VMware View-Thin Clients; DevonIT VDI Blaster

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to get a DevonIT VDI Blaster 1.1 NFR (build 10.01.27). Because of my schedule I didn’t do much with it until last friday. I remembered I had downloaded the software so I wanted to play around with it.

VDI Blaster appealed to me; a piece of software which can turn your “old” fat clients into thin clients. All secure, lean and mean and it supports View4 and PCoIP!

First thing I saw was I downloaded 3 pieces of software and the manual. The manual can be downloaded here. The 3 software components are;

1. vdi-blaster wininstaller.exe: You use this piece when you have Windows XP (32 bit) clients you want to repurpose and turn them into thin clients. It sets up a dual boot so the original XP instance with all its data are preserved. I do have my doubts if customers want to do this; preserve the XP installation. What I’m seeing when customers are switching to a VDI solution is that everything is put into the virtual desktop and removed from the end point. A plus is the customer can revoke a XP license. There are probably cases where it is necessary to have a local XP installed although the user needs to reboot and switch to the XP install to use it. Because it is a dual boot, you can only use either XP or VDI Blaster.

2. vdi-blaster hdinstall.iso: with this .iso you can install VDI Blaster on a end point’s hard drive. This will delete the OS and data which were originally on the end point (and saves a Windows XP license). In my opinion the way to go but on page 6 of the manual I see this feature is experimental. So keep that in mind. I haven’t used this because I don’t have enough equipment to do so.

3. vdi-blaster livecd.iso: also experimental. With this .iso you can create a bootable USB key with the VDI Blaster running on it. You can create your portable View Client. I think this is a cool feature! It is a nice gadget. In the manual it mentions “Unetbootin”. You have to download Unetbootin and run it on your machine. Attach a USB key, browse for the livecd .iso and run it. This will make your USB key bootable with the VDI Blaster software. Very easy! I’m not sure if customers will use this in production though. First of all VMware has an experimental feature called Offline VDI where you can download the VM to your access device and work offline. With VDI Blaster you always have to work remotely as long as you can connect to your data center (and sometimes you won’t have a connection to the internet) and this is where I have issues: See below my experiences.

My experiences so far:

In my house everything is connected wireless. My router is downstairs in the garage. I use a Lenovo X60 for testing and demo purposes. When i boot my X60 into the VDI Blaster GUI, (dual boot with vdi-blaster wininstaller.exe) it won’t get an IP address. When i plug in a cable, it is working fine. Apparently VDI Blaster doesn’t support my WLAN card (and won’t support all WLAN cards). For the record, I’m not a linux guru. VDI Blaster is based on linux. I bet people can get t to work but I look at products from a “simple user” point of view. Also, the VDI Blaster has a Cisco compatible VPN Client which supports a limited amount of devices. See page 26 of the manual. When I fill in the VPN information for our demo environment, I don’t see how I can make a VPN connection. I haven’t seen this part in the manual and I don’t see it in the GUI. So far, I haven’t been able to set up a VPN (PPTP) connection to VMware’s demo environment in The Netherlands.

Another thing, rather minor though, is the manual. It covers the basics and nothing more:

-As stated before it does mention Unetbootin but that’s it. I used Google to find out what to do,

-Also, the VPN isn’t documented well. Yes i can set VPN credentials… but then what? Still haven’t figured it out, maybe I’m missing something,

-The manual says, on page 16, that the default behavior of the thin client is it is persistent. All changes made, like creating a VMware View connection, will be saved. On page 18, it says your new installed thin client is a stateless, non persistent thin client. Hmm! Ok, test: create a View connection and reboot: Gone, so page 18 is right. It is a stateless thin client. To make the thin clients persistent you will need the management server. You can download the manual and software from here. I will download and convert it to my vSphere environment.

I’m still curious and interested in DevonIT’s VDI Blaster though, don’t get me wrong. The wininstall wouldn’t be my option to use but that’s not up to me. I like the hdinstall and livecd options. Like i said before, I’m not a guru on linux. Comment on this post if I’m missing something.