I recently had a chance to implement 10 Ardence clients at work. For the most part, it’s pretty cool and is part of my frameworks for implementing a VDI solution.
How it works:
Basically, Ardence works via PXE services. Instead of using a local disk, Ardence streams a virtual disk (vdisk) to a device. These devices can be physical workstations or servers, thin-clients, or my favorite…virtual machines. When the physical machines are booted, they connect via PXE to the Ardence server. Once the device is registered on the Ardence server, a selection of vdisks is presented. Once you select a vdisk, the device reboots, PXE connects to the Ardence server and the vdisk is streamed to the client.
Installation of Ardence is relatively straight forward. In my particular situation, I already have Altiris doing PXE services for their deployment solution. Ardence has a tech doc for configuring Ardence PXE thru Altiris. This was relativly easy to configure. When I originally setup Ardence, I used a VM for the Ardence server. This is a supported configuration, however, I have since migrated the Ardence server to a physical server…more on that later. Essentially, the installation is a series of next, next, next, and making sure that PXE works correctly. By default most routers block PXE broadcasts, so take your data guy out to lunch and have him open broadcast from your Ardence server ONLY to the rest of your subnets (if thats where your clients are located)
This is a little tricky. In the case of virtual machines, you need to build a standard vm with the operating system of your choice. Make sure you choose your disk size properly before you start. It’s pointless to make an XP VM with a 20GB virtual disk that will only use 4GB of actual disk space. Your Ardence vdisk will have to be 20GB…so plan out what will be on your image and setup the virtual disk accordingly.
Once the VM is created and all your apps are installed and configured as you like you need to install the Ardence client locally on the VM. Then go into the Ardence server and create a vdisk. PXE boot the vm and connect to the Ardence server. Register the VM and select the vdisk you just created, HOWEVER, make sure to select the boot device as the local disk. Once your VM boots up off the local disk, you should see an unassigned disk connected to the VM…that’s the Ardence vdisk. Run the Ardence imaging utility and begin imaging to the unassigned disk.
TIP – disable any power saving utilities and screensavers…if your VM suspends while the imaging is taking place…you have to start over!!!
Once your image is completed, your ready to stream
Once your image is done, you need to go back to the Ardence server admin and switch the VM to boot to the vdisk. Reboot the VM and it should PXE to the Adence server…grab the image you made and start streaming! The only addition step is to right click on the Ardence client in the admin tool and join it to the domain.
One of the items Ardence likes to boast about is their ability to make images public or private. A public image is read only. It used a write cache on the Ardence server to hold any session changes. However if your reboot the Ardence client, the cache is wiped and the vDisk goes back to it’s original format. This is cool and a pain in the ass at the same time. Ardence will tell you to use roaming profiles to save client specific changes. Here is the problem…roaming profiles blow. They’re notrious for getting corrupted, they slow down the network and they take forever to log on to. You can get creative with folder redirection with GPO to alleviate some of these issue but it’s still a roaming profile. Its very difficult to have a user who uses a laptop occasionally, and an Ardence VDI to peacefully co-exist because of the roaming profile.
One solution I’ve found that almost solves this issue is ScriptLogic Desktop Authority. You can use ScriptLogic to be very granular with the redirection, however the NTUSER.DAT file is still and issue with backgrounds, folder views, etc. I”m looking into AppSense currently to resolve this.
A private image is a dedicated image that is read/write. The problem with private images is that one image is required per clients…this can become a large waste of disk space and in my opinion, you might as well just run the VM’s straight up as VMDK’s in VMware.
One thing you can do in Ardence is dedicate NICs for PXE and streaming…this is why I went back to a physical server. I setup 2 NIC’s teamed that only serve streams, then have one NIC for public IP access. This works really well and having a 2GB pipe for streaming has really increased the speed in which vdisks load.
Rating: 8 of 10