SWCS833
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K-12 Education and Flash with PCoIP

As a Systems Administrator for a K-12 district that is seriously looking at VMWare View, I thought I would share my findings of what I am seeing with Flash and PCoIP.

First though, a little background about our environment. In education, and maybe more in the district I work for, most of our applications utilize flash based technology. These programs are either web based or application based, and can vary greatly in what they are used for. Some are online games while others are video books with audio. One of the more important applications that use flash is our State Mandated Testing software, called TestNav by Pearson. This program utilizes both audio and flash based videos for students.

When using View with PCoIP in a lab environment with 32 desktops, CPU usage will average from 600 MHZ to 1600 MHZ per VM, and stay at that level until flash based content is no longer being displayed. Currently we are not having any performance problems, as this is just a POC with 32 VMs. The server is big enough with 2 Quad Cores. All the flash based content works without an issue.

What concerns me though is when we start to talk about deploying View beyond the POC. The high utilization on the CPU with just 32 vms is concerning, as I do not know what level of performance I can guarantee, especially when I start to consider over 400-600 VMs running at the same time. Like I said before, most of our applications use flash, the biggest one being our state mandated testing program which will run at the same time on all of the VMs (thats if we decide to move forward with View) due to the time window we are given for delivering this test from the state.

When looking at sizing a VDI infrastructure, I can use the 6 VMs per core, but that to me is way to conservative and from a cost perspective, does not make sense. We can get a desktop with 2 GB of RAM with mutli core for under $400 dollars, while a VDI infrastructure is going to cost a lot more than just buying desktops when servers, licensing and storage costs are added up. And I do understand the cost savings are seen more in the operational side, but we still have consider the capital investment, especially in this economic downturn.

Don't get me wrong, I think VMWare has come a long way with VMware View and has made great strides with the introduction of PCoIP. Their products are rock solid and continue to only get better. The only thing that I think VMWare needs to look at improving is the resource requirements for multimedia when MMR is not being utilized, like Flash. I hope VMWare is able to further optimize the protocol with Teradici or come up with another solution for flash based rendering. This is the biggest hold up that I can see for my environment when it comes to pushing VMware View in school lab environment.

Thanks and again I just wanted to share my findings with this community.

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9 Replies
MicahelMenne
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Defiant,

I work for a higher ed institution and share some of your same concerns. With the discounts that we have been able to see for education, our CapEx price point isn't alot more than that of what we pay for a physical desktop. I'm basing this on 30 VMs per server (48GB RAM, 1.5GB per VM).

That said, have you tried some of the Flash throttling things? They may be more bandwidth control. Flash is very difficult to render host side and redirect.

I know VMware is developing View 4.5. It should be going into beta pretty soon. I have no inside knowledge, but I would bet they will be investing heavily in this area. From my perspective, more and more things are going flash based. We currently stream WMV and QT, but are trying to move to Flash because it is less problematic from a cross-platform standpoint.

I've tested view and I'm in the process of setting up a HyperV environment to test HyperV/XenDesktop. We'll see where that goes. The price is slightly higher out of the gate, but enough to dissuade me from going with one or the other. I'm sure Microsoft will work hard to bring that price down if we push them on it.

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SWCS833
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MichaelMenne,

I haven't tried any of the Flash throttling controls yet, but I will be trying that this week. I know that with PCoIP, VMWare says to leave it at "No Throttling". Bandwidth wise we don't have any issues, its all internal LAN/MAN.

I know that Citrix is doing a redirect with their HDX protocol for Adobe Flash but I do understand why VMWare is not doing the same thing, as they want to ensure that not just flash runs smoothly with PCoIP. They are ensuring that any multimedia content like Silverlight and even ones not yet released with run smoothly inside View.

I just want to make sure VMWare is aware of these constraints, specially in the education world as we are supporting a pretty dynamic infrastructure.

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MicahelMenne
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I'm pretty sure they are doing FLASH redirection. It's just not as flushed out as it needs to be. I haven't tested Silverlight yet. QT isn't great, but better than Flash. WMV is pretty good.

Citrix gets by with degrading the quality of the video. We had a conference call / live meeting with them the other day. They tried to demo it to us, but it was over LIve Meeting / RDP, so it wasn't a good experience.

Have you talked to your regional VMware inside sales person for Higher Ed? I've got a conference call with ours on Thursday. Make your concerns known to them directly. I find that to be the best approach. There are quite a few VMware Employees on the forum, but I don't know how much influence they have over the direction / design of the products.

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SWCS833
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We are not HigherEd, but yes I have talked to my VMWare Account Exec and SE. I wanted to post here so that the VMware View PM and Engineers see this.

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MicahelMenne
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Sorry .. I should have remembered the title of the post.

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SWCS833
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No problem MicahelMenne Smiley Happy

May I ask what servers specs you are using? For a 2x quad core with VMWare's 6 VMs per core, you should be 48 VMs per host minimum. I am thinking more like 8-10 though per core, which are low to mid tier workers/students/vms.

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MicahelMenne
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These are Dell PowerEdge R710s with 2xQuad-Core 2.66Ghz Nehalem CPUs. CPU isn't really my concern or limiting factor. It's RAM. 48GB of RAM is the sweet spot for pricing on these.

To bump up our existing 5 ESX hosts (current server infrastructure), it cost the same as buying 2 more physical servers to bump them all from 48GB to 64GB while maintaining the 1066Mhz bus speed. We could crank them up to 64GB at minimal cost, but we'd have to drop to an 800Mhz bus speed.

When we get to deploying a VDI environment, we may re-evaluate our host specs and see where things are at.

I'm also trying to play conservative to make sure everything works out right. We are looking to deploy Windows 7 VMs, so the RAM is a bit higher for requirements.

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SWCS833
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How much memory are you giving your VMs? Are you putting the swap file on different LUNs than the linked clones?

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MicahelMenne
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1.5GB - 2GB per VM. Windows 7 needs a minimum of 1GB to run at all without swapping. As far as swap files, I haven't gotten that far. I'm testing on the same LUNs for now.

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