Cure those RDSH printing blues with TSPrint

Anybody out there fed up to the back teeth with firefighting printing problems on your remote desktops? Bet it’s most of you. I have found that a good deal of my management time in an RDSH farm is taking calls from users that can’t print from their remote session. There are such a huge range of printers and client desktops out there that installing printer drivers of the right sort on the server (or worse in a farm, many servers) becomes a management nightmare and can even lead to instability of the platform and availability issues for other users. I needed another solution, and after discounting some really quite eye-wateringly expensive options that may have worked, but would have seriously impacted my deployment budget, I came across TSPrint from TerminalWorks. This application is simplicity itself, you just install the server application on each server of your RDSH farm, and then each user installs a (free) client application on their workstation. Then when a client connects to the farm it forms a secure tunnel in which all print operations are sent to the client and processed locally with their drivers. On the farm you just select the generic “TSPrint” printer and there is nothing more to do. The print channel is also compressed to make the best of WAN connections, and there are advanced options that allow you to select different printers if required, as well as a simple print to default printer option. Since installing this product issues with printing have almost dropped to zero. I recently had an issue where at setup a user was printing fine for a...

Making a leaner fitter Windows 7 Virtual Desktop

In our last blog post (http://blog.millennia.it/a-closer-look-at-storage-and-virtual-desktops), we touched on the IOPS issues that can mean the difference between a VDI project succeeding or failing. We have seen how VDI can produce a lot of very random I/O spikes that can cause slow or, worse for the end user, unpredictable performance throughout the working day. It is therefore important that scale testing is done as part of any VDI implementation, because what might look great with 20 VMs running could be exhibiting problems by the time you pass 100 and completely unusable before you reach 150 VMs – a problem if your wish was for 400 concurrent users! This time we look at making the best Windows 7 image so you can make sure you get the most out of your VDI implementation. This is not meant to be an exhaustive guide, but covers the main areas that can be addressed to be able to cut down the footprint of the master Win7 image, which when scaled to hundreds or thousands of user VMs can make a huge difference to resource consumption and therefore likely performance. Configure the virtual machine settings   Windows 7 compatibility – make sure that you can support running Windows 7 as a guest OS. With VMware you need a minimum of ESX 4 Update 1 on the host servers plus VMView 4.5 for official Windows 7 support. The VM should also be a version 7 VM ideally – which is easy to configure. vCPU count – Use as few vCPUs as possible while providing the required amount of CPU resource to your client VMs. Counter-intuitively...

A closer look at storage and virtual desktops

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is becoming a hot topic in the wake of server virtualisation. It was one of the areas that generated the most attention at the recent IPExpo 2010 in October and certainly looks to gain momentum in the following few years as companies complete their server virtualisation programmes and look to transfer that knowledge to the desktop. However, assuming that server virtualisation knowledge is enough to then go and virtualise the PCs in your environment is where you may well come unstuck. There is a killer named IOPS lurking in the shadows, which you ignore at your peril! Firstly we must understand the problem when tackling the problem of desktop virtualisation. The intial startup and login A Windows PC running on a local hard drive generally uses a IDE or SATA drive running at 5400 or 7200 rpm. Typically these disks can deliver 40 or 50 IOPS (Input Outputs Per Second), which is enough for a single user. When a PC starts it loads the basic OS and a number of services. Many of these services that exist specifically to optimise a physical disk environment, such as indexing and prefetching, and produce a lot of IOPS that may benefit a single disk system but when combined with many other virtual desktops can cripple a virtual desktop system. The amount of IOPS a Windows client produces varies according to the applications loaded and how heavy the use is, but generally 8 to 10 IOPS for a the average user and 14 to 20 IOPS for heavy users is not too far off the mark. However, what is...
Keep working whatever the weather with virtual desktops

Keep working whatever the weather with virtual desktops

So here we are in the first official week of winter, and already a good part of the country has had to deal with the disruption caused by the kind of winter weather that just 6 weeks ago completely failed to be forecast by the Met Office (http://bit.ly/h2crAe). This is the second time in less than 12 months that people have not been able to get to work on a large scale, with a cost to business running into £ billions at a time when we can least afford it. Although many people just HAVE to physically get into work there are many others that have a desk and a computer, and as long as they have access to the information they need could easily do the same job wherever they were located. This is where the benefits of virtual desktops really kick in. More and more companies are seeing that flexible working arrangements can save them money but also lead to increased productivity by enabling work to be done without the requirement of staff to submit themselves to long commutes, which invariably become longer through a creaking transport system and events such as the latest snow and ice problems. We have all our systems centrally located in a data centre and can log in to our desktop either from the local office or home and get the same desktop, applications and access to data with no security implications; as no direct external access to the corporate network is required. No VPNs to set up for each remote worker, no managing different username and passwords, and no change in...