I would like to share my case study and experience in deploying Guacamole inside a small business.
What is Guacamole
Apache Guacamole is a clientless remote desktop gateway.
It allows to expose:
- RDP connections (Windows desktops)
- VNC connections (Linux / Windows / ...)
- SSH shells
- Kubernetes pod shells
Using a simple web client with no requirements and allowing to leverage powerful SSO mechanisms and even LDAP.
Due to the current crisis my client needed a simple way to allow employees to access their desktops remotely.
The office initially started from the usual suspects: centralized remote access services.
These services do generally work well but in this moment, the networks' cross-country links are overloaded, leading to high latencies and in general bad experiences for these realtime tasks.
The new system had to be:
- Self Hosted centralized services are overloaded
- Open Source because I want the business to understand that at no cost equals to with no value is a false dichotomy.
- Easy to use for employees
- Easy to operate
And Apache Guacamole ended up being a clear winner.
After setting up a double NAT puching setup (absolutely horrifying experience), all that was needed to setup Guacamole was:
Fedora 32 Serveron a Dell Vostro 200 that was lying around unused.
- Starting three containers
guacd: The Guacamole daemon (handling connections)
guacamole: The Guacamole frontend (handling the user interface)
postgres: The accounts database
- Inserting connections and users from the GUI
According to my data, in these first weeks of operation the application was used for at least
4 hours a day from each employee, with a 70%-30% split between RDP and VNC connections.
Simple HTTP GET probes certified the service uptime as
100% during work hours.
In order to validate the system effectiveness I organized chat interviews with each employee (~10) after one week of utilization.
I expected to show percentages here, but every single employee replied
Yes to each and every question.
If this makes you uneasy, put an imaginary 100% alongside the Yes reponse and an imaginary 0% for No.
Comparisons with other solutions
- Would you say that the new application is more responsive than the previous one?
- Would you say that the new application is easier to use compared to the previous one?
- Was the service available every time you tried to access it?
The outstanding results of the survey can led to some conclusions:
- Apache Guacamole is a great piece of software
- Open Source software can provide value to business when depoyment is a conscious decision (taking into account the operational challenges and the need to provide support for feature requests and so on)
- Self Hosting is a viable solution for many situations (Here the application was even deployed on a soon to-be recycled machine!)
- There's value into decentralizing services