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Microsoft VDI on Windows 2012

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Now that it is several months since the launch of Windows 2012, IT professionals are starting to come to terms with all of the new features that this great new operating system has to offer. Many of these features are refinements of existing technologies, offering extra functionality and improved performance over systems running Windows 2008. One such feature is the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, which builds on previous implementations of Terminal Services and virtualization to give great results.

Microsoft VDI combines the latest versions of Hyper-V virtualization and remote desktop services to give a single platform that can host and deliver any type of desktop to end users. RemoteFX gives a consistent, rich user interface irrespective of the type of virtual desktop or the location of the user when they access it. VDI supports desktop operating systems from Windows XP upwards, but works best with Windows 7 and particularly Windows 8.

VDI allows administrators by allowing administrators to separate the operating system and application software from the physical client device. They can use virtualization technologies to create a virtual software image that users can then access and run from any client device, anywhere on the network. Unlike Terminal Services, or Remote Desktop Services, in earlier versions of Windows, VDI uses a separate virtual machine for each user rather than loading as part of the server operating system process.

Another main difference between VDI and terminal services is the scope of the delivered desktop. Under terminal services, administrators can allow users access to individual applications or an entire desktop session, whereas under VDI the user will always get access to a full desktop environment. Administrators have the choice between session-based desktops, pooled virtual machines or personal virtual machines depending on the requirements of the organization. This allows more control over the desktop and can prevent any problems caused by users installing unauthorized software.

By using a software graphical processing unit (GPU), RemoteFX encodes and decodes graphics and multimedia content to give the same experience as the user would receive from a physical GPU. RemoteFX gives users the same experience whether they connect over a fast LAN or a low bandwidth, high latency WAN network. Features such as USB redirection and multi-touch remoting add to the user experience with Microsoft VDI.

VDI in itself is not a new technology, but is the latest in a long line of developments that has its roots back in Citrix WinFrame running on Windows NT and VMware ESx. As you might expect, Citrix and VMware also have rival VDI offerings but with Microsoft VDI bundled in Windows 2012, they would have to offer some compelling reasons to pay for those products rather than the Microsoft one.

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Submitted by Mike Dowdy, vice president of sales for CARI.net, Southern California's leading cloud hosting provider.

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