Cloud based data solutions- Are they forgetting about VDI?

If you follow VMware’s End User Computing strategy/vision, you probably have read that a computer consists of building blocks; Hardware, Operating System, Applications, Data/Settings. Traditionally these layers are tied together and it is very smart to untie them by using virtualization.

Nothing new so far. it is smart to decouple layers. You will be able to manage each piece separately. Users will be more flexible; Any time, any device, anywhere users will be able to get access to apps, settings and data.

So, let’s focus on data for a sec.

We know and understand you shouldn’t lock data in a PC. It’s a bad thing to do. You need to be behind that PC to be able to access that data. So, it’s common to redirect data to a file share inside the company. Now you can access it from any PC inside your company (Folder redirection and Roaming Profiles are mostly used together so that’s my assumption; Folder Redirection and Roaming Profiles/Persona Management are in place).

The limitation with Folder Redirection is that you can’t access it from any device, access it easily from outside your company nor share it easily. The solution for that; Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy Stash and Project Octopus, to name a few. It has to be mentioned; Mozy Stash and Project Octopus are beta/alpha products, not generally available. If you would like to know more about the differences and benefits between Stash/Octopus and Dropbox, click here.

What’s the beauty of the mentioned products? Your data is located in the “Cloud”, and “Cloud” can be on or off premise. Data is residing on a platform which is accessible. All you need to have are Clients on your devices, configured to access your account and your data. Go to the Dropbox or Mozy website and you will be able to get Clients for Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone and Android (and maybe even other platforms). Great!! You can access your data from all of your devices. Exactly what we all want!

But…what about VDI environments…and let me stick to what I know best..VMware View environments? What about it?, you might ask. Just install, for example Dropbox for Windows and a user is good to go. I noticed a tiny little issue and I wanted to see if it is just me seeing this as an issue. I’m curious about your thoughts.

I do believe the most efficient and user centric way of computing is to use Linked Clone Floating pools with a delete/refresh after first use. All users will get a clean VM, the VM won’t grow much and will revert to its original size. Via ThinApp users will get their apps and Persona Management/Roaming Profiles will give the user’s look and feel. With traditional Folder Redirection, every time you logon to a new VM, you will be able to access your data from a share. I truly like this mechanism and encourage everyone to aim for this method.

So, no Folder Redirection but let’s use Dropbox in stead. I should install Dropbox in my golden image/my parent VM. Then deploy a pool from that parent and everyone should have Dropbox. Configure it and data should be available to that user. Your configuration should be saved in a part of your profile that roams, like AppData\Roaming. Persona Management/Roaming Profiles will save this setting and it will be there on every VM, so you only configure it 1 time. To go easy on the size of your profile, the Dropbox folder will be redirected to a share (default installation is user\My Documents\Dropbox).

Well, I really thought this would make sense but no! The case with Dropbox is that is gets installed in the user’s profile. It’s a per user installation (and to me, also very much per device, so per user-per device). Install it in your golden image and your users won’t even see Dropbox being installed.

I expect other products to have similar issues (I know some do). Either the installation is in someone’s profile or the configuration is device dependent (either saves under AppData\Local or under HKLM, result; not roaming). You don’t want to configure your Data repository every time you logon to a new VM, I assume.

I can access my data from an iPad and iPhone but I can’t access it from my main work environment, a VM. Maybe I’m missing something here and is something totally different coming, solving this issue completely or making it irrelevant. If it isn’t, then I truly hope “they” won’t forget VDI solutions.