EUC: Can I kick it – upgrading to Horizon 7.1

The 16th of March was a good day. The NLVMUG was going on in the Netherlands (great event!) , great weather and Horizon 7.1 went GA. And I wanted to get my TestLab up and running with that version, and take a little peek if there are any of my’s in the upgrade. See what and where things are changed. So why not write-up this pirate’s adventure….

Upgrade Procedure and Interoperability

Before the upgrade it is important to know in which order the bits are to be upgraded, are we doing an in place or new VM deployment and does new versions still work with other components in the environment or are those also needed to be upgraded or break the upgrade.

The upgrade procedure is more or less the same as with the previous ones:

  • Check the status of the components. If there currently are health issues, fix them before the upgrade. Or use the upgrade to try to fix your issue if they are named as a fix in the release notes.
  • Get out your password manager for database passwords and so on.
  • Complete backups and snapshots. Don’t forget databases and such!
  • Disable provisioning and upgrade Composers. Provisioning can only be enabled when all components are upgraded.
  • Disable connection server and upgrade connection server. If you have more you can do one at a time to leave your users the option to connect. Disable connection server in Horizon admin and load balancer.
  • Optional Upgrade Paired Connection Server and Security Server. Disable connection and prepare security server for upgrade in the Horizon Admin, and in load balancer. First upgrade the paired connection server and then the Security server.
  • Upgrade the Horizon Agent.
  • Upgrade the Horizon Clients.
  • Upgrade the GPO’s to ADMX’s.

Note: during an upgrade it is allowed, or supported, that some older versions interact with the new versions. For example first upgrade the composer in a maintenance window and in the following the connections servers. Just don’t let that upgrade window take for ages.

Your environment probably will have some other upgrades like other Horizon suite components, vSphere, Tools, Windows versions and so on. Be sure to have the steps breakdown before doing any upgrades.

Check if the component versions can work together by checking the VMware Product Interoperability Matrices at http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/sim/interop_matrix.php#interop. Be sure to put in all the VMware solutions you are using. And check with vendors of components outside of the VMware scope. Don’t forget your Zero or Thin Client vendors!

Find a red in there, well stop right there before upgrading.

Trasure map

I have my testlab in the cloud. So for not breaking all the bits, I am cloning my lab in a new lab that I will use for the upgrade. Pretty nice functionality!

Announcement and location

While preparing for the upgrade bit to download we have some time to browse through the 7.1 announcements. Sure you have seen to VMware announcement or blog write ups where you can choose from. If not, ITQ Master of Drones and EUC Laurens has a post on the announcement bit that you can find over here: https://www.vdrone.nl/whats-new-vmware-horizon-7-1/.

Downloads, well easy pease they are in the usual my.vmware.com spot (linkie to the VMware spot: https://my.vmware.com/group/vmware/info?slug=desktop_end_user_computing/vmware_horizon/7_1). Have an active SnS and your entitled to get the upgrade bits or else go for an evaluation.

Grab - Download Horizon 7.1

And while your at it get the ADMX files for all of the Horizon GPO. Thumbs up, finally they are there VMware. Better late than never.

Upgrade Procedure

I have the following components in my vTestlab that need upgrading: Horizon Composer because of the current desktop pools, Horizon Connection Server and databases that are running because of these services. And Horizon Agent in the desktop pools.

For my testlab I used a saved blueprint of my VCAP-DTM lab and used that blueprint to publish a new testlab in Ravello.

After the upgrade I have to check the following components that interact with Horizon, vIDM and vROPS for Horizon. And client connections of course.

Composer

After disabling the provisioning of the desktop pools, log on to your composer server.

Capture - Disable Provisioning Desktop Pool

On the composer server start the installer. After the startup it detects that an upgrade should take place.

Capture - Composer Upgrade

  1. Click next,
  2. Accept the EULA,
  3. Check your destination folder,
  4. Check database settings and input password,
  5. Check port and certificate settings. Note: if you create a new SSL certificate you will have to retrust that one in Horizon. I am reusing the SSL certificate so I select the one installed,
  6. Check and push the install button,
  7. Grab a coffee and check status,
  8. Finish,
  9. Restart server,
  10. Rinse and repeat for other composers in your environment,
  11. If you are done with all components in your desktop block, don’t forget to enable provisioning of the desktop pool!

Connection Server

After disabling the connection server you are going to work on, log on to the connection server.

Capture - Disable connection serverSelect the connection server and click the disable button.

On the connection server start the installer. Like the composer upgrade, the installer will detect it is in an upgrade scenario.Capture - Horizon Connection Upgrade

  1. Click next,
  2. Accept the EULA,
  3. Check and push the install button,
  4. Grab another coffee and check status,
  5. Finish and read the read me. Yes really, depending where your coming from there are some pointers in there to check or change to make your life simpler,
  6. Open a browser to your upgraded host and look at that spiffy portal,
  7. Open the admin console and check connection to other components,
  8. Enable your connection server,
  9. Rinse and repeat for others,
  10. (don’t forget your load balancers….)

Look at that pretty new portal

Capture - Horizon Portal

unfortunately the administration console GUI isn’t changed and flash (ahaaaa) is still around. Sad panda…..

Don’t forget to check if vIDM and vROPS for Horizon isn’t broken. I had to repair/restart the broker agent with vROPS. And have a little patience for the metrics to flow back in.

Agent

I have got an RDSH Hosted application farm server, I will be updating that agent. And some desktop pools, but the procedure is the same. First off, disabling access to the RDSH. Well that depends on the amount of servers you have in the farm and what your hosting from it. Disable hosted desktop pool for example. With my test lab its one server, so disabling the farm would be sufficient. Heck I am the only user so letting everything running would only bug my multiple personalities (who said that?!?).

With several servers you could maintenance one by removing it from the farm. Be sure to have your farm running with the same versions. Or have a cloned pool, just update the template.

On the RDSH host start the installer. Again the installer will notice it is an upgrade.

  1. Click next,
  2. Accept the EULA,
  3. Check your IP version,
  4. Custom setup components, but we are not adding just upgrading click next,
  5. (manual only) Check registered settings RDSH with connection server,
  6. Next and Install,
  7. Finish and reboot,
  8. Enable hosts or pools when the farm is done.

What’s new in the admin?

Instance Clone pools have the option to select specific vLANs for that pool or use the VM network of the template snapshot.

Capture - IC Select Networks

In Global Settings – you have two new client settings:

Capture - Global Settings client

  • hide server information in client interface. You will only see the lock if the certificate is trusted, but not https://connectiontoserver.fq.dn.
  • hide domain list in client interface. Only the username and password boxes are shown. The drop down with the domains are gone. Great for use cases where you want to hide the domain or there is a sh*t load of domains in there. Users have to remember there UPN.

With client user interface this is the Horizon Client and the HTML client (for the domain list the URL is still in your browser if you haven’t hidden that in another way).

Capture - HTML client no domain

Mind that this is currently not working if the Horizon client is pushed from AirWatch to iOS.

In global settings you can also add an automatic refresh of the admin interface (can’t remember if this was already in) or display some MOTD or legal pre-login to all your users. This must be accepted by all your users before able to logon.

What is missing from the admin?

As @jketels already mentioned on twitter:

Still no VLAN selection support for Dedicated and Floating pools. Only Instant-Clones have this new option available. #Horizon #View 7.1 pic.twitter.com/ehYCnZa4nB

— Joey Ketels (@jketels) March 17, 2017

The network selection you can only do from the GUI in instant clone desktop pools. The network selection (step 7 in vCenter settings) are not available in for example Linked clone pools. And like networks are not used in a CPA multiple POD deployment, or all other reasons that a lot of customers are using multi vLANs for the desktop pools. Again a missed opportunity. And no, linked clones are not yet depreciated or planned to be so support this from the GUI. Well if needed, with PowerShell you can still get this in for your linked clones.

That’s it

That it, core components are upgraded and running happily. I probably still have to find out a bit more about what has been changed within this release but for a start it looks pretty slick and without to much of a hassle.

– Happy getting your Horizon going the distance!

Sources: vmware.com, vdrone.nl

 

VCAP-DTM Deploy Prep: Horizon Lab on Ravello Cloud importing OVA

In my last post I was writing about creating a lab for your VCAP-DTM prep. Read it here VCAP-DTM Deploy Prep: La La Land Lab and Horizon software versions. In that post I mentioned the cloud lab option with Ravello Cloud that I’m using myself. With appliances the are some o did you look at this moments while deploying them on Ravello Cloud. There are two or three appliances to take care of depending on your chosen architecture: vROPS, vIDM and VCSA. Two of those you can also do on a VM, vCenter on Windows and vROPS on Windows or Linux. For vROPS, 6.4 is the last version with a Windows installer.

I personally went with one vCenter on Windows combined with composer (Windows only), so I will skip that one. For vIDM you will have to use the OVA.

Okay, options for OVA’s and getting them deployed: 1) directly on Ravello or 2) use nested hypervisor to deploy to, or 3) use a frog-leap with a deployment on vSphere and upload those to Ravello. The first we are going to do as the second creates a dependency with a nested hypervisor, wasting resource on that layer, getting the data there, traffic data flow, and for this lab I don’t want the hypervisor to be used other than for composer actions required in the objectives. The third, well wasn’t there a point to putting labs in Ravello Cloud.

Now how do I get my OVA deployed on Ravello?

For this we have the Ravello import tool where we can upload several VM’s, disks and installers to the environment. We first need to have the install bits for identity manager and vROPS downloaded from my.vmware.com.

In Ravello Cloud go to Library – VM – +Import VM. This will either prompt you to install Ravello Import Tool (available for Windows and Mac) or start the import tool.
In the Ravello import tool click on Upload (or Upload a new item). This will open the upload wizard. Select the Upload a VM from a OVF, OVA or Ravello Export File source. And click start to select your OVA location.

Grab Ravello Import Wizard - VM from OVA

Select the vIDM OVA and upload.

Grab - Ravello Upload There she goes

But are we done?
No grab vROPS as well.

Grab - Ravello Upload vROPS as well.png

If the upload is finished we will need to verify the VM. As part of the VM import process, the Ravello Import Tool automatically gets the settings from the OVF extracted out of the OVA. Verify that the settings for this imported VM matches its original configuration or the one you want to use. You can verify at Library – VM. You will see your imported VM’s with a configuration icon. Click your VM and select the configuration, go through the tabs to check. Finish.

It normally imports the values from the OVF, it will sometimes screw up some values. When you have multiple deployment options like vROPS you will have to choose the default size. vROPS import will be set either to extra small deployment 2vCPU 8GB or very large. Or use the one you like yourself. Same goes with the External Services. I won’t put them in (yet). Checking the settings from the OVA yourself up in the next paragraph.

Now how do I get the information to verify to?

You can from the sizing calculations done in designing the solution ;). But an other wat is to look in the OVA. OVA is just an archive format for OVF and VMDK’s that make up the appliance.

We need something to extract the ova’s. Use tar on any Linux/Mac or 7Zip on a Windows. I am using tar for this example on my mac. First up getting vIDM in running my test lab.

Open a terminal and go to the download location. Extract the ova with tar xvf. xvf stands for verbosely extract file followed by the filename. Well not in that order, but that’s the way I learned to type it ;).

That give us this:

Capture - tar - ova

Here we see the appliance has four disks, system, db, tomcat and var vmdks.

If we look in the OVF (use VI) file, at the DiskSection we will see need to have system in front and bootable. Followed by DB, Tomcat and last var.

Still in the OVF file, next up note the resource requirements for the vIDM VM. We need that figures later on to configure the VM with the right resources. In the VirtualHardwareSection you will find Number of virtual CPUs and Memory Size sections. We will need 2 vCPUs and 6 GB of vRAM (6144). And one network interface, so reserve one IP from your lab IP scheme. Okay ready and set prepping done.

Deploying a VM from the Library

Go to the application you want to add the VM to. Click the plus sign and select the imported VM from the list. In the right pane customize the name, network, external settings and all the things you like to have set.

GRab - Ravello Add imported VM to App

Save and update the Application.

Wait for all the background processes to finish, and the VM is deployed and starts. Open a console to check if the start-up goes accordingly. And it will not ;) When you have opened a console you will notice a press any key message that the appliance fails to detect VMware’s Hypervisor and you are not supposed to run the product on this system. When you continue the application will run in an unsupported state. But we are running in a lab and not production.

IF YOU ARE READING THIS BLOG AND (MERELY) THINK ABOUT RUNNING PRODUCTION ON RAVELLO OR RUNNING PRODUCTION WITH THE IMPORTED VIDM LATER ON, GO QUIT YOUR JOB AND GO WALK THE WALK OF SHAME FOREVER.

Grab - Ravello Press Key

Press any key if you can find the any key on your keyboard. And yes you will have to do this all the time you start-up. Or use the procedure highlighted at this blog post https://www.ravellosystems.com/blog/install-vcenter-server-on-cloud/  to change /etc/init.d/boot.compliance (Scroll to 4 action 2 in the post, or to MSG in the file). Do it after you have configured the VM and the required passwords. But sssst you didn’t hear that from me…..

Back to the deployment and configure the VM with hostname, DNS and IPv4. Save and restart network. After this the deployment will continue with the startup.

And now you have a started appliance. We need the install wizard for IDM. Go to the vIDM URL that is shown on the blue screen in the console. For example, https://hostname.example.com. If this is the first time it will start the install wizard. Put in the passwords you want, select your database and finish.

After that you are redirected to the login screen. Log on with your login details and voila vIDM is deployed.

Grab - Ravello vIDM

Bloody Dutch in the interface, everything on my client is English except for the region settings. Have the “wrong” order in Chrome and boom vIDM is in Dutch. For the preparation and the simple fact that I cannot find anything in the user interface when its in Dutch I want to change this. Change the order in Chrome://settings – advanced settings – Languages – Language and input Settings button – drag English in front of Dutch to change the order. Refresh or click on a different tab and voila vIDM talks the language required for the VCAP-DTM or to find stuff…

Grab - Ravello vIDM English

Aaand the same goes for vROPS?

You can do the same with the vROPS deployment. Ravello doesn’t support the ovf properties normally used for setting vROPS appliance configuration. You miss that nifty IP address for the vROPS appliance. At the same time you have the issue that vROPS doesn’t like changes too much, it breaks easily. But follow more or less the same procedure as vIDM. For vROPS set the Ravello network to DHCP. Put in a reservation so the IP is not shared within your lab and is shown with the remote console. The IP reservation is used in the appliance itself. It is very important that an IP is set correctly on first boot, else it will break 11 out of 10 times. I have also noticed that setting a static IP in Ravello is not copied to the appliance, use a DHCP for vROPS works more often.

And now for vROPS:

  • Press any key to continue the boot sequence.
  • The initial screen needs you to press ALT+F1 to go to the prompt.
  • the vROPS console password of root is blank the first time you logon to the console. You will have to set the password immediately and it’s a little strict compared to for example the vIDM appliance.
  • the appliance (hopefully) starts with DHCP configured. And you can open a session to the hostname.
  • [Optional if you don’t trust the DHCP reservation] Within vROPS appliance. Change the IP to manual to stay fixed within vROPS so it will not break when changing IP’s. Use the IP it received from the DHCP, do not change or you will have to follow the change IP configuration procedure for master IP (see a how to blog post here: http://imallvirtual.com/change-vrops-master-node-ip-address/):

Changing vROPS DHCP to static:
Run /opt/vmware/share/vami/vami_config_net. Choose option 6 and put in your values, choose option 4 and put yours in and change hostname etc……

Next reboot the appliance and verify the boot up and IP address is correct. If you get to the initial cluster configuration your ready and set.

Other issues failing the deployment are resolved by redeploying the VM, sometimes by first re-downloading and re-importing the OVA in Ravello.

Grab - vROPS First Start

Do choose New installation and get it up for the VCAP-DTM objectives.

If you happen to have enough patience and your application is not set to stop during the initial configuration, you will have a vROPS appliance to use in your Horizon preparations.

So appliances are no issue for Ravello?

Well I do not know for all appliances, but for Horizon the appliance only components that are needed for a VCAP-DTM lab can be deployed on Ravello.

 

-Happy Labbing in Ravello Cloud!

 

Sources: ravellosystems.com, vmware.com

VCAP-DTM Deploy Prep: La La Land Lab and Horizon software versions

VCAP-DTMmmmmm. After securing the VCP-DTM for version 6 and getting the pass results in for the version 7 DTM Beta, my sniper target is set for the VCAP-DTM’s. Maybe I should cut down on Battlefield 1 a bit ;). Anyhow…..

As the title of this post suggests, first up the deploy exam. Version 6 as version 7 VCAP’s are not yet out. Deploy is possibly the one that fits my person a bit lesser than the design part, but it is always good to have the “weakest” out-of-the-way the fastest. But there is no requirement that you should do deploy first, if you want design out of the way first go with that one.

Sniper Rifle target

With the VCAPs I have attempted and by hearing of the experience from those that have tried, next to actually knowing what you’re doing time management is (still) the key of securing the VCAPs. I think the actually knowing bit is pretty okay for most that will attempt this exam. Maybe some bit of practice in the Mirage parts for myself. And that is exactly needed for time management. Know your weak(est) and strong(est) points in the list of exam objectives. And next to that, with time management comes drill drill drill. And where better to drill than in a lab. Or to put it in other words, you will need a lab for the deploy!

VCAP-DTM Deploy

Now where are we with DTM?

Exam Topics aka Objectives

You will find a lot of blog post explaining how to prepare and going through all the exam objectives. And I do mean a lot. I am not putting in a how to study for that objective in this blog post. Use your google-fu for that.

The exam objectives for this post are important for what components you need to have in your lab.

On the mylearn page of the exam the exam topics are in expendable sections and clickable white papers, documents and such to prepare. Just go to: https://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=88780&ui=www_cert. I haven’t seen an other PDF exam blueprint document for this exam on the VMware site.

Some bloggers will offer their packages of collected set of documents for preparation. One for example is offering theirs on: http://www.virtuallyvirtuoso.com/vcap6-dtm/.

VCAP6-DTM Component Versions

When going through the VCAP6 objectives we will need the following components and their versions of the Horizon Suite:

  • Horizon 6.2 Components: CPA, Connection Server, Security Server and Composer.
  • Pools: Linked clone PCoIP pool (Windows 7), RDSH Farm (W2K8R2/W2K12R2), Application Pools (Evernote). Reference machine Windows 7 and RDS version for ThinApp and App Volumes.
  • vSphere and vSAN 6.0: vSphere HA/DRS Cluster resources for management and pools. VSAN Storage.
  • Identity Management: vIDM 2.4.1
  • Application Layer Management: App Volumes 2.9, ThinApp 5, version 5.1.1.
  • Image Management: Mirage 5.4
  • Endpoints: Web-based, Horizon Clients, Kiosk.
  • Operations Management: vROPS for Horizon version 6.1.0.
  • Supporting Infrastructure/Tools: Active Directory (DNS,DHCP), GPO, MSSQL Database server, VMware OS Optimization Tool (OSOT) with support for Windows 7/8, File Services ThinApps Repository, syslog and Windows 2012R2 Jump Host.

The easiest way to get the VMware bits is to go to the Horizon Enterprise edition download on my.vmware.com and select the version 6.2. You need evaluation or an entitled my VMware user to access those. You can use this link for your bits: https://my.vmware.com/group/vmware/info?slug=desktop_end_user_computing/vmware_horizon/6_2.

VCAP Lab Download bits

Download OSOT here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-os-optimization-tool.

Strange, wondering why they did not put Access Point or UEM in the exam objectives. Access Point for example is designed to be deployed with Horizon version 6.2. A well less bits to put in the lab.

For supporting Infrastructure and tools, and client versions it is up to you, at least put in the supporting versions.

Study Lab options

The deploy part is a lab based exam. Hands-on experience with the Horizon suite is crucial for success. Not everyone has a home lab, cloud lab credits or have enough resources on their notebooks to put in all the resource hungry Horizon suite components, you can use a combination of lab options in your exam preparations. Don’t forget the Horizon suite versions that are used in the VCAP version and components in your study lab. Practice with the right version, or know what have been changed between versions what takes a little more preparation time.

Get command line experience in practicing with vdmadmin, lvmutil, client and dct command line options, web interface locations, RDP to servers, SSH to appliance and log / config file locations.

Home

This can be a lab in a notebook and to some people having a home lab that are offering more services and resources than a small country uses in a decade. Home labs are excellent for build and break your own. You will not have any permissions issues. Downside mostly are the resources required.

Cloud

Again this provides good experience in build and break your own. Accessible from anywhere. Downside mostly are the resources required and the costs that are involved.

If you are a 2017 vExpert like me, Ravello (https://www.ravellosystems.com/go/vexpert/lab-service-description) still offers 1000 CPU hours per month to vExperts. Build your lab, configure an application start-up and stop procedure and set your lab to stop after practicing. For example put in 2:00 hours of studying and after that your lab will shut down and no CPU cycles will be wasted.

You can even simulate the exam lab speed and put your lab in a cost optimized far away cloud provider location. Pretty good for the time management preparations.
Downside for Ravello is the support of VMware OVA appliance deployment, there are some tips and tricks needed to get appliances uploaded to Ravello. Or optionally go for Windows components or nested deployments.

I’m currently building my lab in here: (yes status stopped in screenshot and Windows 10 is my client)

Ravello vExpert VCAP-DTM Prep

Hands on Labs.

VMware Hands on Labs are an excellent place to practice with a whole scale of VMware products. Use the manual to be guided through the labs, or just click it away and go on your own. Choose from the mobility labs for example: http://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/catalog/125.

I personally use HOL-1751-MBL-1-HOL a lot. Downside no composer as Horizon 7 instant clones is used, version mismatch with exam lab and no vROPS for Horizon. For vROPS for Horizon I use Testdrive. You also aren’t administrator on Windows hosts and there is no Internet connection to get some missing piece in.

VCAP-HOL1751

You start with 1hr:30min, and you can extend the lab time up to 8 times with one hours. Topping up to 9hr:30minutes of lab time per enrollment. Amazing discovery Mike!

Testdrive

VMware Testdrive is the EUC demo environment. Need to show the customer some part they are missing or need some extra’s to make your point, open up a testdrive for the customer and let them show see it. As a superuser I also misuse it to work on some vROPS for Horizon parts. You are admin in vROPS so testing a metric set for a dashboard or showing policies without breaking the customers vROPS environment. The rest of the components are limited in what you can do and practice over there. But that wasn’t the use case of Testdrive in the first place.

Time management studying for the exam

Time management starts with studying. Plan your exam date and schedule your exam up front. Take enough time to prepare and work through the objectives. How much depends on your own strong and weak points. But do schedule the exam, else you will have no target to work to and that VCAP-DTM will be a never-ending story.

Time management throughout the Exam Lab

You can navigate through the lab exercise scenario’s. Go through the objectives. Use you notepad to put an order for easy or though ones. Get the easy one’s done and out-of-the-way. Labs that require deployments, captures, synchronisation or otherwise take time to finish, start-up those actions and go to the next. Don’t waste time watching progress bars……

There are dependencies between questions and skipping a part of a question because you are waiting for a deployment can be tricky for your mind if your also working through the scenario. You have to make sure you come back to that incomplete task and finish it.

ticktock

Test Center Check

If you have the opportunity and have multiple options for test centers in your friendly neighborhood, be sure to check out what lab setup they have. I know where I would go if I had to choose between test centers that have 21″ or 17″ screens. Or ask on twitter or Reddit if someone has experience with the test center.

– Happy prepping your exam!

Sources: vmware.com, ravellosystems.com

EUC Toolbox: Don’t wanna be your monkey wrench, use Flings

To remind some of whom have had previous experience with flings, or to explain flings to newbies if there still are any, in a few words Flings are apps and tools built by VMware engineers that are intended to be played with and explored. Even more, they are cool ideas worked out in cool apps and tools. Which are not only to play with but are very useful.
And, with no official production support from VMware.
This doesn’t mean the fling will tear a hole in the space-time continuum or your environment will randomly blow up at places, just be a little cautious when using a fling untested in production. Like with everything in production. Not official supported doesn’t mean the engineers stopped working on the products as soon as it is published on the Flings page. They do often respond to comments and with updates to make their cool ideas even better. And at times a fling makes it to the product like the vSphere HTML5 Web Client or ViewDBChk in Horizon.

Tools?

home_improvement

Anyway. Below is a list of my five most used EUC flings. Because well… it is an often overheard question: what do you or other customers use? And a listing disclaimer, don’t stop at number five, there are other very cool flings out there and new emerging ones coming. So keep an eye out. Hey I won’t stop at 5 either…..

VMware OS Optimization Tool aka OSOT

Guest OS systems are often designed for other form factors than virtual machines thus being very bloaty to include every variable choose and iniminie little device supported. When running these in virtual machines we have to optimize the OS so it won’t waste resources on unneeded options, features or services. Optimize to improve performance. One of these use cases is Horizon VDI or published. But personally I would like to see server components a bit more optimized as well.

With VMware OS Optimization Tool you can use templates to analyze and optimize Windows templates. Use the provided templates, make your own or use the public templates to share knowledge with the community. Made an oops and there is a rollback option.

OSOT.png

Get the VMware OS Optimization Tool here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-os-optimization-tool.

Horizon Toolbox

The Horizon Toolbox is een set of helpful extensions to the Horizon Administrator page. The tools are provided at a Tomcat Web portal that is installed next to the Horizon Administrator. There the downside is visible straight away, yet another portal/console in the spaghetti western of the Horizon suite consoles. But the extensions for operations and no flash are worth it.

The Horizon Toolbox adds:

  • Auditing of user sessions, VM snapshots and used client versions.
  • Remote assistance to user sessions.
  • Access to the desktops VM remote console.
  • Power policies for Horizon pools.

Get the Horizon Toolbox here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/horizon-toolbox-2.

VMware Access Point Deployment Utility

When we have use cases that need external access we have a design decision to use the Access Point in the DMZ to tunnel those external access sessions. The Horizon Access Point is an appliance that is deployed via a OVF. With the deployment you can use several methods to add the configuration options to the appliance, Web client, ovftool and Powershell for example. Another option is to use the Access point Deployment Tool fling. Especially when redeploying the appliance is faster than debugging or reconfiguring.

The VMware Access Point Deployment utility is a wrapper around ovftool. The utility let’s you input configuration values in a human friendly interface and PEM certificate format. It will create the ovf string, and will execute that string and deploy and configure Access Point. It will export the certificate and keys to the required JSON format. And it allows your input to be saved to XML and imported at a later time. This minimizes the amount of re-input required, and in result the amount of failures with reconfiguration or redeployment.

Get the VMware Access Point Deployment Utility here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-access-point-deployment-utility.

App Volumes Backup Utility

App Volumes Appstacks are read only VMDK’s that are stored on a datastore and attached to a user sessions or desktop VM that has the App Volumes agent running. When we need to back up the appstacks we have the option to use a backup solution that backs up the datastore. But not all backup solutions have this option. A lot of VADP compatible backups look at the vCenter inventory to do their backup. Appstacks, and writeable volumes for that matter, are not available as direct selectable objects in the vCenter inventory. The Appstacks are only attached when a session or desktop is active, and non persistent desktop are not in the backup in the first place.

App Volumes Backup Utility to the rescue. In short what this tool does is connect App Volumes and vCenter, create a dummy VM object and attach the App Stack and writable volumes VMDK’s to that VM. And presto backup tool can do its magic. A little heads up for writable volumes, be sure to include pre and post actions to automatically detach, and re-attach any writable volumes which are in use while the backup is running. Utility for that is included in the fling.

Get the App Volumes Backup Utility here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/app-volumes-backup-utility.

VMware Logon Monitor

VMware Logon Monitor fling monitors Windows 7 and 10 user logons. It reports a wide variety of performance metrics. It is firstly intended to help troubleshoot slow logon performance. But it can also be used for insights if you happen to miss vROPS for Horizon for example. Or when you want to find out how your physical desktop is doing in this same process when assessing the environment.

Some of the metrics categories include logon time, shell load, profile, policy load times, redirection load times, resource usage and the list goes on and on and on. VMware Logon Monitor also collects metrics from other VMware components used in the desktop. This will provide even more insight in what is happening during the logon process. For example what is that App Volumes AppStacks adding to the logon process……

Install Logon Monitor in your desktop pool and let the collection of metrics commence. Note that the logs are locally stored and not on a central location. The installer will create and start VMware Logon Monitor service.

logonmonitor

VMware Logon Monitor will log to C:\ProgramData\VMware\VMware Logon Monitor\Logs.

Get the VMware Logon Monitor here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-logon-monitor.

And there’s more where that came from…..

And probably some that make your order of appearance a little bit different. Just take a look a https://labs.vmware.com/flings/?product=Horizon+View for the Horizon View tagged flings. And be sure to also check without this tag as for example the App Volumes related flings are not in this tag listing.

– Enjoy the flings!

Sources: labs.vmware.com/flings

EUC Layers: Display protocols and graphics – the stars look very different today

In my previous EUC Layer post I discussed the importance of putting insights on screens, in this post I want to discuss the EUC Layer of putting something on the screen of the end user.

Display Protocols

In short, a display protocol transfers the mouse, keyboard and screen (ever wondered about vSphere MKS error if that popped up) input and output from a (virtual) desktop to the physical client endpoint device and vice versa. Display protocols usually will optimize this transfer with encoding, compressing, deduplicating and performing other magical operations to minimize the amount of data transferred between the client endpoint device and the desktop. Minimize data equals less chance of interference equals better user experience at the client device. Yes, the one the end user is using.

For this blog post I will stick to the display protocols VMware Horizon has under its hood. VMware Horizon supports four ways of using a display protocol: PCoIP via the Horizon Client, Blast Extreme/BEAT via the Horizon Client, RDP via Horizon Client or MS Terminal Client, and any HTML5 compatible browser for HTML Blast connections.

The performance and experience of all the display protocols are influenced by the client endpoint device – everything in between – desktop agent and the road back to the client. : for example virtual desktop Horizon Agent. USB Redirected Mass storage device to your application, good-bye performance. Network filtering and poof black screen. Bad WiFi coverage and good-bye session when moving from office cubicle to meeting room.

poof-its-gone

RDP

Who? What? Skip this one when you are serious about display protocols. The only reason it is around in this list, is for troubleshooting when every other method fails. And yes the Horizon Agent default uses RDP as an installation dependency.

Blast Extreme

Just Beat it PCoIP. Not the official statement of VMware. VMware ensures it’s customers that Blast Extreme is not a replacement but an additional display protocol. But yeah…..sure…

With Horizon 7.1 VMware introduced BEAT to the Blast Extreme protocol. BEAT stands for Blast Extreme Adaptive Transport— UDP-based adaptive transport as part of the Blast Extreme protocol. BEAT is designed to ensure user experience stays crisp across quality varying network conditions. You know them, those with low bandwidth, high latency and high packet loss, jitter and so on. Great news for mobile and remote workers. And for spaghetti incident local networks……..

Blast uses standardized encoding schemes such as default H.264 for graphical encoding, and Opus as audio codec. If it can’t do H.264 it will fallback to JPG/PNG, so always use H.264 and check the conditions you have that might cause a fallback. JPG/PNG is more a codec for static agraphics or at least not something larger than an animated gif. H.264 the other way around is more a video codec but also very good in encoding static images, will compress them better than JPG/PNG. Plus 90% of the client devices are already equipped with a capability to decode H.264. Blast Extreme is network friendlier by using TCP by default, easier for configuration and performance under congestion and drops. It is effecient in not using up all the client resources, so that for example mobile device batteries are not drained because of the device using a lot of power feeding these resources.
Default protocol Blast Extreme selected.

PCoIP

PC-over-IP or PCoIP is a display protocol developed by Teradici. PcoIP is available in hardware, like Zero Clients, and in software. VMware and Amazon are licensed to use the PCoIP protocol in VMware Horizon and AWS Amazon Workspaces. For VMware Horizon PCoIP is an option with the Horizon Client or PCoIP optimized Zero Clients.
PCoIP is mainly a UDP based protocol, it does use TCP but only in the initial phase (TCP/UDP4172). PcoIP is rendered, multi-codec and can dynamically adapt itself based on available bandwidth. In low bandwidth environments it utilizes a lossy compression technique  where a highly compressed image is quickly delivered followed by additional data to refine that image. This process is termed “build to perceptually lossless”. The default protocol behaviour is to use lossless compression when there is minimal network congestion expected. Or explicitly disable as might be required for use cases where image quality is more important than bandwidth for example in medical imaging.
Images rendered on the server are captured as pixels, compressed and encoded and then sent to the client where decryption and decompression happens. Depending on the display, different codecs are used to encode the pixels sent since techniques to compress video images can be different in effectiveness compared to those more effective for text.

 

HTML

Blast Extreme without the Horizon client dependency. Client is a HTML5 compatible browser. HTML access needs to be installed and enabled on the datacenter side.
HTML uses the Blast Extreme display protocol with the JPG/PNG codec. HTML is not feature par with the Horizon Client that’s why I am putting it up as a separate display protocol option. As not all features can be used it not a best fit in must production environments, but it will be very sufficient for enough to use for remote or external use cases.

Protocol Selection

Depending how the pool is configured in Horizon, the end user has either the option to change the display protocol from the Horizon Client or the protocol is set on the pool with the setting that a user cannot change it’s protocol. The latter is has to be selected when using GPU, but it depends a bit on the work force and use case if you would like to leave all the options available to the user.

horizon-client-protocol

Display Protocol Optimizations

Unlike what some might think, display protocol optimization will benefit user experience in all situations. Either from an end user point of view or from IT having some control over what can and will be sent over the network. Network optimizations in the form of QoS for example. PCoIP and Blast Extreme can also be optimized via policy. You can add the policy items to your template, use Smart Policies and User Environment Management (highly recommended) to apply on specific conditions or use GPO’s. IMHO use UEM, and then template or GPO are the order to work from.

uem-smart-policy-example

For both protocols you can configure the image quality level and frame rate used during periods of network congestion. This works well for static screen content that does not need to be updated or in situations where only a portion of the display needs to be refreshed.

With regard to the amount of bandwidth a session eats up, you can configure the maximum bandwidth, in kilobits per second. Try to correspond these settings to the type of network connection, such an interconnect or a Internet connection, that are available in your environment.For example a higher FPS is fluent motion, but more used network bandwidth. Lower is less fluent but a less network bandwidth cost. Keep in mind that the network bandwidth includes all the imaging, audio, virtual channel, USB, and PCoIP or Blast control traffic.

You can also configure a lower limit for the bandwidth that is always reserved for the session. With this option set an user does not have to wait for bandwidth to become available.

For more information, see the “PCoIP General Settings” and the “VMware Blast Policy Settings” sections in Setting Up Desktop and Application Pools in View on documentation center (https://pubs.vmware.com/horizon-7-view/index.jsp#com.vmware.horizon-view.desktops.doc/GUID-34EA8D54-2E41-4B71-8B7D-F7A03613FB5A.html).

If you are changing these values, do it one setting at a time. Check what the result of your change is and if it fits your end users need. Yes, again use real users. Make a note of the setting and result, and move on to the next. Some values have to be redone to find the sweet spot that works best. Most values will be applied when disconnecting and reconnecting to the session where you are changing the values.

Another optimization can be done by optimizing the virtual desktops so less is transferred or resources can be dedicated to encoding and not for example defragmenting non persistent desktops during work. VMware OS Optimization Tool (OSOT) Fling to the rescue, get it here.

Monitoring of the display protocols is essential. Use vROPS for Horizon to get insights of your display protocol performance. Blast Extreme and PCoIP are included in vROPS. The only downside is that these session details are only available when the session is active. There is no history or trending for session information.

Graphic Acceleration

There are other options to help the display protocols on the server-side by offloading some of the graphics rendering and coding to specialized components. Software acceleration uses a lot of vCPU resources and just don’t cut it in playing 1080p full screen video’s. Not even 720p full screen for that matter. Higher clock speed of processor will help graphical applications a lot, but a the cost that those processor types have lower core count. Lower core count and a low overcommitment and physical to virtual ratio will lower the amount of desktops on your desktop hosts. Specialized engineering, medical or map layering software requires graphic capabilities that are not offered by software acceleration. Or require hardware acceleration as a de facto. Here we need offloading to specialized hardware for VDI and/or Published applications and desktops. Nvidia for example.

gpu-oprah-meme

What will those applications be using? How many frame buffers? Will the engineers be using these application mostly or just for a few moments and are afterwards doing work in office to write their reports. For this Nvidia supports all kinds of GPU profiles. Need more screens and framebuffers, choose a profile for this use case. A board can support multiple profiles if it has multiple GPU cores. But per core there only one type of profile can be used, multiple times if you not out of memory (buffers) yet. How to find the right profile for your work force? Assessment and PoC testing. GPU monitoring can be a little hard as not all monitoring application have the metrics up there.

And don’t forget that some applications need to be set to use hardware acceleration to be used by GPU or applications that don’t support or run worse on hardware acceleration because their main resource request is CPU (Apex maybe).

Engineers only? What about Office Workers?

Windows 10, Office 2016, browsers, and streaming video are used all over the offices. These applications can benefit from graphics acceleration. The number of applications that support and use hardware graphics acceleration has doubled over the past years. That’s why you see that the hardware vendors also changed their focus. NVidias’ M10 is targeted at consolidation while its brother M60 is targetted to performance, however reaching higher consolidation ratio’s then the older K generation. But cost a little bit more.

vGPU and one of the 0B/1B profiles and a vGPU for everyone. The Q’s can be saved for engineering. Set the profiles on the VM’s and for usage on the desktop pools.

And what can possibly go wrong?

Fast Provisioning – vGPU for instant clones

Yeah. Smashing graphics and depJloying those desktops like crazy… me likes! The first iteration of instant clones did not support any GPU hardware acceleration. With the latest Horizon release instant clones can be used for GPU. Awesomesauce.

– Enjoy looking at the stars!

Sources: vmware.com, wikipedia.org, teradici.com, nvidia.com

EUC Toolbox: Helpful tool Desktop Info

As somebody who works with all different kinds of systems from preferably one client device, from the intitial look, all those connected desktops look a bit the same. I want a) to see on what specific template am I doing the magic, b) directly see what that system is doing and c) don’t want breaking the wrong component. And trust me the latter will happen sooner then later to us all.

dammit-jim

Don’t like to have to open even more windows or search for metrics in some monitoring application as it does not make sense at this time? Want to see some background information on what the system you are using is doing, right next to the look and feel of the desktop itself? Or keep an eye on the workload of your synthetic load testing? See what for example the CPU of your Windows 7 VDI does at the time an assigned AppStack is direct attached? And want to keep test and production to be easily kept apart in all those clients you are running from your device?

Desktop Info can help you there.

Desktop Info you say?

Desktop Info displays system information on your desktop in a similar way to for example BGinfo. But unlike BgInfo the application stays resident in memory and continually updates the display in real time with the interesting information for you. It looks like a wallpaper. And has a very small footprint of it’s own. Fit’s perfectly for quick identification of test desktop templates with some realtime information. Or keeping production infrastructure servers apart or….

And remember it’s for information. Desktop Info does not replace your monitoring toolset, it gives the user information on the desktop. So it’s not just a clever name……..

How does it work?

Easy, just download, extract and configure how you want Desktop Info to show you the …well.. info. For example put it in your desktop template for a test with the latest application release.

It can be downloaded at http://www.glenn.delahoy.com/software/files/DesktopInfo151.zip. There is no configuration program for Desktop Info. Options are set by editting the ini file in a text editor such as Notepad or whatever you have lying around. The ini file included in the downloaded zip shows all the available options you can have and set. Think about the layout, top/bottom placement, colors, items to monitor and WMI counters for the specific stuff. Using Nvidia WMI counters here to see what the GPU is doing would be an excellent option. Just don’t overdo it.

In the readme.txt that is also included in the zip there is some more explanation and examples. Keep that one closeby.

capture-basicinformation

Test and save your configuration. Put Desktop Info in a place or tool so that it is started with the user session that needs this information. For example in a startup, shortcut or as a response to an action.

Capturing data

You have the option to use Desktop Info with data logging for references. Adding csv:filename to items will output the data to a csv formatted file. Just keep in mind that the output data is the display formatted data.

– Enjoy!

Digital Workspace Transformation: information security

Yes…. it has been a while since I posted on this blog, but I’m still alive ;-)

For a 2016 starter (what?!? is it June already), I want to ramble on about information security in the digital workspace. With a growing number of digital workspace transformations going on, information security is more important than ever. With the growing variety of client endpoints and methodes of access in the personal and corporate environments, users are becoming increasingly independent from the physical company locations. Making it interesting how to centrally manage storage of data, passwords, access policies, application settings and network access (just examples, not the complete list). For any place, any device, any information and any application environments for your users (or do we want any user in there), it is not just a couple of clicks of this super-duper secure solution and were done.

encrypt-image300x225
(image source blogs.vmware.com)

Storing data on for example Virtual Desktop servers (hello VMware Horizon!) in the data center is (hopefully) a bit more secure than storing it locally on the user’s endpoint. At the same time, allowing users to access virtual desktops remotely puts your network at a higher risk then local only. But it’s not all virtual desktops. We have mobile users who will like to have the presentations or the applications directly on the tablet or handheld. I for instance, don’t want to have to open a whole virtual desktop for just one application. You ever tried a virtual desktop on a iPhone, it is technical possible yes, but works crappy. Erm forgot my Macbook HDMI USB-C converter for this presentation, well I send it to your gmail or dropbox for access with the native mobile apps at your conference room. And the information is gone out of the company sphere…..(a hypothetical situation of course..)

Data Leak

Great ideas all those ways to be in and out of company information. But but but….. these also pose some challenges to which a lot of companies have not started thinking about. Sounds a bit foolish as it is probably the biggest asset of a company, information. But unfortunately it’s a fact (or maybe it could be just the companies I visit). Sure these companies have IT departments or IT vendors who think a bit about security. And in effect mostly make their users life’s miserable with all sort of technical barriers installed in the infrastructure. In which the users, business and IT (!) users, will find all sorts of ways to pass these installed barriers. Why? First of all to increase their productivity while effectively decreasing security, and secondly they are not informed about the important why. And then those barriers can be just a nuisance.

Break down the wall

IT’s Business

I have covered this earlier in my post (https://pascalswereld.nl/2015/03/31/design-for-failure-but-what-about-the-failure-in-designs-in-the-big-bad-world). The business needs to have full knowledge of their required processes and information flows, that support or process in and out information for the services supporting the business strategy. And the persons that are part of the business and operate the services. And what to do with this information in what different ways, is it allowed for certain users to access the information outside of the data center and such. Compliancy to for example certain local privacy laws. Governance with policies and choices, and risk management do we do this part or not, how do we mitigate some risk if we take approach y, and what are the consequences if we do (or don’t).

Commitment from the business and people in the business is of utmost importance for information security. Start explaining, start educating and start listening.
If scratch is the starting point, start the writing first on a global level. What does the business mean by working from everywhere everyplace, what is this digital workspace and such.  What are the risks, how do we approach IAM, what do we have for data loss protection (DLP), is it allowed for IT to inspect SSL traffic (decrypt, inspect and encrypt) etc. etc.
Not to detailed at first it is not necessary, as it can take a long time to have a version 1.0. We can work on it. And to be fair information security and digital workspace for a fact, is continue evolving and moving. A continual improvement of these processes must be in place. Be sure to check with legal if there are no loops in what has been written in the first iteration.
Then map to logical components (think from the information, why is it there, where does it come from and where does it go, and think for the apps, the users) and then when you have defined the logical components. IT can then add the physical components (insert the providers, vendors, building blocks). Evaluate together, what works, what doesn’t, what’s needed and what is not. And rave and repeat…..

Furthermore, a target for a 100% safe environment all the time will just not cut it. Mission Impossible. Think about and define how to react to information leaks and minimize the surface of a compromise.

Design Considerations

With the above we should have a good starting point for the business requirement phase of a design and deploy of the digital workspace. And there will also be information from IT flowing back to the business for continual improvement.

Within the design of an EUC environment we have several software components were we can take actions to increase (or decrease, but I will leave that part out ;-)) security in the layers of the digital workspace environment. And yes, when software defined is not a option there is always hardware…
And from the previous phase we have some idea what choices can be made in technical ways to conform to the business strategy and policies.

If we think of the VMware portfolio and the technical software layers were we need to think about security, we can go from AirWatch/Workspace ONE, Access Point, Identity Manager, Security Server, Horizon, AppVolumes to User Environment Management. And And….Two-Factor, One Time Password (OTP), Microsoft Security Compliance Manager (SCM) for Windows based components, anti-virus and anti-malware, networking segmentation and access policies with SDDC NSX for Horizon. And what about Business Continuity and disaster recovery plans, and SRM, vDP.
Enterprise Management with vROPS and Log Insight integration to for example SIEM. vRealize for automating and orchestrating to mitigate work arounds or faults in manual steps. And so on and so on. We have all sorts of layers where to implement or help with implementing security and access policies. And how will all these interact? A lot to think about. (It could be that a new blog post series subject is born…)

But the justification should start at the business… Start explaining and start acting! This is probably 80% of the success rate of implementing information security. And the technical components can be made fit, but… after the strategy, policies, information architecture are somewhat clear….

And the people in the business are supporting the need for information security in the workspace. (Am I repeating myself a bit ;-)

Ideas, suggestions, conversation, opinions. Love to hear them.

Get up, stand up and get your Windows XP out of there

April 8, 2014.

Ring a bell? No? Really? That is a date that will have to ring a bell. You are either on the ah don’t worry I’ve got my things sorted, or it will send a shiver down your spine.
Have been lying under a rock or went on a travel to the end of the universe? Well this 2014 april day is the day that Microsoft will end support (to be precise End of extended support) for Windows XP. See this nice matrix that Microsoft have up their site: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle.

Ah but that is no problem for us because we have a perfect running system and never had to worry about Microsoft support. Okay, well congratulations on your perfect operating environment. But it will grind to a halting stop. Why? As you probably need applications on there, and the suppliers of those will also stop (or already stopped) support for their products on Windows XP. And if that doesn’t get you started what do you think about: attacks to vulnerabilities. You got a bunch of Cyber attackers waiting around and they will be able to target vulnerabilities in Windows XP without fear these flaws will be patched. And there will not be anything you can do to protect yourself besides upgrading to a newer operating system.

[Edit] Okay apparently not anything. Your not completly on your own. Microsoft announced on 15 january 2014 it will extend it’s antimalware support of Windows XP through 14th july 2015 (http://blogs.technet.com/b/mmpc/archive/2014/01/15/microsoft-antimalware-support-for-windows-xp.aspx). This means anti malware signatures and engine updates for the essentials suite. The EOL of Windows XP still stays on the 8 april 2014. If you have essentials in your environment you will have some support, but keep in mind this doesn’t fix vulnerabilities in the OS itself. The effectiveness of anti malware/virus protection or what ever solutions are limited on an out dated OS. You maybe have a little more protection then nothing, but be aware that this doesn’t give a false oh I’m okay. The urge to move from Windows XP still exists.
[/Edit]

What are your upgrade/migration paths?

Got your attention? Well there is still some time to get your plans and start moving. To help you get started I will highlight some of the paths you can explore to get that pesky Windows XP out of there.

– Assess. Check your environment, what is out there? Check what applications you have, requirements, what hardware there is, how your distribution is done are there any central management solutions out there?
Involve your users. This is key! These are to ones that are using the environment, these are the ones that will use the target environment, these know their applications. These are also the ones that test and accept the new environment. Don’t got them in your project? Well you are bound to fail. Go back a few steps and include those users!
Tools, use the assessment tools out there. You got the Microsoft assessment and planning toolkit, Flexera or AppDNA for example. Use System Center Configuration Manager for deployment, well use it to gather the information from your clients. At this time you should have a good starting point on what is in your environment. Check with your suppliers of applications what is their support with newer OS versions, do you need a new version no problem. Add it to your new deployment and migrate the data as described by these suppliers. Make sure you start collecting your application installation disks plus any necessary product keys. Check with your business what there plans are, are you currently in a fat client environment, maybe this is the time to move to a VDI or hybrid environment (I would say the perfect time, but this is up to your organization).

– Pick a new OS version. You got a picture of your environment, what is lying around and how your suppliers support is for new OS’ses. Take your pick. Part of making your migration plan is to pick a new OS, as this influences the way to go. As the most Windows XP users will want to go to a newer version of Windows, decide on going to Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. You will have to do a new install as there is no direct upgrade path. You will have to take care of the personal settings currently on the system. There is no direct interchangeability between the Windows XP user settings and Windows 7 for example. You probably have a good view of your application support, check which OS has to most support. And for Windows 7 be aware that mainstream support will also stop in 2015, is Windows 8.x a better option when your application suppliers support these.

– Virtual Desktops. You will have a picture of your business strategy and your current vs future hardware and application support. This is probably a good time to start thinking about VD as your target. [Edit] To clearify a bit on the ways to deliver a VD (as the comments show this was needed); Depending on the type of users in your organizations landscape, this can be either a shared, a one-to-one or a hybrid virtual desktop environment. What is the difference? A shared VD is actually a desktop that is being shared by serveral user on one server (with same Server OS install base, same resources). Where an one-to-one is a desktop where one user connects. And yes these desktops also run on a shared hypervisor host, but seperated from the other user desktops. Changes to the desktops don’t influence the other users. In most organization it will either be a large portion of shared, or hybrid shared with a small portion of one-to-one. But here you again must decide what is best for your organization. There is no one size fits all organizations, there is an design choice that can be easily expanded to an other solution when needed. [/Edit] Is your hardware still able to support Windows 7 and Windows 8, the need for VD is a little lesser. But when you will have to invest a lot in new hardware a VD is the perfect place to go to. It will make a central managed environment with upgrade methods for future OS life cycles.

– Legacy Applications. There may be a custom application that won’t work on newer versions of Windows. Okay, but here we also have options other then leaving Windows XP out there. There is application virtualization for example. Sandbox this application in a previous Windows support mode. ThinApp or App-v for example. No application virtualization initiatives yet? There is also a some virtualization support in Windows 7 as are there ways to run virtual machines on your desktop. A virtualization feature called Windows XP Mode is included in Windows 7 Professional as are VMware workstation or such as available. Just run your legacy application in the Windows XP VM and work on a plan to replace these later on.

– Persona migration. Users of Windows XP will have set there applications and workspace to their needs. Preferably they want a seamless move to a new OS with the possibility to retain these settings. As we got the support for applications, we need to think about a way to get those settings to the new OS. What options do we have here? We can virtualize the profile via RES Workspace Manager for example. This decouples (or abstract) the profile and settings from the Windows profile (which has changed from XP to 7, so again no direct way). Deploy at the current Windows XP base and gather the settings needed. When going to Windows 7/8 these settings we be applied there as well. There is a little catch to this method (and to be clear for all migration options), non of the solutions are publishing settings from application that changed over time. Your Office 2003 settings will not be straight applied on Office 2010, some conversions will be needed.
An other option is to use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer your settings from XP to Windows 7. Use your network or a USB hard disk to save the settings and sneaker migrate them to the new system. 32-bit to 64-bit will be harder to migrate, but there there will be some backup restore options. And other option is to use the layer management upgrade approach.

– Design with workspace layers. Make your design one that will be easily upgraded in the future. OS Life Cycles will be shorter, Windows 9 is already rumored to be released in 2015. By treating your OS as one of your workspace layers, you will be able to easier to migrate in the future. These layers will be transported, migrated and recovered more easier. Loose your corporate notebook, well here is a VD image with your persona, data and application layers restored from a previous (central) point. And off you go! Decouple those layers and these are easier managed. What are workspace layers? You got your hardware layer, driver layer, base image (OS) layer, one or more application layers and the user layer. Your corporate data will be in several layers, but if you have good insights and a working data management (not often seen to be honest) you can even have a data layer. With these layers you can have different owners, managers and responsibilities (IT vs User vs Business).

– Desktop Layer management. VMware Horizon Mirage is a layered image management solution that separates the desktop into logical layers that are owned and managed by either the IT organization or the end user (persona/applications). You can update the IT-managed layers while maintaining end-user files and personalization. With the centralized management provided by Horizon Mirage, you can perform all of the snapshot, migration, and recovery tasks remotely. This will significant reduce the manual migration process steps and accelerate the migration project. This significantly decreases IT costs. When setup and captured correctly this is the preferred tool to do a online and seemless migration of Windows XP to Windows 7.

– But my business wants to go even further and include all those buzzwords like BYOD, mobility and such. Yup, and why are your still stuck with Windows XP? Take the simple approach, first get your infrastructure up to the right OS and running. Take one step at a time instead of a giant leap. Yes, of course you will have to design with the future in mind (VDI with workspaces will open the environment to mobility) but you first have to get this big change a successful one. Let the infrastructure sink in, get your issues out. And let the organization get used to this change. After this, and design in mind, it should be a nice easy project to add mobility to your upgraded environment.

—-

For those on Windows XP. It was time to act, and there is still time to act. But you will have to do this now!

Else it is Tick Tick Boom! (just to get some more earworm out of my head)

– Happy migration!

VMware Horizon View 5.3 is available for download and new feature list

VMware Horizon View 5.3 is available for download and can be downloaded at the following location: https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/info/slug/desktop_end_user_computing/vmware_horizon_view/5_3.

So what new features are available with version 5.3?

The following features are new to this version:

  • 3D graphics with virtual dedicated graphics acceleration (vDGA). This leverages view to use complex 3D graphics in your VDI environment. In combination with vSphere.
  • Virtual Shared Graphics Acceleration (vSGA) now supports AMD/ATI graphics cards next to the NVidia cards.
  • Improved Real-Time Audio-Video experience and performance. With encoding and compression techniques seriously improving reduction to bandwidth consumption. This enables end users rich communication and collaboration over WAN links. Available in the feature pack.
  • Enhancement to mobility features in HTML5 and Unity Touch. Use Blast HTML to provide end users with a mobile workspace experience even when the client is not available. Also available in the feature pack.
  • Windows 8.1 support. Support for the latest Windows version as virtual desktop.
  • VMware® ThinApp® 5.0. Support for application virtualization of 64-bit applications. The support of 64-applications in VDI environments starts with VMware Horizion View 5.3.
  • Manage persistent virtual desktop images with VMware Horizon Mirage™ 4.3. Before 4.3 Mirage was only supported with physical images.
  • Virtual SAN or VSAN support. Leverage Virtual SAN for your Horizon View VDI deployments. (maybe a little over done, but Virtual SAN is Beta.).
  • Support for Windows Server 2008 as virtual desktop.
  • View Agent Direct Connection (VADC). An optional plugin for end user sessions without having to authenticate into a connection server. This let’s your users connect to sessions when a WAN link isn’t available (due to connection problems, poor bandwidth or high latency). Perfect for you mobile workforce.

So go out and download this version if you not already haven’t. Test, plan and update your reference architecture for new deployments with this version.

The updated versions of View, Mirage and Thinapp (etc). are also available via the Horizon suite download link: https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/info/slug/desktop_end_user_computing/vmware_horizon_suite/1_0.

– Enjoy delivering a mobile workspace with VMware Horizon!