deliver Windows desktops and applications to users anywhere on almost any device:
VMware of course is a big player in the desktop virtualization market as well:
And even Cisco is getting into the act:
Are there other VDI solutions you think I should have mentioned? Email me at email@example.com
And for additional links to VDI resources, see the Tech Briefing section of this newsletter.
Send us feedback
Have you implemented VDI in your organization? Or thinking maybe of doing so? What are your thoughts about VDI as an alternative to the traditional desktop computing model? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A reader recently asked me what the most popular tools are for deploying Windows Server at large companies. I asked some deployment geeks inside Microsoft about this and they all recommended using MDT 2012 Update 1 and moving away from home-grown solutions. One individual working for Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) responded in a bit more detail as follows:
I did a Windows 2003 to 2008 upgrade last year at our biggest customer in [obfuscated] and I used MDT to build the reference image. In this case, the customer did not want to use Configuration Manager to deploy server images due to process and logistical reasons and they opted to deploy it to USB keys. This was still a huge improvement for them as they simply relied on build books prior to creation of the image.
I am also working with a colleague of mine to develop a Windows Server upgrade image at one of the largest companies in [obfuscated] right now. This image is a Windows Server 2012 member server build. The customer just accepted we go with MDT as well for image development and a combination of MDT and WDS for image deployment. This customer does use MDT and Configuration Manager for their existing 2003 image development and deployment. MDT / WDS is preferred for WS2012 only because their Configuration Manager 2007 infrastructure doesn't support WS2012.
Got tips of your own that you'd like to share with our readers? Email me at email@example.com
This week we step away from IT (sort of) and wade into the business world with a couple of new titles from McGraw-Hill:
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Second Edition is probably a must-read for system engineers who work under manipulative, micromanaging pointy-headed bosses. What I especially like about this book are the scenarios the author uses to emphasis his points. Highly recommended.
The Career Lattice: Combat Brain Drain, Improve Company Culture, and Attract Top Talent helps you discover what you need to do to advance up the corporate ladder of your organization. Embracing change is always difficult, but by evolving our thinking it can become easier not just to see what's possible but also to realize it.
The Virtual Executive: How to Act Like a CEO Online and Offline is not just for CEOs but for anyone who has any kind of management responsibility within an organization, especially if you travel a lot or work remotely. The author provides practical, tested advice on how to make the best use of your time using different types of online communications.
Evgeny Mishin is an IFBB professional bodybuilder from St. Petersburg, Russia. In a recent issue of Muscular Development Magazine, he shared the following story:
"I had nobody in NY when I stayed after the competition...it was Night of Champions. I slept on the bench in Central Park. Police guys always tried to talk to me but I did not speak English. I showed my tourist visa and my pictures from the show. I was brushing my teeth in a fountain and took a shower at the cheap gym...I showed them my pro card and pictures so they let me in for free and I washed my clothes there. I did not have money for about a month. I was eating food in McDonald's that people left, some burgers, and I asked for some rice in Chinese places. After 2 months, I got job."
I guess sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes.
You can check out Evgeny's website here:
And be sure to "like" his Facebook page:
Until next week,
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SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor delivers agentless performance and availability monitoring, alerting, and reporting for hundreds of applications and hardware types. Download a 30 day trial now
Installing Hyper-V? Keep this installation checklist by your side
Metalogix Archive Manager – Files Edition is an easy-to-install, easy-to-use and transparent solution to optimize, consolidate and de-duplicate your Windows File environment and save on storage costs. Free trial download here:
View Cisco device configurations, real-time spanning tree information, network maps, and more with this free tool:
Contact Michael Vella at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your conference or other event listed in our Events Calendar.
Learn what archiving functionality to expect in Exchange 2013. Should you use or update your third-party archiving solution? Join Osterman Research and GFI Software for a new, educational webinar. Drawing for new iPad for one registrant.
Contact Michael Vella at email@example.com to get your webcast listed in our Webcasts Calendar.
Here are some VDI resources you may want to take note of:
Microsoft Virtual Academy now offers nine free Windows Server 2012 courses with the release of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) training:
Anthony Burke shares his thoughts concerning high availability on the Cisco Inferno blog:
Get answers to frequently asked questions about managing end user access to, and usage of, the Windows Store within your organization:
Sander Berkouwer has created a helpful checklist for administrators thinking about migrating to Windows 8:
Learn how Windows To Go can help you provide users with bootable USB storage devices containing a copy of Windows 8, along with their business apps, data, and settings:
Download a free 90-day evaluation of Windows 8 Enterprise to explore the newest features firsthand and start testing your apps, hardware, and deployment strategies.
Find Microsoft tools for Windows Server 2012 that you can use to administer security technologies and address ongoing threats to your computers and network:
A private cloud can introduce many significant benefits to your organization, however, building and maintaining this environment is no simple task. Access this exclusive resource to discover five essential steps to take to streamline the process and ensure private cloud success.
When making plans to implement VDI, it's essential to consider the impact it will have on your network and storage systems. Fortunately, leveraging advanced VDI storage arrays can help you effectively prepare both systems for the move. Find out how in this essential tip.
Both Microsoft and VMware offer the advanced shared nothing feature for virtual machine (VM) migration. Find out how you can leverage this capability to improve VM mobility, reduce downtime, boost availability and much more.
The next-generation features that VMware vSphere offers can introduce many new opportunities and benefits to your organization. However, to fully leverage this platform, proper network configuration is essential. In this exclusive tip, discover best practices for rolling out a virtual network with vSphere.
The professional way to transport and unload paper rolls. Simple, easy and fun - the German solution:
Designed in 1971, the Lamborghini Countach still turns more heads on the street than most other super sports cars:
Hang gliding master pilot and advanced instructor Ryan Voight doing amazing loops, rolls and aerobatics:
From the unique perspective of one of its F/A 18 escort jets, here is an extended aerial view of Space Shuttle Endeavour's final Southern California flyover:
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.