Sunday, April 19, 2009

VirtualBox Remote Desktop Protocol (VRDP)

I recently tested Sun's VirtualBox v2.2. VirtualBox's Virtual Remote Desktop Protocol (VRDP) has been around for some time now. I was made aware of VRDP while listening to Jupiter Broadcasting In Depth Look. VRDP allows you to see the output of a virtual machine’s window on any remote computer and control the virtual machine from there. I thought I'd test VirtualBox v2.2 VRDP.

Here are two commands that I used once VirtualBox was installed, an Ubuntu 9.04 VM was created, Ubuntu patched, and VirtualBox Guest Additions installed .

To turn the VRDP option on the VM instance:

VBoxManage modifyvm <vmname> --vrdp on

To start a headless VRDP session on the host:

VBoxHeadless --startvm <uuid|name>

After issuing the VBoxHeadless command you should see a message on the host "Listening on port 3389". On Linux machines you can use rdesktop to view the remote VM and on Window's machines you use Remote Desktop Connection or the mstsc.exe command. Note:Use the IP address of your host system as the server address to remote to.

What is really intriguing to me are the thin client possibilities. In a Sun Ray environment you can point a Sun Ray Windows Connector user's smart card at the IP of the host VM server. I've successfully connected to an Ubuntu 9.04 VirtualBox VM via a Sun Ray.

The good news is it is snappy. VRDP to a virtual machine appears faster than connecting via X to a stand-alone machine. Amazing.

The bad news is there appear to be some bugs in VRDP. When accessing via Sun Ray the session drops off and reconnects periodically. I can not connect via WYSE WT1200LE, which is a pretty old thin client. It works well from a Windows machine.

I will continue to test and monitor VRDP on Sun Rays for stability improvements. VirtualBox is a great tool. Give it a try.