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Virtualizing Workstations For Common Hardware? 349

Posted by kdawson
from the rock-to-stand-on dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We have approximately 20 workstations which all have different hardware specs. Every workstation has two monitors and generally runs either Ubuntu or Windows. I had started using Clonezilla to copy the installs so we could deploy new workstations quickly and easily, when we have hardware failures or the like, but am struggling with Windows requiring new drivers to be installed for all new hardware. Obviously we could be booting into Ubuntu and then load a Windows virtual machine after that, but I'd prefer not to have the added load of a full GUI underneath Windows — we want maximum performance possible. And I don't think the multi-monitor support would work. Is it possible to have a very basic virtual machine beneath to provide hardware consistency whilst still allowing multi-monitor support? Does anyone have any experience with a technique like this?"
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Virtualizing Workstations For Common Hardware?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:33PM (#31892022)

    Hypervisor?

  • yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:37PM (#31892048)

    I do. The short answer: Don't.

    Just on the interactivity alone, it's slow response, you spend extra seconds loading windows, menus, and after awhile those extra seconds add up to real productivity loss. Virtualization belongs on servers and in labs, where interactivity is less important than raw horsepower. For a workstation, don't virtualize. It's painful.

  • by SlamMan (221834) <squigit@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:43PM (#31892082)
    You're just making it harder than it needs to be. Use Ghost, Acronis, KACE, or any of the other semi-hardware agnostic imaging systems. Failing that, just take individual images of each peice of disparate hardware. Just takes a little one time act for each peice of hardware, and a large disk drive.
  • by purduephotog (218304) <.hirsch. .at. .inorbit.com.> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:48PM (#31892120) Homepage Journal

    Not always is a common solution the right one. Many times they lack the requisite low level IO needed to do the job right.

    Take, for instance, DDC/CI. I don't know what you're doing and that's fine, but in my line of work we have to talk to the monitor. You ain't doin' that on a virtual machine.

    Just because it's virtual doesn't mean it's better.

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cdrudge (68377) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:52PM (#31892160) Homepage

    How does Ghost virtualize anything? Sure it can clone their existing drive for backup purposes, but what happens when a desktop motherboard fries itself and is obsolete enough that they need to upgrade to something newer? Yeah they can get the data back, but the drive image won't match the new hardware.

  • by Toasterboy (228574) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:05PM (#31892252)

    Existing deployment tools from Microsoft already do this. You need the WAIK, which is a free download from Microsoft.

    You need to create a generalized image. If you get all the required drivers for all your hardware into the driver store, the drivers will be found during install. You can also deploy from PXE boot using WDS with a generalized image...

    There are a few caveats around a few drivers that aren't designed properly for Sysprep, and applications that aren't designed with sysprep in mind, but otherwise it's quite slick. You can script the installation of these exceptions to occur later on during deployment using unattend.xml and RunSynchronous commands though. You can also supply your licence key in the unattend.xml file.

    About 90% of all Windows deployments are sysprepped by OEMs or by corporate IT folks....

    Please read the documentation, the tools are quite flexible.

  • Re:not a cure-all (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:07PM (#31892266) Journal

    Who said he has multiple IT people working? My guess is that it is a smaller shop and they have one or maybe two people doing double duty as IT admin/other duties. My guess could be wrong, but so could yours :)

  • by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:29PM (#31892398)

    Initial 'h' is actually dropped considerably more frequently in UK English than US English; e.g. "an 'istoric event" in British but "a historic event" in American.

  • by snikulin (889460) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:35PM (#31892428)

    Am I right?

  • Re:yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mad Merlin (837387) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:46PM (#31892478) Homepage

    By application virtualization I assume you mean running a single application over the network as is possible with X11 (or many other solutions), instead of the whole desktop/machine. The problem with that is that it doesn't solve the problem outlined in TFS at all, as he wanted to eliminate having to deal with a grabbag of random hardware which Windows inevitably does not support (without special coaxing) every time a new machine comes through the door or some hardware explodes.

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerteNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:50PM (#31892502)

    He won't. The reason m$ is still around, is the huge industry around windows flaws. He's probably benefited by it too. It takes 10x more people to manage a windows-based network than a Unix based network. Think about it. All the antivirus companies. All the anti-spyware, registry cleaners, etc. All the "technicians" that keep joe sixpack's computer running. All the license money around windows. Remember, windows is not an OS in the sense that GNU/Linux is an os. Your average distro includes several DVDs with all the software you'll ever need. If what you want is not there, just fire up $package_management_system and search for it. Windows retails for, what, 300 dollars?. Ok, now add to that office, antivirus, graphic software, virtualization solution, disk imaging, etc, etc, etc. You are talking about a lot of money. The amount of people that have a job thanks to windows flaws is HUGE. And it's that group of people that is keeping windows alive. Thanks to that, it's not going away any time soon.

    Thinking about it, it's how capitalism works. Accountants, lawyers, marketing droids, most managers, bankers 90% of government employees, etc,etc. None of them do anything productive. They have a job JUST because there's a glitch on the system.

    This people will keep it alive, because it's what's feeding them, and most of them don't even realize how wrong it is, and what useless and pointless lifes they live.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:55PM (#31892532) Journal
    What gets me is the song Henry the Eighth [youtube.com]

    H - E - N - R- Y
    Ennery! (Ennery!)
    Ennery! (Ennery!)
    Ennery the eighth, I am, I am.
    Ennery the eighth, I am.

  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:04AM (#31892568)

    In addition to sysprep, if you are running Vista or Windows 7, you can use the tool DISM.exe from the Windows Automated Installation Kit, to inject plug and play drivers into your offline image. You also might really, really want to look at the MDT 2010 tool from Microsoft. It does make deployments of windows easier when it comes to drivers.

  • Re:not a cure-all (Score:3, Insightful)

    by catmistake (814204) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:05AM (#31892572) Journal

    Virtualization is not a cure-all

    I respectfully disagree. When it comes to MS Windows, if ever there was a cure-all, virtualization is it. Make a short list of the problems with Windows, and one way or another, virtualization can solve it. If you're clever enough, for instance, the ubiquitous need for virus protection can be eliminated by sand boxing (just think of the gazillions of proc cycles that could be saved). Virtualization can make Windows secure in a way it will never be when it runs on the bare iron. Once you have a virtualized system just right, you can zip it up, deploy it by the multitudes. What's that? Something acting wonky? Delete, unzip, redeploy in less time than it takes to scan a hard drive.

    Now, I agree that virtualization isn't the absolute ideal solution in all situations, but that doesn't mean it's not a cure-all (for the inherent headaches of MS Windows). A cure-all is a generalized solution. There might be better specialized solutions, but they're specialized and not a cure-all. Virtualization is the tonic that can give a Windows desktop or server the key features that Microsoft was never able to include or patch. In fact, I'd say, if Windows is broken, and it really has been for a long time, virtualization fixes it.

  • As long as you stay away from ATI or nVidia graphics cards, you should be OK.

    I'm not saying you're wrong, but geez, advice like this is the exact reason we haven't seen the Year of the Linux Desktop yet.

    Telling people to avoid graphics chipsets by ATI and nVidia is like telling them to avoid Intel and AMD processors. Are there alternatives? Well, yes, but at best they're niche products and at worst they're completely incompatible.

    When you're dealing with market saturation like ATI and nVidia have, it's either support them or die. Yes, most Linux distros do okay at this, but it's still hit-or-miss, and telling people to stay clear of those chipsets doesn't help anything.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:26AM (#31892970) Journal

    Thinking about it, it's how capitalism works. Accountants, lawyers, marketing droids, most managers, bankers 90% of government employees, etc,etc. None of them do anything productive. They have a job JUST because there's a glitch on the system.

    If that's what you think of Accountants, lawyers, marketing droids, managers, and bankers, it's because you haven't a clue yet.

    Are you in business? Because if you are, your accountant had better save you lots more money than he/she costs. And no, I'm not talking about complex tax laws, I'm talking about simple asset and expense management. Companies which aren't tightly controlled in accounting burn through cash like you wouldn't believe. It's the accountants who (ahem) account for it all and help control expenses and maximize return on investment!

    Your lawyer is there to advise you of the rules of the road. And those rules generally aren't arbitrary, they are complex and detailed because reality is complex and detailed. Laws generally get passed in response to real situations that have really happened! But do you know this? Sorry, of course you don't. And that's why when you are in legal trouble, you get a lawyer. Just the other day, I had a 2 hour interview with my lawyer save me some $100,000 cash. You think I don't value my laywer?

    Marketing droids are (I hate to say) some of the most valuable members of an organization. Sure, some are idiots - such as those running the current Verizon ads (which seem to go out of their way to convince me NOT to buy Verizon hi-speed smart phones) but they are the exception. They are there to generate demand for the products of an organization. If they weren't there, selling the widgets that the engineers produce, there wouldn't be any need for engineers to produce anything because nobody would want them. They wouldn't even know that they exist! (which, even the Verizon idiots are succeeding at)

    And so on. Each profession has its place, and each presents value to your company and your society. Generally, this value is greater than the cost of the salary, etc. of the individual(s) involved. As in all things involving people, there is some corruption. There are lawyers who are a waste of oxygen, just as there are engineers who are a waste of perfectly good coffee. (See Wally from Dilbert comics, for a stereotyped example)

    But you can't dismiss them all, because they actually DO something, even if you aren't aware of what it is, yet!

  • by lorenlal (164133) on Monday April 19, 2010 @08:01AM (#31894414)

    No, you speak.

    English is a great language if you're willing to accept that it's a terrific mess, and that the rules are actually guidelines.

  • by rhendershot (46429) on Monday April 19, 2010 @09:35AM (#31895084) Journal

    have preconceptions about how things "should" be, and when they get into the field you get ideas like this -- remote desktop for one application is not what the article is about. The article was talking about wholesale virtualization of the entire workstation, not just a single application.

    I think you're also missing the OP's real question. The way I read it is that s/he wants to setup each workstation with a simple virtualization layer upon which the choice of Windows or Ubuntu can be made at boot time. I think the intent is for these to be completely standalone (possibly supplied by a 'base' image) not resident on a server as you suggest.

    I've considered this setup myself but in the final cut I prefer to give every cycle to Linux. But this is at home. Aside from that, I'm also not certain that it would be very easy to share partitions from one to another if some lower virtualization layer has ultimate control.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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