Virtually Everywhere

Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 3.4 enables secure desktop access from almost anywhere.

By Rich Schwerin

July/August 2012

Following the availability of Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 3.4, Rich Schwerin, Oracle Magazine contributor, sat down with Andy Hall, product management director at Oracle, to talk about desktop virtualization. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download the full podcast at

Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle desktop virtualization deliver enterprise desktops?

Hall: Oracle desktop virtualization offers a different approach to delivering enterprise desktops to end users. Don’t run the desktop on the client machines, where it’s insecure, where it’s tough to manage, where basically you’re tied to a device. Instead, why don’t you use virtualization to run your desktop in a virtual machine in the data center? It’s more secure, it’s easier to manage, and you can access it from more places and from more devices.

Oracle Magazine: Which products comprise Oracle’s desktop virtualization solutions?

Hall: We have two desktop virtualization classes: client-side and server-side. A product called Oracle VM VirtualBox handles client-side virtualization. Oracle VM VirtualBox is one of the most popular client-side hypervisors in the world today. There are more than 2 million downloads of Oracle VM VirtualBox happening from Oracle Technology Network every month, and people are using Oracle VM VirtualBox on their Microsoft Windows PCs, on their Mac desktops, and on their Linux machines as well. The big brother to Oracle VM VirtualBox is Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure—which is server-side desktop virtualization—running desktop operating systems such as Windows in individual VMs on servers in the data center. And if you’re running your desktops from the data center, you can access them from your Windows PC, from your Mac, from your iPad, or from specific devices, such as Oracle’s Sun Ray Clients. Sun Ray Clients are an endpoint device that are specifically designed for accessing virtual desktops in the data center, so they have no operating system, no moving parts, and are really secure. Finally, we have Oracle Secure Global Desktop, which provides secure browser-based access to your applications and data running in the data center from wherever you are in the world. The idea is you start with a browser, type in a URL, log in, and you get access to the Oracle applications and other enterprise applications that are in the data center.

Oracle Magazine: How do system administrators benefit from Oracle desktop virtualization?

Hall: If you’ve ever managed a fleet of desktops, you’ve realized that you’re in a very reactive mode. You’re forever chasing around and looking to update people’s PCs, you’re fixing security problems, you’re helping end users who have gotten themselves into a bit of a predicament somehow—and that’s because the device that you’re trying to help them with is out there in the wild. Effectively many users are their own administrators in a traditional PC environment. But if you move to a virtual desktop environment, the administrator is able to deliver virtual desktops from the data center. And the way this works is that the administrator would create one or more pools of desktops with a golden template—a repeatable, reusable reference model. So you can create, for instance, the golden master Windows template for your sales team, and another golden master template for your marketing people or your engineers, and they can be completely different golden images. Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure can clone these golden master images into desktop pools that you can assign as desktops to end users. So when I as your end user log in, I am assigned a particular desktop that the system administrator wants for me. And when I log out, Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure has a selection of features that allows the administrator to either keep that virtual desktop for me, repurpose or reassign it to someone else, or potentially just throw it away altogether and clone a brand-new one. This means that you can always re-create and deploy pristine desktop images to your end users, so you don’t let them get into a mess.

Oracle Magazine: How do developers and DBAs benefit from Oracle desktop virtualization?

Hall: Most developers I know tend to use Oracle VM VirtualBox on the client side, because one of the things developers really want to do is to be able to work from anywhere and to be able to do everything. And being able to work from anywhere means that you want a complete development environment of clients, a middle-tier server, and a back-end server, so you can create multiple VMs on your desktop device, whatever that might be. Let’s say you’re a Web developer or you’re developing something in HTML5. You need to test that against all the different browsers, so you create multiple VMs to test against Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, or others, and on all the different platforms that you expect your customers to be using as well. By using virtualization in that way, you really can simulate almost every environment in which you expect your application to be used.

Oracle Magazine: What role does Oracle desktop virtualization play when employees bring their own tablet devices to work?

Hall: One of the big problems that system administrators are having is that not just any old end user, but the C-level executive is coming to work and saying, “Hey, I’m the chief financial officer, and I expect to be able to access my enterprise applications from this device.” How on earth can you do that? Typically the applications haven’t been designed for that device, so how can you deliver your standard enterprise applications to such a device? Well, it’s very easy to do with Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. You simply assign your CFO a virtual desktop that runs in the data center, and then install the Oracle Virtual Desktop Client for iPad. You start that up, and that is able to find your virtual desktop server, authenticate, and log in, and the CFO can access the desktop on his iPad. And we’ve gone further than that, because we realize that the gestures you use when you’re using a tablet device are very often different from the ones you use when you are using a keyboard and mouse. So we’ve mapped a certain number of those gestures to make it more natural to be able to interact with this traditional desktop environment on your tablet. Plus, you can hop between devices and locations and still get access to the same virtual desktop. So let’s say you’re sitting in the office and using your virtual desktop, and all of a sudden you get a telephone call that says you have to come home for dinner now. So you dash home, and when you’re at home you pick up your iPad, connect back into your virtual desktop server, and pick up the session from exactly where you left it.

Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle address desktop virtualization security issues?

Hall: The good news is that none of the data you’re interacting with from your Oracle Virtual Desktop Client on your PC, Mac, iPad, or Sun Ray Client exists on the client device—you’re really just seeing a view onto that data. So if someone steals the device, they really haven’t stolen anything. Your desktop is still running in the data center, where it’s being looked after; where it’s tightly secured; and where you can keep audit trails of who accessed it, from where, when, and for how long.

Oracle Magazine: What’s new in Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 3.4, and what makes it important?

Hall: Traditionally, putting together a virtual desktop infrastructure solution from any vendor is a little bit hairy. You need quite a lot of capital expenditure: you have to get some shared storage devices, such as a NAS [network-attached storage] appliance; you need some servers on which you’re going to run your virtual desktops; you need some software that’s going to virtualize the desktop; and you need some software that’s going to allow you to get remote access from it securely over a protocol that has been designed specifically for accessing remote desktops.

One of the things that we’re doing with Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 3.4 is to address some of those challenges by offering more and simpler deployment options. For example, we’re offering a greater range of storage options, so you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a big NAS device. You can use either local storage or shared storage such as NFS [Network File System] or SMB [Server Message Block] to set up the virtual desktop infrastructure. The other area that we’ve improved on greatly is the delivery of a richer user experience, because if you’re using your virtual desktop, you really want it to be as good as the experience you have when you use a traditional PC. For example, if you go to YouTube, you’ll see rich media types inside of your browser, and you expect them to be displayed from your virtual desktop in a way that is comparable to a traditional desktop deployment. To achieve that, we’ve put in acceleration techniques at various places in the stack. So, for instance, when Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 3.4 sees video being displayed in a virtual desktop, it uses a different codec to transmit it down to the client. And as you jump from device to device, we’ve made the hotdesking, or session mobility, a lot smoother and smarter. Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 3.4 also passes the location of the endpoint up the wire to the virtual desktop, and that’s very important in deployments such as healthcare.

Oracle Magazine: What makes Oracle’s desktop virtualization solutions unique?

Hall: First, Oracle is the only virtual desktop vendor that can provide the hardware for your virtualization layer, the storage service, the server virtualization software, the desktop virtualization software, the remote access, and the endpoint device. So we deliver the whole stack—hardware and software, engineered to work together. Second, when you’re using Oracle Applications, Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is the only virtual desktop environment certified for use with those enterprise applications.

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