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It’s so much easier in a virtual environment

Although a user sitting in front of a virtual computer won’t really notice the difference when it comes to performing day-to-day tasks, the administrator running the environment will surely notice how easy his day has suddenly become. Among other things, one of the biggest advantages he will notice will be that of installing patches says MERCIA OOSTHUIZEN, product manager for Wyse at Workgroup.

Most organisations considering a thin computing solution have already made significant investments in legacy hardware and software, such as PCs, servers and networking gear.

While much of this equipment can be leveraged for thin computing, some additional hard- and software may be necessary to reap the full benefits of the thin computing approach. Fortunately, the business and operational benefits are often considerable for end users and administrators alike.

Mercia Oosthuizen, product manager: Wyse at Workgroup, says that by deploying virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), the user is provided with a working environment no different than what they already use on a PC. Because each virtual machine is self contained, users logging into Windows XP are presented with their familiar Windows applications and customised desktop environment like wallpaper and colour schemes.

‚However, because the desktop session is now centralised, they gain the added capability of being able to access their desktop from anywhere and at any time ‚ including from another network connection at work or to catch up on work from home.‚

She says that, while end users may hardly notice the difference, an IT administrator has much to gain from the technical merits of VDI and, by extension, so does the overall business.

‚One of the biggest drains on maintenance budgets is the frequent need to patch the operating system and applications on PC’s in multiple locations. In a thin computing VDI environment, this task becomes easier as multiple files can be quickly updated on the server and this means patching and migrating a standard virtual machine image with common virtual hardware is fast, efficient and completely transparent to users.‚

While software developers find partitioning useful for building and testing systems under multiple environments, Oosthuizen says an even bigger benefit for many organisations is that each virtual desktop session is independent of the physical hardware and is therefore easy to move and scale. With encapsulation, each virtual machine is stored in a small set of files that are independent of the physical hardware.

She says that because everything is stored in one place ‚ including the hardware setup, BIOS configuration, memory state, disk state and CPU ‚ administrators can copy, save and move virtual machines wherever and whenever needed by simply manipulating a few files. As a result, the entire workgroup can be set up and configured in a matter of minutes.

Security is perhaps the most important benefit realised by IT managers deploying thin computing with VDI as virtual machines are isolated from one another, which mean a crash or failure in one virtual machine will not affect the other virtual machines on the same server.

‚Viruses and worms that somehow infect one partition are isolated to just that virtual machine. It’s the same as if each virtual machine were running on a separate physical box, which means an error on one VDI desktop will not affect any other desktop.

‚The last benefit realised by IT is that of vendor independence. A virtual machine can run on any x86 server without modification, breaking the ties between the OS, hardware and applications that have limited Its options in the past. Furthermore, any migration to new or different server platforms does not change the user experience.‚

In conclusion, thin computing VDI environments help reduce maintenance and support costs while users continue to enjoy the same desktop experience as with PCs. Using this approach, businesses can deliver secure, isolated desktops that are always on, accessible from anywhere and easy to set up and maintain.

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