Desktop Virtualization and Its Types

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Desktop virtualization

Desktop virtualization can provide very good solutions to the challenges related to computer management in organizations. There might be a need to access several applications at the same time which may not be feasible on just one computer system. Getting different systems to use applications is a resource waste. Similarly data may be needed to be accessed remotely. There are several users who need access to their computers remotely. These and many more problems can be tackled using Desktop virtualization.

Desktop virtualization can very efficiently provide access to all data and applications to a user whenever and wherever needed. This enables users to access their desktop literally on any remote machine. This access is possible over a network and is very safe. Desktop virtualization has several advantages which are listed below:

  • Helps to re-use the old computers rather than changing hardware for different application demands thus helping environment.
  • Anywhere access to data and application makes a user free from being tied to a stationary physical computer system.
  • It reduces extra hardware costs.
  • Also reduces the overhead of applications to be tested in different environments.
  • Almost completely removes issues related to compatibility of applications.

Desktop virtualization variants are of two main types as explained below:

Hosted Desktop

This can be visualized as a terminal service provided by a server located at an organization's data center. Usually a user interface is provided by the server when a user connects to it. Thus providing an image of the required software such as an operating system or applications to the user remotely. Also, virtual machines can be created on the server such as hyper-v or ESX etc which can be accessed by the users.

The advantages of his approach are as follows:

  • It is a low-cost approach.
  • It is more secure as data and applications run on the server.
  • It helps in reducing the wear-out of hardware on client-side.
  • IT support is optimized in this approach and thus the productivity can be increased.

This approach can be used if multiple users need access to certain applications or data. It is a very secure and efficient approach to provide access as a terminal server can easily handles hundreds or even thousands of users safely.

Client Virtualization

This approach allows a user to run different operating systems on the same machine using software called hypervisor. For example a user working on Windows operating system can use hypervisor to create an image of other operating systems (such as Macintosh) on the Windows machine. This approach can be used to hide private or confidential data and application in different virtual machines and then these virtual machines can be configured to implement security measures as needed.

Different advantages of this approach are given below:

  • A single machine can run different images of different operating systems thus eliminating the need to re-write system software or purchasing new hardware.
  • It provides flexibility to the end-user.
  • Compatibility issues can be resolved. For example, a Windows 7 system can run a virtual machine of Windows XP and then run an application compatible with Windows XP and incompatible with Windows 7.

Other than these basic variants of desktop virtualization there are other sub-variants of these variants.

Application Virtualization

An application can easily be run without actually installing it on a system using application virtualization. There is no need to save the files or required files on the system. This is advantages when space is less as it saves space and time.

Another variant of this, called virtual remote application, uses a browser and web protocols to access applications remotely. Data can be transmitted over a secure connection. If the client machine is capable enough to run the application the user can easily process result remotely.

An advantage of using this approach is that no environment control is required by the IT team. 

Remote hosted virtual desktops

Servers can create operating systems and make a set of applications accessible only to a specific user.

This approach helps in securing applications on a shared system.

Type 1 hypervisor

Once an image of a virtual machine is created on a system using a hypervisor, the same image can be distributed to other systems. Also multiple virtual machines can be created in the same system for different purposes.

A major advantage of virtual machines is that they can be re-imaged and the downtime is very less. If the virtual machine needs to be moved to another machine it can simply be copied and moved without re-installation.

Type 2 hypervisor

Type 2 hypervisor is different from type 1 hypervisor only in the way it is installed. The virtual machine in type 2 hypervisor is installed on top of the actual operating system of the machine thereby making the management of machines a little complicated. 

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