Using Virtual PCsBy Frank Ohlhorst | Print
Qumranet's Solid ICE aims to bring low-cost, hosted desktop virtualization to businesses via the KVM standard.
Creating and using virtual PCs is accomplished using the VDC console. Virtual PCs are based upon easy-to-understand templates that define the basics of the virtual PC. To make most of this happen, administrators use the configuration tool, which can also create a template that houses the virtual hardware settings of the virtual PC. Creating a new virtual desktop can be done from an operating system CD or, better yet, an ISO image. What's more, administrators can use PXE (Preboot Execution Environment) boot to launch the virtual PC operating system setup. That comes in handy for sites where PXE was used to deploy physical PCs throughout the enterprise.
All of the Virtual PC setup takes place using a "run once" option under the virtual machine. The quick-start guide offers a step-by-step configuration methodology for getting a Virtual PC up and running, although the instructions are focused on Windows XP. For the most part, the desktop OS setup follows the Windows standard procedure. Once basic installation is completed, the Qumranet tools will have to be installed, enabling graphics beyond VGA and access to other virtual capabilities.
The idea with the first install is to get a default windows XP implementation in place and then install the appropriate applications for the users. Once that is accomplished, administrators can use Microsoft sysprep to create a master image that can be used to build more virtual desktops. Administrators also have the ability to create "snapshots" of an active desktop that can be used to preserve or back up partially configured virtual desktops, allowing a rollback to a previous state if any configuration problems are encountered. Once all of the basic setup chores are completed and the Qumranet tools are installed, administrators can finalize the template with the sysprep command. Templates are then used to create new virtual desktops for users.
Once the appropriate desktops are created, administrators then can assign those desktops to users. That process is accomplished using the "manage users" applet. Users can be found using wild cards or by scrolling through a list of users. Once assigned, a user will be associated with a particular desktop until reassigned.
For a user to connect to a desktop, that user must launch a browser and log in to the Solid ICE system. The user then can select the assigned desktop and launch a virtual PC session using either SPICE or RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). For users on the local subnet, operation of the virtual desktop proves to be fast and intuitive. Most users will have trouble distinguishing a virtual PC from a local desktop PC.
While setup and administration of Solid ICE can be frustrating and complex, most who put the effort into the deployment will find it all worth it in the end. With some polish and perhaps some reduced system requirements, Solid ICE could become the product of choice when it comes to providing virtual desktops to users. Those considering using Microsoft's terminal services or Citrix-based solutions will want to take a long hard look at what Qumranet has to offer before making a final decision. As it stands now, Solid ICE can only get better and will evolve to include many of the must-have features that administrators are looking for today.