This is the first post in my e.t.d.f (eating the dog food) series. I had hoped to get this first one typed up quickly. But instead, my week was consumed with customer meetings and the logistics around rescheduling a big event I am putting on for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (Thanks to a ton of snow and ice, we had to postpone it a few weeks.) So now that I’ve got a little free time again, let’s get started.
In case you’re just joining us, as a quick recap, this series will document my conversion to a virtual desktop. Meaning, when this series is over, I will no longer be tied to any physical laptop, PC, mobile phone or whatever. My dedicated VMware corporate desktop will live full-time on the virtual infrastructure in my house. I will then connect to my desktop remotely (whether I’m a few rooms away, or a few hundred miles away) via a VMware client or a web interface. Sounds easy, right? Well it really is, though we will have some challenges around multimedia, working offline, and accessing some local devices … all of which will be addressed as we progress.
But for now, first things first. I want to establish some requirements and goals.
- The desktop needs to be always on. When connecting to my desktop, I don’t want to wait for it to power on. I want to simply launch the client and connect.
- I want to be able to securely connect to it anytime, anywhere. This might sound obvious, but my home Internet connection has a dynamic IP address. How do I connect remotely when my IP address changes? And what about security? Will other people be able to access my desktop from the web too?
- My desktop has to be at least as performant as my current local desktop. The only exception I’ll make here is for high end mulitmedia.
- I want my desktop completely maintenance and worry free. To me, that means:
- My data is always backed up.
- My desktop can be destroyed by a hacker or virus (or my own stupidity) and restored to its previous state with little effort and under 30 min.
- Updating and patching my desktop has to be done automatically, or at least, a fairly painless process.
- I want to be able to carry my desktop on a USB stick or LiveCD. (If you don’t know what this means, I’ll be covering this in more detail when we discuss options for connecting to the desktop)
- Finally, I want this to be scalable. Keeping in mind that this series aimed to also serve as a loose guide to a Proof of Concept, I need to be able to add users and deploy desktops quickly and with minimal effort.
If at the end of this series I have met these goals, then I will consider my conversion a success and my desktop will permanently remain virtual.
So now let’s discuss what we’ll need to make this all a reality.
VMware virtual desktops run on ESX, so ideally you would want at least one server that is currently on the HCL (Hardware Compatability List). If you have a server but can’t find it in the “Systems” section of the HCL, then search for the components of your server in “I/O Devices.” If your components are listed, there’s a good chance that ESX will run just fine.
If you don’t have a server and don’t have a big budget to buy a new one, then have a look at Mike D’s Building a $500 ESXi Host. Or another great resource is VM-Help.com, which maintains the Unofficial ESX Whitebox HCL. Keep in mind that anything not on the official HCL won’t be supported by VMware.
As for me, I have three servers in my lab, all of which are HP ML150’s with 8GB of RAM and 300GB of local storage. Each server is connected to a Buffalo TeraStation iSCSI SAN with close to 1TB of storage.
At a bare minimum, we’ll need a dedicated Internet connection. Mine is a business grade, cable modem service provided by Cincinnati Bell with 5Mbps down, 1Mbps up, and a single dynamic external IP address. We will also need an internal DHCP server with a range of IP addresses set aside for our desktops. If you’re setting this up as a Proof of Concept for your company, you probably already have a solid Internet connection. So make sure you’ve got DHCP enabled with enough available IPs for the number of desktops you plan to deploy.
If you haven’t already done so, go sign up for the free 60 day evaluation of VMware View and download the software bundle. It will contain everything we’ll need from VMware for this project.
Desktop Operating System
My corporate desktop is Windows XP, so I’ll stick with that. Make sure you’ve got the proper Microsoft licenses secured before deploying desktops.
That’s about it for our planning session. Now for our homework assignment. In the next day or two, please be sure to do the following:
- Identify at least one server upon which VMware ESX can be installed. Two servers would be better, if possible.
- Make sure you’ve got an internal DHCP server set up.
- If you have a separte network team, try to secure a dedicated external IP address.
- Download the 60 day evaluation of VMware View.
- Download the VMware View Manager Administration Guide. It’s close to 200 pages long, so don’t worry about reading it now. And really, following this series will cover most of what’s in the guide anyway. But it’s nice to have handy as we move along.
On a final note, I’ll be making a separate page next to the “About the Author(s)” page at the top, for quicker access. See ya next time