Using Virtual PCs

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article 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.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com