Horizon (with) View: 5 phase design framework

In the last couple of weeks I have been presenting about VMware Professional Services, and more specific, the way they handle a View project from start to finish. VMware PSO follows a standardized framework to deliver a successful Horizon View implementation. This framework, in my honest opinion, isn’t rocket science but surprisingly, I hardly see the steps in this framework being taken by customers or partners when they are doing a VDI project.

I would like to share the framework with you so you will understand how we are approaching a larger Horizon View project. And no, this approach isn’t a secret. In fact, there is a public white paper available on the VMware website which talks about this framework and how we used this with a customer, a car manufacturer, to come up with a 2,100 seat, twin data center Horizon View design and implementation.

The framework consists of 5 phases:

View framework

 

Assess:

During this phase, one of the steps is to investigate your current environment: you monitor your physical desktop environment so you gather information about RAM, CPU, IO and application usage. Tools to do this in a detailed matter are, for example, Lakeside Systrack and Liquidware Labs Stratusphere. A new and easy tool is the VMware Cloud-Hosted Systrack tool. This will give you a good understanding about resource usage of your employees. These tools will also come up with reports and even a recommendation on how many specific ESXi servers you will need when moving to the virtual world. And yes, I agree, the virtual environment will look different than the physical one, and resource usages will be a bit different but at least your will have a good understanding on resource usage and not completely be in the dark.

Also in this phase is describing/understanding the business needs. This is a very important step because this will be the justification for the project and in the end, the justification for the available budget. You can read the business drivers in the car manufacturer use case.

Discover:

One of the steps to take in this phase is to organize workshops. Get employees involved as well. Interview them, ask them what they think about the current environment, what can be done differently, better.

Also, build business use case. Describe which groups are present in the organization; what do these groups needs to get from an IT point of view.

Another step is to build a small scale Proof of Concept/Proof of Technology.

Plan and design:

Picture1

No real need to explain this phase but see below the steps to take within this phase. And do follow them clockwise. To give you an example: I have seen customers buying end point devices first and in the end finding out they didn’t buy the right end points.

Start with Use Case Definitions. Know which groups and users are within your organization and what kind of desktop and apps you would like them to get.

With the Use Cases in mind, you can make a Pool Design easily and with that in mind, you can design View Blocks and Pods, design vSphere, storage and networking. Last but not least, because you know what end users need to get and how they will get it, you know what they need to access everything…the end points.

Build and Test:

In this phase you will build the designed environment. An important step here is load testing. Test the environment and see if your design is working with full load. If it isn’t behaving as expected, this is the time to make adjustments like adding more resources.

Optimize:

And the last phase is to optimize your newly implemented solution, check it is according best practices etc. After that you can bring it into production.

These are the phases we follow during a project. Again, no rocket science but a very structured way of handling a project. Hopefully you think a lot of these steps are open doors/obvious. I just noticed in reality that this framework is just not that common.

App Volumes and RES Workspace Manager: exclusions

Recently, I have done a Proof of Concept at a customer site with App Volumes. What I didn’t know was the fact that this customer was using RES Workspace Manager. Right after we started the PoC, we found out App Volumes and RES didn’t like each other.

Both App Volumes and RES use filter drivers, and these drivers are conflicting. Symptons are; startmenu settings, which come form RES, aren’t coming through. Also, after mounting an App Volumes app stack, no desktop information is flowing back to the RES management console.

To solve this, you have to update your app stacks and your template(s). You have to modify the snapvol.cfg file in your app stack/template and add exclusions for RES.

To update your app stacks, use the update button in the App Volumes management interface, provision the app stacks, log on to the provisioning machine and browse to C:\SnapVolumesTemp\MountPoints\MountPointxyz\snapvol.cfg and edit the file.

To update your template, follow the procedure described in this KB article.

Below you will find the exclusions for RES for as well 32-bit as 64-bit OS’s. After adding these exclusions, App Volumes and RES worked happily together.

#———RES SOFTWARE EXCLUSIONS BEGIN———————————-
#
exclude_path=\Program Files (x86)\RES Software\Workspace Manager\Data
exclude_path=\Program Files\RES Software\Workspace Manager\Data
exclude_path=%SystemRoot%\System32\drivers\appGuard_amd64.sys
exclude_path=%SystemRoot%\System32\drivers\ImgGuard_amd64.sys
exclude_path=%SystemRoot%\System32\drivers\netGuard_amd64.sys
exclude_path=%SystemRoot%\System32\drivers\RegGuard_amd64.sys
exclude_path=%LOCALAPPDATA%\Res
exclude_path=%SystemRoot%\System32\spool
exclude_registry=\REGISTRY\MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\RES\Workspace Manager
exclude_registry=\REGISTRY\MACHINE\SOFTWARE\RES\Workspace Manager
exclude_registry=\REGISTRY\USER\SOFTWARE\RES\Workspace Manager
exclude_process_path=\Program Files (x86)\RES Software\Workspace Manager\Data
exclude_process_path=\Program Files\RES Software\Workspace Manager\Data
exclude_process_path=\Program Files (x86)\RES Software\Workspace Manager\svc
exclude_process_path=\Program Files\RES Software\Workspace Manager\svc
exclude_process_name=pwgrids.exe
exclude_process_name=spoolsv.exe
#
#———RES SOFTWARE EXCLUSIONS END————————————

 

 

Project Enzo: The new, fast, scalable and hybrid workspace solution

Enzo banner

I have to admit, just the name made me curious already. But, after reading about Enzo, seeing the video’s and talking to colleagues, my curiosity went through the roof because everything about Enzo is bold!

Just a couple of statements;

  • From scratch, have the first desktop up and running in an hour,
  • From 1 to 2,000 desktops in 20 minutes,
  • Create 100 desktops in under a minute,
  • No more downtime for app, OS and infrastructure/system updates,
  • Desktops can be placed on premises, in the Cloud or both, and move them back and forth,
  • It will cost less than a cup of coffee…..

So, what is Project Enzo?

Enzo is a new way of building, delivering and managing virtual workspaces (apps and desktops) with a unified, single pane of glass management interface. Administrators can manage these workspaces on premises and in the Cloud, and move the apps and desktops between the 2.

Which components make Enzo?

Enzo

The ground layer is “Enzo Ready Infrastructure”. The can be EVO:RAIL, EVO:RACK or other Hyper Converged Infrastructure appliance from VMware partners which are Enzo enabled. The intelligence that is responsible for the set up, orchestration and automation comes from VMware Smart Node technology. This will be a virtual appliance, pre configured, sitting on the appliances.

The second layer is the desktop layer. Because of new technologies like instant cloning (and I will write a blog about that soon) Enzo will be capable of getting desktops up and running in seconds. Not only cloning will go incredibly fast, but you most likely will save on vm’s because over provisioning of vm’s will be reduced. Just-in-Time desktop means vm’s will be created when users are demanding them. Nowadays, vm’s are provisioned up front most of the time. With “JIT” desktops, other solutions like App Volumes and VMware User Environment Manager come into play to deliver apps and personalize the desktop.

The 3rd layer is the management layer. It is called the Enzo Control Plane. This web-based portal will be delivered to customers as a cloud based service. It will be hosted on VMware’s vCloud Air platform. Via this portal you can set up your Enzo environment, deliver apps and desktops and monitor all components. And because of this hosted portal, you can connect your private environment to public cloud environments and move apps and desktops from 1 to the other.

A public beta will come out this summer. Visit http://www.vmwhorizonair.com/enzo. There you can register for Early Access and get more info on Project Enzo, watch a video and webinar about Enzo.

More info to come about this amazing project. Stay tuned

Atlantis Computing in a VMware View environment

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Atlantis Computing. Atlantis would help solving the storage IO issues customers were facing when implementing VDI. Basically their solution would cache storage IO in memory so that disks wouldn’t be the bottleneck anymore. Nowadays, Atlantis does way more than that and they call it “storage optimization”.

Atlantis ILIO, the product name, comes as a virtual appliance and runs on the VMware vSphere hypervisor. You need an appliance on every ESX host. Traditionally, that appliance sits between virtual machines and storage (local storage and/or shared storage). The appliance is using physical ESX memory for its operation. The appliance caches storage IO and also does inline deduplication. By doing that, it boosts VDI performance, makes you able to run more VM’s per storage device and also, you don’t need a high performance storage device. With ILIO Diskless VDI, you don’t even need physical storage anymore. VM’s are running in memory.

The ILIO solution gives you a couple of possibilities:

  1. When you use ESX servers connected to shared storage, for VDI, you could lower the specs of your SAN. You need less performance and also less disk capacity from your array.  Pick a more mainstream array instead of SSD based arrays. Eventually this comes down to a lower price per virtual desktop. Also, the “fear” around storage with VDI becomes less important. VDI doesn’t need to be difficult anymore.  This solution is a good fit for stateful/dedicated full clone desktops
  2. More and more customers are running stateless desktops on local ESX storage (so no need for a shared storage array for those VM’s). For storage they often chose SSD’s or FusionIO for performance. To save on capacity, you could use ILIO purely for deduplication but also think about the ILIO Diskless VDI option: no storage at all. All VM’s run from ESX memory. The ILIO appliance takes ESX memory and uses it as a datastore.

This week I also heard the following: use local storage for stateful/dedicated full clone virtual desktops. Use ILIO for boosting performance and dedup and also use VMware Mirage as a backup tool, in case an ESX host would fail and to backup local data and apps. Interesting thought, isn’t it?!

Bottom line, there are several solutions which can absolutely help with the VDI storage IO issues. They all have a different price, purpose and maybe even give you additional advantages. Take a good look at these solution and chose which one suits you best and gives you the lowest price per desktop.

Book published: VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials

The first book on VMware ThinApp 4.7 has been published!! Specialist Systems Engineer ThinApp  at VMware Peter Bjork is the author of “VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials”.

What you will learn from this book is:

  • Concepts behind Application Virtualization
  • ThinApp architecture and vocabulary
  • Application Linking
  • Application packaging process and best practices
  • Various methods to deploy ThinApp packages
  • How to update your ThinApp project
  • ThinApp 4.7 design and implementation best practices
  • ThinApp troubleshooting

For more details on the great book and to order it, use the following link: http://www.packtpub.com/vmware-thinapp-4-7-essentials/book

VMware Workstation and Fusion: I do appreciate both more now

When I received my invitation for VMworld Barcelona 2012 as booth staff, I noticed I was scheduled for the VMware Workstation 9 and Fusion 5 booth. I honestly have to say that wasn’t my first choice. In VMware I mostly cover VMware View, ThinApp and Horizon. I considered Workstation and Fusion to be more “consumer products” and not enterprise. How wrong was I!

I had the pleasure of talking to the Product Manager of VMware Workstation/Fusion, Jason Joel but also the pleasure of talking to many end users during VMworld. Four things I noticed during my conversations:

  • I noticed that still, there are people who don’t know Workstation/Fusion. Well, let me quickly introduce Workstation and Fusion: Both products are, what we call, a type 2 hypervisor.  So, you install both programs on top of an Operating System. You install Workstation on top of a Windows OS (for example Windows 7 and/or 8) and you install Fusion on top of Mac OSX (for example Mountain Lion). It is called a type 2 hypervisor because you install the programs on top of an OS and not on top of bare metal. Installing a hypervisor on top of bare metal is called a type 1 hypervisor. vSphere/ESX is an example of a type 1 hypervisor.

After installing Workstation/Fusion (and yes, you can install WS on Windows 8 and Fusion on Mountain Lion), you will be able to create virtual machines on top of your desktop/laptop. To give you an idea:

You can run Windows 8, 7, XP, Ubuntu, Server 2012, Hyper-V and vSphere/ESX inside Workstation. Also, you can run Windows 8, 7, XP, Ubuntu, Mountain Lion, Server 2012, Hyper-V, and vSphere/ESX inside Fusion.

To know more about Workstation, read here: http://www.vmware.com/products/workstation/overview.html

To know more about Fusion, read here: http://www.vmware.com/products/fusion/overview.html

  • The second thing I noticed is that a lot of people are running either one or both products privately. User who are using Workstation and/or Fusion on their private laptops, testing software, getting familiar with new Operating Systems, following courses and have to do tests. Although I expected this use case, I still was impress with the amount of people who are using these products this way
  • The use case in #2 also expanded to the enterprise: users using WS/Fusion on their corporate desktops/laptops for testing purposes. I do have to admit, I didn’t expect this use case with this amount of users. I know many customers giving developers/testers a View desktop besides their “normal” laptop.
  • Fourth, I do expect WS/Fusion to become way more “enterprise”, meaning, both products are very separate from the rest of VMware EUC now, but I do think it is coming together. During the EUC keynote with Steve Herrod and Vittorio Viarengo, VMware View and Mirage merged. So, what is the place for WS/Fusion? BYOD!  Today, you could install Fusion on a private BYO Mac, install a Windows OS, Mirage agent and the company can stream a corporate image to your Mac. Yep, cool, but still too manual to my liking. I would like to see a system where, via Mirage, an image is being streamed with WS/Fusion wrapped around it. Yes, like WS Ace Edition had with VMware Player in the old days : ). Maybe it even is an idea to make a Mirage Image available via PXE: turn on Fusion, PXE boot and get the initial image. Another option is to manually install WS/Fusion, and IT sends you a link to a streamlined Windows package with the Mirage agent. Click, download, open and run it. Maybe thinking out of the box, maybe there are tools like Apple Remote Desktop to push Fusion and then the VM.

After spending a week with the VMware team and partners/customers I have the feeling WS/Fusion is a bit under estimated, under valued maybe not recognized although it won many awards. Both products aren’t just for people at home. It also is for the enterprise. I agree, both need more features around policies like expiration dates, policies around physical and virtual networks etc. Work to be done, yes. Know that WS/Fusion are evolving, are great products and can be used in the enterprise. Do read about the features like “restricted VM’s”.  Also, do understand both products are great test environments for View and vSphere.An example is the video driver. In all products this driver is the same and has been tested in WS/Fusion first before it comes into View/vSphere.

Lastly, do check out WSX. WSX makes it possible to remotely connect to your hypervisor/VM and show a VM’s content to, for example a tablet. Read more about it here.

I became to appreciate WS/Fusion a lot more after talking to Product Management, customers and partners. It is a great and mature products which will integrate with more products.

How much IO, CPU and RAM? VMware Rapid Desktop Appliance

Last week I received multiple VDI/VMware View sizing questions: How many virtual desktops can I host per server? How much RAM do I need? How much disk IO do I need to size per VM?

These questions are very hard for me to answer, without knowing details. The questions are very valid, though: You want to size your environment correctly. Under-sizing the environment will lead to performance issues for your end users and over-sizing the environment will lead to a high cost price per virtual desktop. Both results you don’t want.

I will not discuss how you can size a VMware View environment (maybe in another article). However, I can mention there are tools available like LiquidWare Labs Stratusphere FIT for assessments. Also, VMware partner with Desktop Competency and VMware professional Service can help you. Besides measuring or simulating loads with, for example VMware View Planner, you can also look at sizing an environment the other way around: look at devices which can support an x amount of users, more or less guaranteed. Devices, or I should say solutions, which consist of hardware (CPU, RAM and disk) and software (vSphere and VMware View). When your amount of users grows, expand your environment with another device and thus, scale out.

In this article I would like to make you aware of the VMware Rapid Desktop Appliance:

“a fully VMware certified, converged and scalable solution. Each certified and validated appliance delivers predictable units of performance and user experience”

Isn’t that great?! No more guessing about how much RAM, CPU and IO you need. Before I forget, the appliance isn’t a VMware appliance. Vendors like Nutanix, Cisco, Dell and HP are producing these devices, test and become VMware certified. In the past, the Rapid Desktop Program was intended for Proof of Concepts only but has extended to full production environments as well.

A while ago, I have posted an article about 1 of the vendors: Nutanix. They published the specs of their nodes/blocks and mentions a block could run 200-300 virtual desktops. If you have more users, just add a node/block. It is very scalable.

Be aware that this program is out there. Certified solutions, which will give you the power to host an x amount of users. Easy as that. The Rapid Desktop Appliance should accelerate your VDI deployment for sure.