Desktop Virtualization

One of the neat things I like about GNU/Linux is that the desktop is automatically virtual. The X windows system is a networked desktop. It is interesting to see the world catch on to the advantages of desktop virtualization decades after its invention.

Intel has done a survey. Key findings for me:

  • “Ninety percent say that desktop virtualization either plays a foundation role or a strong role in their larger IT initiatives.”
  • “IT professionals view desktop virtualization as a way of balancing user needs with their own needs for security, management control and cost containment.”
  • IT are the most likely users of virtualization according to 78% of respondents with most other users being considered by ~50-60% of respondents. Engineering and R&D are considered less likely to use virtualization (~30%).
  • reductions in IT staffing, energy consumption, hardware, licensing and management combined with increased user productivity are all important factors in the calculation of return on investment.
  • virtual hosted desktops are the number one model (~75%) followed closely by virtualized application (~50%) with terminal services, OS image streaming and client side virtual container in the range of ~30-40% of respondents.
  • Cost is the major barrier.
  • Persuading upper management is moderately difficult.

Clearly, these folks are agonizing over choices and hesitating simply because they are tied into M$. They are mostly looking at high-priced firms like M$ and Citrix to help them get out of the hole that M$ and Citrix dug. If they switched to GNU/Linux the decision would be easy. X over secure networks or X over SSH with insecure networks costs almost nothing to implement and it instantly yields a popular method of virtualization, virtual applications, sessions, etc. Again we see that lock-in is the enemy of the people and IT people in particular. Nowhere in the study is price/performance considered. Using GNU/Linux the performance is actually increased because of caching of commonly used files. That is not available with hosted virtual desktops, except for the user’s own files which might be served from a file server but then there are network delays. Those are not a problem if all the users run on one server.

The chief cost of GNU/Linux virtualization using X is the server which will be needed anyway with these other methods and X is the most efficient so ROI will be maximized. In conversions I did in schools the ROI was huge and immediate. No need to wait years to break even. Changing a set of servers costs much less than a set of thick clients. QED. An organization can likely convert existing thick clients to be thin clients merely by changing the BIOS setup to boot PXE and disconnecting the hard drive, perhaps 15 minutes’ work. A new thin client box can be bought for less than $100. So, for the cost of ~$100 one gets an instant ROI of $200 over a thick client. A server costing a few $thousand can run dozens of clients, perhaps $30 per client. At Easterville, years ago, I put 153 clients on six servers (including file server, four terminal servers and a spare) for $1200 X 5 + $1500 = $7500, $49 per client. Considering only the terminal servers, the ratio would be $39 per client. Cost would be ~$20 per client today thanks to Moore’s Law. That’s an insignificant portion of the cost, yet folks still consider cost the largest barrier next to persuading the boss.

Get with it, World. There is a better way to do IT and that is GNU/Linux.

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39 Responses to Desktop Virtualization

  1. oldman says:

    “Even better.”

    Jerk!

  2. Kozmcrae says:

    Even better.

  3. oldman says:

    “Good.”

    ROFLMAO!

  4. Kozmcrae says:

    “Whatever you say, Mr. K.”

    Good.

  5. oiaohm says:

    oldman
    “We don’t have to worry. All systems in use in my place of employ are purchased direct from dell and come with 3 year next day on site service. The local user representatives deal with dell support who assists in he diagnostics, the service techs are provided by dell.”

    So you have a tolerance for 24-48 hours downtime. Even on machines direct from dell I have had equal diagnostic running.

    In fact you can get the support contract cheaper if you can show to dell you will not be calling them out for windows issues. Yes the hardware only defect contract is cheaper by a large margin.

    Suppose only a school where profit of the company for the month could be made in the next hour so you get to run such a long downtime tolerance. 24 hours is way to long of a downtime figure.

    Basically all you have just told me is you are running a system in away that cost you more money and with more downtime. Notice my system the diagnostics are in background so user who should be using the machine can be. Over the phone diagnostics with dell tie up staff from doing their job as well oldman.

    Second rate solution is what you are running oldman. In fact my system can email to dell for a tech to be sent out for the machine if it has failed with what parts the diagnostics are saying will be required.

    Now of course machine complete failure like unstable powersupply those have to go back by user rep. Crashed in diagnostic mode normally equals dell sending out replacement machine. Also some areas I don’t have the option of 24 hour tech to site with Dell either. Too rural.

    City slicker like you oldman get away with poor setups. Some areas it would be a min of 3 days downtime for tech to get there with me. So idea of 24 hours dell tech turns up forget it. So it better not be a windows issues why the machine is not operational.

    Go to third world countries the lag for a dell tech to get there can be even worse.

    This is why MS people talk about Windows needing IT support structs of cities and so on.

    oldman
    “Nope. We have a specially negotiated price that is far less than that because we buy in volume.”

    Please don’t forget about government and education discounts that Dell does not give to companies. So your case is a conner case since you get discounts majority cannot so I would have to pay many times what you pay oldman. So I cannot tolerate the cost of your solution in my set-ups.

    oldman
    “The pool of users running applications that need direct GPU access that are only available for linux and who need it on their personal desktops represent a tiny use case.”
    Might be a tiny case. But when it comes to some things it a highly costly case not to support them properly. Its also a tiny case who really require Windows.

    oldman
    “We do not shortchange our staff as you former employer did. It just doesn’t pay to run a business that way.”
    Robert Pogson was not short changed by past descriptions of the work. Paying someone to be there to provide real person support costs oldman. Thing is a person providing real person support has spare time between user issues. Also lot of users are happier when they have a person to talk face to face with.

    Yes it can work out cheaper to employ one person really on the ground than pay for dell support contracts covering everything oldman in a lot of cases. Of course that one person has to be proper trained to use computers to expand the number of machines they can diagnose at the same time. What I do is a idea force multiplied. Where you use machines to expand the amount of work you can be doing as well as allowing users to help themselves so far.

    My solutions enable areas that people would suspect would require 10 people to be handled by 1.

    Lovely nothing oldman is saying suite my reality. I guess Robert Pogson is also like me where it don’t fit for many locations.

    Outsourcing hardware support only works if the outsourcing is near by even then it can still be more costly than doing it properly.

  6. oldman says:

    “You really need to drop that phrase. It would boost your credibility a little bit. I say a little, but anything would be a relief.”

    Whatever you say, Mr. K.

    Whatever you say…

  7. oldman says:

    “A Dell Optiplex 990 with minimal OS and office suite costs $1182 and 3 year of on site service is included. I would guess that service coverage must cost $hundreds. Then oldman’s employer gets on the treadmill and buys another and another…”

    Nope. We have a specially negotiated price that is far less than that because we buy in volume.

    “I made 100 PCs work for my employer last year and it cost them nothing. I think Dell is overcharging your employer. So’s M$.”

    We do not shortchange our staff as you former employer did. It just doesn’t pay to run a business that way.

  8. oldman wrote, “We don’t have to worry. All systems in use in my place of employ are purchased direct from dell and come with 3 year next day on site service. The local user representatives deal with dell support who assists in he diagnostics, the service techs are provided by dell.”

    Wow! Now I see why oldman does not feel the need to use GNU/Linux. That other OS is someone else’s problem and another someone is paying for it…

    I took a peek at what that might cost. I went to Dell.ca and selected “public sector”. A Dell Optiplex 990 with minimal OS and office suite costs $1182 and 3 year of on site service is included. I would guess that service coverage must cost $hundreds. Then oldman’s employer gets on the treadmill and buys another and another…

    I made 100 PCs work for my employer last year and it cost them nothing. I think Dell is overcharging your employer. So’s M$.

  9. Kozmcrae says:

    “…in my place of employ…”

    I know you don’t see it this way @ldman, but you are a microcosm as much as anyone else around here. You and your “place of employment” represent nothing ordinary or special. You don’t speak for some massive world view. That may be tough to swallow but give it time.

    You really need to drop that phrase. It would boost your credibility a little bit. I say a little, but anything would be a relief.

  10. oldman says:

    “oldman sorry lot of the programs I run need proper access to GPU and other hardware so not suitable for virtual machine solutions either. So stop talking myth.”

    And you need to stop talking corner cases, Sir. The pool of users running applications that need direct GPU access that are only available for linux and who need it on their personal desktops represent a tiny use case. There presence in no way invalidates the more general case that I commented on.

    “Oldman how do you enable you users to diagnose a windows system in place without calling a tech.
    “Software can access if Tech is required at all to fix machine up.

    We don’t have to worry. All systems in use in my place of employ are purchased direct from dell and come with 3 year next day on site service. The local user representatives deal with dell support who assists in he diagnostics, the service techs are provided by dell.

  11. oiaohm says:

    oldman sorry lot of the programs I run need proper access to GPU and other hardware so not suitable for virtual machine solutions either. So stop talking myth.

    Oldman how do you enable you users to diagnose a windows system in place without calling a tech.

    Software can access if Tech is required at all to fix machine up.

  12. Phenom says:

    Actually, Pogson, PPP here means Purchasing Power Parity.

  13. pogson says:

    oldman wrote, “There is no need to have to deal with a linux desktop.

    Of course there is if one wants to maximize price/performance and minimize the labour of maintaining the system.

  14. oldman says:

    “Indicative that the FOSS software stands on its merits, not the (nice) additional handicap of being free (as in beer).”

    And mosgt if not allo of the best suich as it is can be used under windows. and even the unavailable can be used in a virtual machine running linux.

    There is no need to have to deal with a linux desktop.

  15. pogson says:

    PPP means “Point to Point Protocol” and was widely used before the Internet was widely available. It is still largely used for dial-up. I don’t see what that has to do with desktop virtualization.

    Food, shelter, and clothing are still critical issues for many although probably not most humans. The recent kerfuffle on the shore of James Bay is an example. Folks are living in shacks with no water and a shortage of clothing. I have taught in schools where the school issued winter clothing to kids so they could come to school in winter. I have taught in schools where kids came to school hungry and had to be fed. I heard this week that tens of millions in USA depend on foodstamps. Then there are aboriginal people all over the world and in particular places like Africa and South America where staying alive is difficult. Look at any place where insurgencies happen and you will likely find the supply of labour “for the cause” depends on deprivation. One of the strategies used to fight insurgency in Afghanistan is to hire Taliban’s fighters.

  16. Phenom says:

    Dougman, I can only wonder how you put 1964 in the picture. I speak of 2010, and the time value of money is absolutely irrelevant to the topic.

    Pogson, I am not sure you understand what PPP means. Further, people happen to have other desires than food and a single pair of clothes. Most people are not hippies.

  17. dougman says:

    This morning I read, ..”11K yearly income in USA is misery.”… this struck a chord in me, as that’s is not accurate to say. When adjusted for inflation, the 1964 USD would amount to $80K. (online inflation calculator)

    However, I find that value inaccurate as 11K in silver quarters at 1964, would equal $261.6K today. Silver quarter is worth $5.9462 currently.

    Henry Ford, paid worked $5/day in 1914, 260/days x $5 = $1300 year.

    Sorry way off topic, but I thought it would be of interest to share.

  18. oe says:

    “Choosing both give a better quality final result most of the time” Ironically that is the main motivation I have found to use GNU/Linux, not cost. Indicative that the FOSS software stands on its merits, not the (nice) additional handicap of being free (as in beer).

  19. Kozmcrae says:

    “I’ve had the misfortune to live under socialism long enough to know the hypocricity of all these pro-human and pro-poor propaganda.”

    Cutting a little too close to Godwin’s Law, aren’t you Phenom? Same day, different authoritarian rule.

  20. oiaohm says:

    pogson Even in a small. Due to the huge overheads Microsoft OS can cause due to issues. Reduction of need for as many copies of Windows saves money.

    I have also found transparent re-imaging and scanning highly effective. Linux on network boot or local boot loader option. So user clicks diagnostic boot and the system gets audited and a lot of windows issues get fixed without user having to bother tech and auto diagnostics for hard drive failure is run.

    Users are happier with this. Reason less downtime and the machine is not 100 percent worthless while its in repair state.

    Yes I have most likely found away of reducing my XP maintenance lower than you did pogson.

    Now without Linux in the mix I could not have users reimaging there machines while they are using the machine to perform particular tasks. In fact I was finding some offices working out where in there work load per week would be the ideal time to swap the diagnostic mode.

    Its funny what starts happening when you start providing methods for people to repair without skill. The interesting request was could I merge defrag and diagnostic mode. As yet I have not.

    Choosing both give a better quality final result most of the time.

  21. pogson says:

    oiaohm wrote, “Phenom you still did not answer why a valid option is not choose both.”

    For a large organization, it is not much of an extra burden to have multiple OS, but for small organizations it is huge. I was very frustrated last year trying to keep XP going in my school. It took more work to fix the endless problems of XP than all my other work. When I eliminated XP, my workload dropped by a factor of 10. No kidding. I did not need to reimage a machine for months whereas I was doing one every week or so with XP. I used GNU/Linux the whole year in the lab but most of the work was fixing someone else’s XP systems. When I switched to GNU/Linux only, it was like having only one machine instead of 100 to manage. There certainly was no need to have XP around except for playing some DVDs on a single machine.

  22. pogson says:

    So, the non-socialists have in mind living in extravagance while the rest of the world lives in even deeper misery…

    Surprisingly, I would bet even now most of the world lives on less. When I am in the North, my cost of living is ~$3/day for food. If I had my own land on which I could grow/harvest/hunt food, my cost for food would be ~$1/day. There are people in the world who live on less. One of the beautiful things about FLOSS is that it helps bridge the digital divide, making IT affordable to more of the world’s population. Wintel doesn’t do that very well. I have helped really poor folks install GNU/Linux on some ancient PCs to have some IT in their homes rather than none. These folks need a PC costing $0 or they just cannot afford it. Fortunately, Wintel would have people discard perfectly good PCs a few years old.

  23. oiaohm says:

    Phenom you still did not answer why a valid option is not choose both.

    Remember that both pogson and me come from volume acquirement. Not single unit acquirement Phenom. So 200 dollars per unit can be a high cost particularly if it deployed on a few hundred machines that don’t need it. Information terminals ie like where is book in library terminals for sure don’t need windows.

    Basic internet look up locations don’t require windows either.

    Really at the conversion rate of USD is becoming unstable the USD currency could drop back to the point that the people in the usa are mostly getting less than 11K USD per year in current day money in equal future money. Ie USA is going down the path that could basically trigger super inflation for them. Currency loosing value is a bitch.

    It is possible in many countries around the world to almost live like a king with 11k USD a year currently.

  24. Phenom says:

    Ops, sorry for the bold. Missed closing tag. [RP: fixed that]

  25. Phenom says:

    Pogson, I beg to differ. It is my money we are talking about, and I am free to spend them as I see fit, as long as I do not break the law.

    I’ve had the misfortune to live under socialism long enough to know the hypocricity of all these pro-human and pro-poor propaganda.

    You see, Pogson, you are a teacher. Do a simple math. The GDP (ppp method) of the whole world is 74.54 trillion USD. The total population of the earth is just under 7 billion. That brings you to the PPP of $11K (source CIA World Factbook).

    In other words, if we divide the all the riches of the world between all the people, everyone will get about $11K income for year. And that is, USD 11K related to current prices in USA.

    This is pure and utter poverty. 11K yearly income in USA is misery.

    And misery is exactly what all socialists and communists have in mind.

  26. pogson says:

    Phenom wrote, “there are many many more people who can pay that $200 margin for the extras.”

    We all could spend all our money on gold bars or some other luxury and let the kids starve and live on the street but rational humans prioritize their efforts and try to get the most bang for the buck. I teach that in high school maths. It’s not a novel concept. I think it is introduced around Grade 7: fractions/rational numbers, ratio and proportion, percent and all that.

    I had a project in a K-12 school a few years ago, 153 seats was the goal. Some “idiots” had determined arbitrarily that the budget would be $100K. $200 X 153 = $30600. I spent that money on hardware and professional installation. They would have had no servers, printers, scanners, cameras and no network if not for FLOSS. So, rather than a handful of XP machines running off-line, they had a bunch of GNU/Linux thin clients giving years of trouble-free snappy service in an easily maintained system. It was no contest. They chose FLOSS.

  27. pogson says:

    @dougman: Good show. There’s nothing like seeing/trying FLOSS. People believe what they see. Numbers don’t lie.

  28. oiaohm says:

    Phenom Ok why the either or. Ie xor.

    Since the Linux Desktop is free I might as well buy it as well as the windows desktop.

    So I have the best of both worlds.

    There are programs that run faster under Linux than windows Phenom like blender doing rendering. Same with many of the high level maths programs.

    Simple point of the matter there is no requirement to just buy windows or linux.

    When you are like me talking 200+ units. Linux vs Windows is huge numbers.

    $0 vs $40000 dollars. This is the problem Phenom more numbers you are doing the larger the divide becomes.

  29. dougman says:

    Regarding linux virtualization, this gentleman has been doing so for years: http://davelargo.blogspot.com/ on a server housing 80 or so concurrent users.

    “…there are no applications available for Linux to virtualize”…I beg to differ, there are over ~30K+ applications capable of running remotely, depending on whose distribution repositories you are using.

    http://jet-computing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/mint11-software-manager.png

    http://jet-computing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/ubuntu_software_center.jpg

    I just demonstrated this feat, Linux virtualization over SSH to a new client last week. I brought in a older P4 box, installed with Linux Mint and was able to have five workstations log on and use the browser, office software, etc.. They were interested in a secure solution; Windows is a “insecure” nightmare they agreed with me.

    I digress: this potential client asked me about upgrading their office software. I showed them the current rate for Office 2010 $280/license, they would need five licenses and shell out $1400.00. I showed them LibreOffice, and a few other programs and told them everything they just saw, comes included on the aforementioned server and distribution, LinuxMint.

  30. Phenom says:

    Pogson, compare this:

    Linux desktop (Toyota Yaris) – $0.
    Windows desktop (Cadillac) – $200.

    The difference is $200. Not $66K. There are a few people, who purchase Cadillacs, because they can pay that 66K margin for the extras. And there are many many more people who can pay that $200 margin for the extras.

    I can’t believe I had to write this down.

  31. oe says:

    Linux Applications crappy? B.S.

    Many made the cut not based on cost but quality:

    For small data-set manipulation and plotting, gnumeric over Excel (more flexibility in plotting, more rigor in the statistics functions).

    For typing up technical papers complete with autonumbering of figures, equations, tables, and cross referenced bibliography linked to RefWorks – OO Writr won over Word based on stability. While writing a 200+ page diss it seemed mainly old nightwares of crashing work as to why I kept dozens of old versions should OO crash out of the current one and corrupt it. This has NEVER happened with OO, I care not count how many times in Word.

    Ditto for LyX when swapping with folks using LaTeX.

    Maxima was quite handy for grinding through some nasty integration.

    GIMP – very good for touching up images and bitmap figures, seemed more response than PhotoShop for getting edits done.

    Well some high end commercial packages see the handwriting on the wall: ANSYS, Abaqus, Labview, Mathematica and Matlab are all with Linux-native versions.

    I could go on but lets say Linux is LOADED with quality, useful software. The app-store had come to Linux over a decade ago, behind the dry term (yes the marketing in FOSS lags…), “package-management”.

    Oh it is missing out on some great stuff I confess:
    No bonzai buddies, no crappy IE toolbars, no nagware, no trial-ware, almost no MalWare to speak of.

  32. oiaohm says:

    Big thing people are forgetting here is that its not Linux xor Windows in solutions. This is most because I do Linux Desktop deploys its Linux or Windows. True meaning of the word or the options are Linux|Windows|Linux and Windows.

    Linux and Windows can be Linux on the desktop machine and windows in a server being provided to the end user. Result user can get almost all Windows Applications from the server and All Linux applications from the client. Also the reverse is also possible Linux on server providing applications and Windows being the desktop. This is getting simpler as GTK and qt toolkits gain provide application interface by html5 so removing the need to place X11 server on clients.

    The third option of course is Windows server and Linux server provide applications with thin clients that change depending on the user login.

    Sorry oldman “a full function solution” That is not Windows alone. What I deliver at times is the full function solution.

    Phenom
    “You underestimate what people do at home, Pogson. People would not run servers for sure, but people would often need some obscure features. Then would need them only once in a while, but that is more than enough.”

    Lot of people do run media servers. HP sees highly powerful media servers as valid.

    Yes as one guy started with wireless N and up you can run thin client tech for a few clients as you would find in a home quite well without cables.

    So you have a android tablet in your hand and you are in your lounge chair running applications on the HP server maybe in the next room. Yes there is a reason why there is a lot of work at moment on virtual crt on Linux. So video card could be passed into a KVM machine running windows and the video output not going to a real screen but to the tablet.

    Now it might be the android tablet android settop box or another form of embed Linux that provides a web browser.

    The effect of HP idea is you have to decide if you need that extra functionality of Windows on the move away from house. If you don’t 1 copy of windows and MS Office sitting at home in a server shared might be all you need.

    Now of course countries with fast internet links even away from the home requirement for Windows on the device might not be there to have Windows Application functionality.

    Currently with windows you are more expected to have Windows in the device you are using.

  33. pogson says:

    Have you priced a Cadillac lately?

    Toyota Yaris $14K

    Cadillac Escalade $80K

    oldman would have everyone drive an Escalade simply because they exist and are more featureful even though price/performance is $80K/1 ride rather than $14K/1 ride. The vast majority of people just need a ride and the Yaris would do very well compared to walking or riding a horse.

  34. Kozmcrae says:

    For your “full function” applications @ldman, this guy nailed it.

    http://mrpogson.com/2011/11/22/50-off-desktops/#comment-64830

  35. Phenom says:

    “I make more use of IT than most people at home for sure”.

    You underestimate what people do at home, Pogson. People would not run servers for sure, but people would often need some obscure features. Then would need them only once in a while, but that is more than enough.

    “I don’t suggest everyone drive a Cadillac when a Toyota will do”
    If a Cadillac is only $200 more expensive for a bagful of extras, which Toyota lacks, why should I care? $200 are just a few hours of work for anyone living to the west of Moscow.

    People have demands. They do not go for the cheapest option that would kinda do.

  36. pogson says:

    I make more use of IT than most people at home for sure so my solution will work for many people. In schools, GNU/Linux is superior to that other OS simply for the licensing. The software works. What more could I want?

    oldman wrote, “a full function solution.” That’s overkill. I don’t suggest everyone drive a Cadillac when a Toyota will do. Why must I have feature-bloat in every PC?

  37. oldman says:

    ” I do have xpdf, qalculate and LibreOffice running well for me.”

    The fact that you have applications that run to your requirements does not mean that there is the depth of coverage needed for a full function solution.

  38. pogson says:

    Strange. I am using a virtual desktop as I type and I have several applications of renown running on Beast and accessed from a thin client. It’s snappy… My current browser is Opera, however, because FireFox and Chrome have decided to be thin client unfriendly to their discredit. I do have xpdf, qalculate and LibreOffice running well for me. so Phenom is wrong, as usual.

  39. Phenom says:

    Right, except that there are no applications available for Linux to virtualize.

    P.S. Please spare me the myths about the myriad of high quality foss apps. They are like the extra-terrestrials: every linux geek is talking about them, but no one has ever seen them.

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