Jon Honeyball finds a budget route to move your office over to VDI
There’s still a lot of work to be done with Windows 7, and one major new initiative that might attract some interesting take-up is the availability of the Release Candidate of Windows Thin PC, a name that’s a bit of a mouthful even when abbreviated to the “RC of WinTPC”.
This new platform is a small, stripped-down version of Windows 7 designed to be installed on ageing legacy hardware, the sort that might run Windows XP well enough but that maybe isn’t up to the job of running a full install of Windows 7 and a full complement of Office 2010 on top of that.
The basic idea is that such a machine will boot into WinTPC and then connect to a server that will project a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) desktop session on to the local WinTPC platform. WinTPC is effectively built on top of Windows Embedded Standard 7 Service Pack 1 (another product name that trips lightly off the tongue), and in order to support the VDI capabilities it employs Remote FX for remote graphics processing.
As you’d expect, it also supports System Center Configuration Manager to allow system admins to configure and manage the thin-client devices remotely too.
Gasp, shock, horror! Microsoft giving away a free OS? This can’t really be happeningWhat’s perhaps most interesting about the WinTPC platform is that it’s going to be free. Yes, you heard that right: free. Gasp, shock, horror! Microsoft giving away a free OS? This can’t really be happening. Well, it is – albeit with a few restrictions.
First, Microsoft didn’t have any realistic hope of charging for it because you still need a licence for the OS session that gets projected on to your client, as well as for all the apps that it runs – charging for WinTPC on top would effectively be double-charging, once for the useful part (your VDI session) and again for the local bootstrap loader required to support it.
Second, since your desktop session is actually running on a remote server, WinTPC is of no use at all on its own, which means charging for it would take some cheek. And finally, it will be available only to Software Assurance licencees, so don’t expect to see it in your local software emporium any time soon.
To make it all work you’ll need RemoteFX-supporting server hardware, which could be delivered by a large VM farm or a set of blade servers.
Speaking of which, just look at the offer that’s landed in my inbox from a favourite hardware supplier, LA Micro – a used HP C7000 blade server, which is a full-height, rackmount monster with five power supplies, ten fans, an HP Infiniband switch and two management ports. Now stuff this box with 16 blade servers, each containing twin 2.4GHz AMD Opteron dual-core processors, 16GB of RAM, 73GB of SAS hard disk and two ports of Gigabit Ethernet.
If I’ve done my sums correctly that adds up to 64 processing cores, 256GB of total RAM and more than 1TB of disk space. Okay, it’s ex-lease kit, but it still has years of life ahead of it and with a price tag that’s just a pint short of six grand.
You’ll have to admit that this monster box would be capable of shovelling a whole large office-worth of VDI desktops out onto WinTPC clients.
If you’re wanting to move over to VDI – and there are lots of good reasons to think about doing that rather than continuing to invest lots of money in desktop PCs – then such a high-power blade server as this is worth hunting down, and the second-hand prices can be stunningly affordable.
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Beta release download link.
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Windows Thin PC[/h]Windows Thin PC enables customers to repurpose existing PCs as thin clients by providing a smaller footprint, locked down version of Windows 7. This provides organizations with significant benefits:
Reduced End Point costs for VDI: Windows Thin PC empowers enterprises to leverage their end point hardware investments to access virtual desktops that are delivered using VDI or sessions. Windows Thin PC is available as a benefit of SA, and hence does not represent any additional cost for SA customers. Windows Thin PC also provides IT with the flexibility to revert back to PCs if necessary, in case the thin client computing model does not provide the benefits they were after.
Excellent Thin Client experience: Windows Thin PC offers many of the benefits of a thin client. Organizations can improve security and compliance on their repurposed PCs, by using write filters to prevent data from being written to disk. Additionally, Windows Thin PC ensures a rich remote desktop experience through RemoteFX, enabling delivery of high fidelity multimedia content from centralized desktops.
Enterprise Ready platform: Windows Thin PC is built on the proven Windows 7 platform. Organizations can leverage existing management strategy and tools such as System Center to centrally manage Windows Thin PC, including accelerated role based deployment of applications, security patches, updates, and data. Enterprise features such as Bitlocker and Applocker further help IT secure their devices, whileDirectAccess helps customers securely access their corporate data on repurposed laptops.
Microsoft recommends that customers who are currently evaluating thin client computing begin their journey by first repurposing existing PCs as thin clients with Windows Thin PC and evaluate the benefits they would get with this architecture. Once Windows Thin PC device hardware get decommissioned, customers can then purchase new Windows Embedded Thin Clients from our OEM partners without having to make changes to their existing management and security policies.