In recent blogs, I’ve discussed alternatives to VDI that focused on running desktops on dedicated hardware in the data center. But, not all users’ requirements justify the expense of powerful workstations. For task workers and knowledge workers, VDI can be a viable solution. The trick is, how do you combat the high cost and complexity of VDI?
Thankfully, IT now has access to technology that can help mitigate the cost and complexity of VDI. The solution comes bundled in an open source wrapper called OpenStack.
OpenStack is an open source cloud operating system that allows IT to manage compute, storage, and networking in their datacenter. The compute project (Nova) can control any number of hypervisors, including Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM, VMware vSphere, and Xen. Conveniently, some of those supported hypervisors are open source, as well! Combine an open source hypervisor with an open source management layer and you can start lowering your cost to build VDI.
The OpenStack dashboard (Horizon) provides tools to create instances (desktops) and manage images, so you can quickly spin up new desktops based on a common master. However, to manage VDI at scale, you need greater capabilities and flexibility than provided by the dashboard. And, let’s not forget the end user. Ultimately, you need a way for the user to log in.
At this point, you’ll need to reach outside of the OpenStack project and look for third-party connection broker, and potentially display protocol, solutions. When it comes to the connection broker, ideally look for a solution that utilizes the OpenStack APIs to integrate with Nova, Neutron, Cinder, Glance, and Horizon and provide automation tools for creating desktops and images.
In addition, the connection broker should support a number of use cases, including persistent and pooled desktops, and should allow the administrator to monitor and control the state of the user’s session (for example, automatically lock the user’s desktop if they leave it idle for 15 minutes.) The connection broker also provides the login portal and desktop connection for the end user, giving the user anywhere access to their desktop.
When it comes to display protocols, RDP may be fine for accessing a Windows desktop, and VNC for a Linux desktops, but other third-party protocols (HP RGS, NoMachine NX, to name a couple) exist that may give better performance. Always consider your options, and look for a connection broker that allows you to utilize the best, and potentially multiple, display protocol for your use cases.
Building OpenStack VDI still means, well, you are building a VDI solution. That may lower costs, but complexity may still be an issue. That’s where desktops-as-a-service comes into play. In desktops-as-a-service, someone else builds and hosts the infrastructure, and you buy the cloud services you require from them. The key is to find a provider that builds their solution using OpenStack software.
One place to look is the public cloud. Public clouds, such as HP Helion Public Cloud, are built using OpenStack technology and can be used to host desktop workloads. If you want a full-service solution, seek out a service providers who hosts an environment based on an OpenStack cloud.
Are you that service provider? If so, a key to using OpenStack to manage desktops-as-a-service is finding tools that simplify multi-tenant management of accounts, desktops, and users.
No matter if you are an enterprise or an MSP, OpenStack is a technology to keep an eye on. With its strong open source community, and corporate backers, OpenStack VDI and Desktops-as-a-Service could be the wave of the future.