Linux + Hyper-V = VDI? Part 1   2 comments

I’m a strong proponent of free things, up until where it’s actually not free. As car analogies are the bread and butter of any IT-related argument I’ll use one as well.

Maybe your uncle Brad gives you an old Chevy Suburban from 1988. Free of charge – it’s your to keep and cherish! Maybe you live in a state or country where insurance isn’t all that important and the DMV couldn’t give a crap if your car is secure as long as it runs and passes some sort of emissions test.

So, a free car – excellent!


An old Chevy Suburban has a very thirsty engine that requires a lot of gas to keep satisfied. An old Chevy Suburban breaks down a lot – at least one that your Uncle Brad can give away for free. Sure, the parts are cheap but it takes a lot of time to fix it, and, if you can’t tinker with it yourself, a lot of money as well.

So, is that car really free?

No bonus points if you already figured out that the car is an analogue for an operating system.

Where am I going with all of this then? I’m glad you asked.

Despite being a Microsoft evangelist I wont hesitate to recommend another product or brand if that’s what the customer needs. Including Linux (for the record, I’m very happy that Linux, and Mac OS for that matter, is getting so much attention – it puts the pressure on Microsoft to release better and more competitive products).

This got me thinking, would it be possible to build a “free” VDI solution based on Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1 and Linux?

Let’s define “free” first and then VDI.

In this case I’m assuming that we have the network and domain infrastructure in place; DCs, file server, DNS, mail, web, etc., etc.

The free part applies to the actual VDI infrastructure and, unless you can get decent hardware for free, only the cost for licensing and management. So “free” might be a stretch but I still think it’s an interesting experiment.

For this implementation of VDI all users only work with web based applications for mail (Exchange), CRM (Microsoft CRM) and information management (SharePoint) as well as a local Office compatible suite. They have their home folders on a DFS file share and their favorites are also available via DFS.

Let’s get cracking!

Our virtualization platform of choice is Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1 as it’s free and quite capable.

Modern Linux distros have the Linux Integration Services included so getting a Linux distro – in my case Ubuntu 11.4 – up and running on Hyper-V is a no brainer.

The tricky part comes when you need to stitch it all together and manage the environment. Let’s list the major parts of this.

  • Configure a VM for the first time to accept RDP, redirect the user’s home folder as well as their favorites
  • Make a template out of the VM and generalize it for automatic deployment
  • Manage the actual Hyper-V environment, with or without a clustered platform
  • Manage the virtual machines, including templates and resource management
  • Manage the OS, including patching and troubleshooting
  • Automate the VDI solution as much as possible

In the next part of this series of posts we will take a look how to configure the VM and how to template it.

Posted 10 May, 2011 by martinnr5 in What if...

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2 responses to “Linux + Hyper-V = VDI? Part 1

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  1. But you are talking about PUBLISH A linux machine on a VDI Infrastrucure?
    I mean Is possible to create a MS VDI COllection for LINUX?

    • Hi David.

      I’m not sure what you refer to but my initial thought with this experiment was to see if I could create a totally free VDI environment for information workers based on Hyper-V Server and a suitable Linux distro. I’m not sure if I considered publishing them per se and instead just would let the users connect to the VDI VMs through RDP or a similar protocol.

      As I mentioned in another comment I’ve since put this project on the back burner though and it’s not likely that I’ll revisit it anytime soon.

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