I’m not going to be explaining how Unidesk works in this blog post. I’m merely going to discuss their upcoming release and my own experiences with the Hyper-V Tech preview. I made a really detailed document of my own setup but I am going to wait to post anything more until the official release, just incase there’s any major changes. Ron Oglesby created some really great videos anyways, so do yourself a favor and check those out when you go through your setup. VIDEOS
I got the chance to review Unidesk back in October of 2013 and loved it. If you want to read that article, you can check that out HERE. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t have access to VMWare vCenter on a daily basis, so my flirtation with Unidesk was way too brief. I got really excited when I found out they were releasing a Hyper-V Tech Preview (which by the way! You can sign up for HERE) .
My first thought was: Finally, support for Hyper-V!! Even before October 2013, I had wanted to try out Unidesk but couldn’t due to my company at the time not using vCenter. If you have used Unidesk in the past with vCenter, you’ll hit the ground running for sure! If not, it’s really simple to setup and get rockin’. If you do run into any issues, the Unidesk support guys are incredible. I legitimately have never worked with a more competent and dedicated support team in my entire time in IT. Not only do you get the great automation that some of us know and love with Unidesk, you’re also getting this in a way that it’s sitting on top of your Hyper-V and RDS environment. That’s got to be very attractive for a lot of Enterprise customers! In my experience throughout the last few years, not many companies are both VMWare and Microsoft centric. I love VMWare and have much respect for their ‘Engineers for Engineers’ type of approach BUT it seems to me that Hyper-V is winning more and more of the Hypervisor market. I’ve even been seeing it get implemented in environments which were strictly VMWare in the past.
Hyper-V has been improving as a hypervisor and one can certainly make a strong argument for it’s use, particularly considering the favorable licensing for the majority of companies that have an Enterprise Agreement for their Microsoft OS\Software necessities. Even so, the belief seems to be that RDS is not a great solution for middle to large sized Enterprise environments. Why is that? I can only really speak from my own experience on this but it’s my opinion that this is due to the fact that it doesn’t scale very well. Hold on though, IT DOES SCALE AND IT CAN SCALE BUT…if you scale up an RDS environment for hundreds or even thousands of Session Hosts or Virtual Desktops, it becomes pretty unmanageable, pretty fast!!
I really like Server 2012, I like that Server Manager has been transformed into a one stop shop dashboard for managing a server environment BUT have you ever tried to manage and support 100+ servers and 100+ users? It’s a real cluster muck! Well, Unidesk on top of RDS is a great solution to help you scale your RDS environment and support it successfully. And that’s on top of Unidesks overall kick ass solution for an easy going VDI solution. You don’t need to shoe horn a solution together. I’ve seen many VDI projects just go off the rails very fast. People were attempting to learn new technologies, never truly mastering them before their go live. Trying to glue together many independent products into one cohesive unit.
I love App-V but it seems to be tough to grasp for some in the Packaging and Admin world. AppSense and RES can be overwhelming, they offer a great solution for managing your users environment but they do so much more and can be really intimidating to new users. UE-V just doesn’t really cut the mustard. In your VDI, How many images are you going to have? What drives that decision? Have you really thought about the different limitations you may hit?, have you factored that into your budget and deadline projections? Unidesk can be the answer to all of those questions and doubts. Layering is one complete solution.
Unidesk really makes things so simple. You can setup Hyper-V as your hypervisor, RDS controls many of the moving parts for the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. You’ll never need to actually directly interact with the RDS features, if you don’t wish to. Setting up RDS and Hyper-V is as simple as enabling the roles on your servers and configuring. It’s pretty straight forward. With Unidesk you quickly and easily create your ‘Gold Image’, spin up Application Layers which you can do even without packaging experience and enable a User Writeable layer to ensure users application settings and data follows them around.
I had previously stated that Unidesk as a solution is the only relatively cheap and solid way to get a Non-Persistent VDI solution up and running. It still is, though it seems like more and more companies are choosing to go with persistent desktops with the declining prices in storage. You can of course, also create and support persistent desktops, if that’s your bag. In the end you can create and assign your desktops with the applications your users need and persist their user settings within minutes. You’ll also have one robust console to manage and support the environment and your users, a console which is better than using server manager and one which will likely be developed even further over time and won’t be a victim to the slow pace of Service Packs or major OS releases.
I said I wasn’t going to explain how it works but I kind of just did 🙂 I will leave you with this. In my home lab, like many of you I’m currently deploying my servers and desktops with my own automated solution, incorporating MDT, SCCM and Powershell. The guys over at Unidesk were nice enough to give this old Unidesk Certified Engineer a license. Unidesk will now be my automated solution for building out my home lab. It’s going to save me so much time. Currently the Tech Preview doesn’t support Server 2012 so I’m still building those with my own solution but I have been told it’s on the roadmap. Give the Tech Preview a try for yourself. It really does make things much, much more easy.
Unidesk was also in the spotlight at Microsoft TechReady this year: Unidesk at TechReady
UPDATE: I posted more blogs on how to get up and running with Unidesk 3.0
View those HERE