Note: this post was originally written by our COO, Karen Gondoly for the Mirantis blog. With their permission, we are reposting on the Leostream site for our followers to enjoy! 


“We must support a mobile workforce.”

“Our users insist we embrace a bring-your own-desktop (BYOD) initiative.”

“We must centralize our data!”

Just about everyone in IT is faced with one or more of these challenges.

So far, the silver bullet solution has been to build a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in order to host desktops centrally in the data center instead of under the users’ desks. This arrangement enables users to log into their “desktop computer” from anywhere, using a device that needs considerably less power than the actual virtual machine. More recently, some forward-thinking organizations have considered moving workloads into the cloud.

What’s the problem? The virtual desktops market has long been a classic duopoly, with the two big players — VMware and Citrix —reigning over all. For years, other technology giants such as Microsoft, Oracle and Red Hat have tried to gain a toehold in the sector, but with marginal success. The current situation doesn’t allow for experimentation and innovation — at least not without going against the interests of the dominant providers. Therefore, if you’re looking to deploy VDI and Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS), you may find yourself stuck in the duopoly and caught between a rock and hard place.

Luckily, a new technology is on the horizon, poised to make its mark on the VDI landscape. The solution comes bundled in an open source wrapper called OpenStack, and for system engineers it could be considered VDI’s newest darling.OpenStack is increasingly being used to control large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources. Why not use it for your virtual desktop environments, as well? OpenStack can help mitigate the cost of VDI and is a viable option for organizations looking for an alternative to running desktops on dedicated hardware in the data center.

Shining a Spotlight on OpenStack VDI and DaaS

spotlight.jpgAs part of its mission, OpenStack grants developers the ability to build massively scalable public and private clouds.The flexibility and scalability of an open source platform such as OpenStack creates a solid underpinning for desktop virtualization.

In fact, OpenStack delivers on several key “must-haves” for deploying cloud-hosted desktops. On-demand availability? Check. Multi-tenancy? Check. Networking? Check. Cost Control? Check. In a recent blueprint on building cloud-hosted desktops, I discuss all the details. For now, though, let’s dig a little deeper into what makes OpenStack a viable option for both organizations and managed service providers looking to deploy hosted desktops.

1. On-Demand Availability

A key aspect of “turning a data center into a cloud” is the fact that end users can request and quickly receive access to new hosted resources. Using OpenStack, you get on-demand availability for desktops.

How it works: Simply spin up a base instance using your operating system of choice, install the applications that your end users need, and then create an image from that instance. When on-boarding new employees, you can deploy a pre-configured desktop from one of your images. By creating an image for each use case (or each customer if you’re a service provider),you get new users up and running in minutes.

2. Multi-tenancy

It goes without saying that if you are managing desktops for independent organizations, you need to keep those desktops isolated. If you’re an IT administrator looking to manage a private cloud for your own organization, maybe multi-tenancy isn’t as important, but you could think of the different departments in your organizations as being different tenants.

The key to multi-tenancy is to be able to isolate the management and tracking of resources, and OpenStack has you covered.

How it works: To support multi-tenant management in OpenStack, you can leverage the concept of projects. If you separate your instances and images by project, you can easily track resource consumption for individual customers. Projects also enable you to set quotas to ensure that particular customers don’t overstep their allocated resource usage, or negatively impact other customers.

3. Networking

Ideally, you want your desktops to act as if they are actually located in different data centers so that customer data stays isolated. Thankfully, the OpenStack networking tools can help you do that.

How it works: In OpenStack, you can define private networks for each tenant, including IP address ranges, subnets, and routers (all the things you’d have in a physical network), and then you provision customer desktops into the appropriate virtual private cloud (VPC).

4. Less Expensive

Finally, let’s talk about money. Classic VDI has been stymied because of the cost and complexity associated with building that solution. Implementing OpenStack may not solve the complexity issue, but it sure can address some of the cost.

How it works: Because it’s open source, you avoid the commercial licensing fees associated with other VDI stacks or DaaS solutions. Also, because cloud management software helps you maximize your data center usage, you may be able to scale down on hardware requirements.

A Look Ahead

The future’s bright for OpenStack VDI and DaaS. Users can potentially reduce the cost of deploying Windows desktops at scale, gain flexibility, and improve access to computing resources across devices. As OpenStack continues to mature and the ecosystem around it grows, there’s plenty of room for innovation.