VDI-in-a-Box (formerly known as Kaviza)

VDI-in-a-Box.  It’s that sort of “fringe” product that a lot of consulting shops won’t really play with.  Why not?  XenDesktop is MUCH more robust.  It includes XenApp licenses, Provisioning Server, and all sorts of other goodies that you [should] already know about.

So why am I blogging about VDIiaB?  Because for what it is, it’s AWESOME.  Where else are you going to find a VDI solution that doesn’t require shared storage, dosn’t require an external database, or doesn’t require Active Directory, all for $160/seat retail?  That’s what I thought!

Things to know (both good and bad):

  • ALL the vitual desktops in a “grid” MUST be hosted from the same VLAN.  VDIiaB does not support hosting VDI VMs in multiple VLANs from the same grid.
  • USE v5.1!  v5.0 has some issues that were addressed in v5.1.  I’m sure you can find a comprehensive list of these issues using Google, so I’m not going to go into the gory details.
  • Host it on XenServer!  Why?  Because it includes the licenses for it!  Also, if you want to host it on VMware, you CAN NOT use the free version – you must have at least an essentials license.  This is because the free version disables the management APIs, so VDIiaB is unable to interact with the hypervisor after the 60-day trial period.  Hyper-V?  Officially, it is supported, but come on now…
  • There is NO shared storage requirement.  NONE.  BUT — DO pay attention to IOPS!  Many people overlook this critical performance metric with regards to their storage (especially local storage) and focus simply on capacity.  That will create an environment where the performance demands of the VDI VMs just bring the disk subsystem to it’s knees.  Don’t fall into the trap.  Use 15k SAS drives, and arrange them in a RAID!!
  • VDIiaB automatically replicates the VDI images between all hosts in a grid.  This is important to note because you don’t have to manage them!  It will automatically make sure all hosts in a grid are current and able to host the latest image.
  • VDIiaB does not have any type of NLB or clustering with regards to access – you point the client devices at the management VM on any one of the hosts in the grid, and then the load is automatically balanced across all nodes in the grid.  For example:  You connect to the broker on host 1, but host 1 is heavily loaded with users already.  So, you get directed to host 2.  This is nice!  BUT – what happens if your device is pointed at a broker on a host that is down?  The short answer is you can’t connect.  How to get around this?  Many companies use DNS round robin, but you can also use an external load balancer (Netscaler VPX fits the bill).
  • Deployment is very simple.  Install the hypervisor, import the management VM, answer about 20 questions, and you’re ready to go.  Adding nodes to an existing grid is even simpler:  Install the hypervisor, import the management VM, answer 4 questions, and it’s finished.  It will automatically sync the images from other systems, and when it is fully sync’d, it’ll automatically start hosting VMs.
  • VMs can be scheduled to be powered on/off, minimum number “ready”, etc, just like XD.

There are many other things to consider, but hopefully I’ve opened your eyes a little bit to the product.  It really is a fantastic fit for smaller deployments, and for smaller organizations.  Officially, Citrix says it is good for up to 500 seats, and then they recommend switching to XenDesktop.  Unofficially, there are reports of deployments as large as 1200 seats.  I encourage you to download it and take a look.  Install it on top of XenServer in your lab and play around with it.  A fully-functioning demo, including a VM golden image, can be set up in less than a day (not including all the frills like roaming profiles/Citrix UPM, GPO configuration, etc).

Want more information?  http://www.citrix.com/products/vdi-in-a-box/overview.html