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.

View? No thanks, I’ll just use Appblast

The title of this article was one of the statements I heard last week. I also heard another interesting statements: “why use View? I will wait for Horizon”.

Back in February 2012, I published an article about VMware’s End User Computing vision and journey. In my opinion, that vision/journey hasn’t changed and still applies with the recent announcements at VMworld 2012. However, I have the feeling that the vision/journey need to be explained once again and maybe even more often, so people understand the vision and where EUC products fit in that vision/journey.

In a nutshell, VMware’s EUC vision starts with the future platform: The Horizon Suite- The Platform for the Mobile Workforce … applications, data and users in the post-PC era. Be aware that this Suite, or platform, contains multiple products/techniques, which are integrated with each other: View, ThinApp, Horizon Data, Horizon Mobile, Appblast and Horizon App Manager.

I have the idea that some people think they will be able to pick 1 product/technique and standardize on that: “All people will use Appblast for everything. There won’t be any need for VDI anymore”, as an example. That’s not true or even possible in today’s world. There isn’t 1 ultimate vehicle/technique to bring apps and data to any device in a secure and efficient way. A user’s workspace will deliver that user applications and data to any of his/her devices. Different products/techniques will be used to do so, to give that user the best experience to do his/her work on the device of that moment.

VMware calls it the Post-PC era but don’t think the PC, aka Windows is going away soon. Again, Windows won’t be as dominant as before anymore in the enterprise. The desktop (physical and/or virtual) won’t be the only place where users do their work. More devices, different platforms, less OS-dependent apps, but Windows will be there for a long time. That’s the reason for step #1: Optimize. That’s also the reason VMware keeps improving VMware View and introduce cool features like AppShift. Again, although Windows will not be as dominant, it still will be part of an enterprise user’s workspace environment

Now the journey: how do you get to that Post-PC era platform? VMware defined a 3-step journey:

  1. Optimize what you have,
  2. Embrace your/the Cloud,
  3. Escape to your/the Cloud

In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to skip a step. You cannot “Embrace your/the Cloud until you have “Optimize what you have”. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to get Horizon (Suite and/or App Manager) before you use ThinApp and View. Technically, you could though. You could use Horizon App Manager for SaaS apps, you could use Horizon Data with the Horizon Suite with physical desktops. But, why wouldn’t you “Optimize what you have” first, virtualize applications, virtualize desktops, separate data and apps from physical desktops. Remove silos. Get savings out of that and become more efficient, more agile at the same moment. Then, invest those savings in more Cloud based apps: Saas or web service apps. Use a services broker like Horizon App manager. Distribute ThinApps via Horizon as well. Create a workspace where all techniques come together. Move to the your EUC cloud step-by-step.

Optimize your Windows 7 virtual desktops for better performance

A little while ago, my German Specialist SE End User Computing colleague, Valentin Allert, sent me a document on how to optimize a Windows 7 virtual desktop in a VDI/VMware View environment, for better performance. He summarized the information he received from within VMware but also information he collected from Proof of Concepts.

Valentin and I wanted to share this information with you:

“There are at least four different areas where optimization can be applied:

  1. The virtual machine settings on vSphere
  2. Inside the virtual machine
  3. Group Policy settings in Group Policy Management Console
  4. Pool settings in View Administrator

1. virtual machine settings:

  • Make sure your golden image/parent VM/master is installed on the latest hardware version of your vSphere platform. Do double check if this HW version is compatible with View Local mode, if you want to use local mode
  • Make sure your VM has an LSI SCSI Controller and not IDE boot device. Especially important for XP, because IDE is the default setting when creating a XP VM
  • If you want to have good Video performance maximize the Video RAM to 128 MB manually
  • If you want to have good multimedia performance, like video, make sure your VM has 2 vCPU’s

2. Inside the virtual machine:

  • We do see customers using their deployment tools and use the same image they use for physical devices, for the new parent VM. Avoid this. Create your parent VM from scratch, so, for example, different hardware drivers won’t be in the VM. Keep the VM as clean as possible
  • Install VMware Tools first and after that, install the VMware View agent
  • In our Windows Optimization Guide for Windows 7, you will find three Text files. Rename 1 of them into .bat. Before you run this file, do read the guide carefully. Check what this script will turn off/disable and make sure this fits in your environment. Then, run the file which fits to your scenario:
  1. If you are updating from an earlier Version and you want to use the same golden Image but want to activate VMware Persona Management only use CommandsDesktopsReadyForPersonaManagement.txto
  2. If you have a fresh installation and a want to use VMware Persona Management use CommandsPersonaManagement.txt
  3. If you have a fresh installation and don’t want to use VMware Persona Management use CommandsNoPersonaManagement.txto

If you want to use AERO with glass etc. you have to delete or REM the following lines in the script:

  1. Powershell Set-Service ‘UxSms’ -startuptype “disabled”
  2. Powershell Set-Service ‘Themes’ -startuptype “disabled”

I always would delete the second line though, otherwise the new View Desktop looks like Windows 3.11 which is not good for user acceptance.

  • Run the script as administrator (yes the right click “run as” command)
  • One settings is most important and unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to set this settings through GPOs:
  1. You must have left Themes activated when running the optimization script (step before). Log on as Administrator
  2. Choose Windows 7 standard theme
  3. Go to advanced settings->performance ->enable adjust for best performance but then activate the last point visual styles again:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • After that, you could consider creating a default user with these new settings. Follow the official Microsoft steps to do so. Yes, Sysprep is the only supported way.
  • Optionally, create a snapshot and call it first optimization
  • Install the apps you want to have in your master Image
  • Create your final snapshot call it Master 1.0

3. Group Policy settings in Group Policy Management Console:

  • Create an OU where you will deploy your View desktops
  • Create a Group Policy Object for the virtual desktops.
  • Right click, edit -> if you are pre 2008 using adm files go to computerconfiguration -> administrative templates ->right click import/export
  • Delete all default template out of the object
  • Import PCoIP adm files located on your View Server: C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware View\Extras\Group Policy Files\
  • Go to: Computer Settings -> administrative templates -> classic administrative settings -> PCoIP settings
  • Activate -> Not to build to lossless – This settings prevents PCoIP from always build the picture to a lossless condition which is only used in graphical, healthcare or construction scenarios
  • Set Min picture quality 50 / max picture quality 70 / 24 Frames Because of the history of PCoIP we it uses 30 FPS as a default which is way to high if we consider that an Movie has 24 FPS
  • Disable AES 256 and Salsa encryption, if using 5.1 if you are using an older Version disable only Salsa because one of the encryptions has to be activated. 5.1 has three encryptions so you can disable two, earlier version have two encryptions so you can disable one.
  • Disable all features you do not need like maybe Audio or Clipboard
  • Do not play around with settings like bandwidth floor etc. PCoIP has a pretty behavior by itself.

4. Pool Settings in View Administrator:

When creating your first pool with linked clones make sure to have at least these settings, all other settings are depending on your use case:

  • If you are on vSphere 5.x and View 5.1 make sure you have the View Storage Accelerator enabled
  • If you have Video intense workload configure the pool with 4 monitors and max resolution (even if you don not need it)
  • If you have CAD, Google Earth or any other DirectX or OpenGL Apps activate 3D (if you do not have the option you have to disable –allow users to choose protocol-) if you still do not have the possibility to activate AERO inside of the Desktop you have to make sure that the script didn’t disable UXSMS and Themes services (DirectX and OpenGL are working anyway.)
  • Place your Replica on a SSD if you have them. If you have a storage system with storage tiering, with a big cache make sure to create only one replica place it on a small extra LUN (save time and space and the replica will end up in the cache anyway)”

Additional Information:

Mac OS X Mountain Lion and VMware View Client for Mac

As most of you know, Apple released its latest operating system version last week. Mountain Lion is available in the Apple App Store.

I received a couple of questions from customers if the latest VMware View Client for Mac is compatible with Apple’s Mountain Lion. Yes, it is!!

Pat Lee, VMware’s Director of Product Management End User Clients, published an article last week. Take a look here so you know the details.

You can download the VMware View Client for all major platforms here.

Unprotect/Remove a Replica in VMware View

Although you can find information on the Internet about unprotecting a Replica, I do get questions about how to unprotect one once in a while. Below you will find a step by step on how to Unprotect and Remove a replica VM.

First a little bit of background information. When you provision a Pool of VM’s based on Linked Clones, a Replica VM/entity will be created in vCenter. This Replica is based on your Parent VM+Snapshot you point to when you use the “Add Pool” wizard in View Manager. This Replica is the Read-only part for your Linked Clones and in vCenter it looks like; “replica-7e710c51-4844-441a-925d-3f8df484f138” (of course the part after “replica” will be different). This Replica is crucial for your Linked Clone pool and therefor protected in vCenter so an Admin can’t delete it by accident.  Right-click on a Replica and you will see that “delete from disk” is grayed out. When you delete a Linked Clone pool, the replica(s) will be deleted as well. So first of all, the right way of deleting a replica is to delete the pool in View Manager. Personally, I always “Disable Pool” and “Disable Provisioning” for the pool in View Manager before I delete that pool. Sometimes it is necessary to manually unprotect the Replica and delete is. Below you will find the steps I take;

  • Open the vCenter Client and connect to the vCenter Server. Decide which Replica you need to unprotect.
  • In vCenter Client, go to “Home” and “Search”. Search for your Replica. What you will see is the Inventory Path of your Replica. You will need the Data Center name and Folder name later on.

 

  • Logon to your vCenter/Composer Server -> Start -> Run -> CMD
  • Navigate to the installation path of Composer. Default is;

32-bit; C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware View Composer

64-bit; C:\Program Files (X86)\VMware\VMware View Composer

  • Type; “SviConfig –operation=UnprotectEntity”. This command will show you all options/examples you have around unprotecting VM’s and Replica’s. Before this I copied/pasted a command I used before and which I saved in Notepad. That didn’t work. Apparently the command changed a bit after I upgraded to a newer version. So, for the latest command for your version, follow this step #5.

  • Follow “Example 2”, unprotecting a Replica. Just a couple of comments;

-DsnName=SVI; = the ODBC DSN name of  the Composer data base

-InventoryPath; = “/Your Data Center Name you looked up in #2/vm/The Folder you looked up in #2/replica name

  • Now your Replica is unprotected and you will be able to right click it and delete is from disk.

Virtualizing non standard, non domain PC’s with VMware View

Recently, I visited a large multinational to help setting up a VMware View PoC environment. Firstly, my contact started to explain his thoughts, wishes and use case. The use case was quite interesting and I wanted to share it with you because it is different. It does make sense though, although you wouldn’t think about it that quickly.

When we think about VDI, we most likely think about office users, needing several applications, multimedia here and there, all in a domain or several domains. In this case we are talking about virtualizing PC’s, which are controlling laboratory equipment.

In the customer’s case, officially around 2000 PC’s are running and controlling laboratory/analytical equipment. This equipment is costly and generating very valuable data. Also, these setups (connection between lab machines and PC’s are done via RS-232) have been running for multiple years in a very standalone manner. They aren’t added to the domain, not connected to the Internet and running in an isolated “Lab” network segment.

The lab PC’s need to run continuously. Downtime is very, very costly. Virtualizing them benefit higher availability. These PC’s can use vSphere HA, DRS and vMotion.  In case of unsolvable crashes, provisioning a new VM will only take minutes. Also, adding them to VMware View will allow application owners/developers to access these VM’s to update and maintain the applications, instead of visit them physically.

So, interesting use case to me, and the first step was already made; the lab equipment was IP accessible and RS-232 connections weren’t needed anymore. Then I got the question if View desktops needed to be in a domain. Hmm, good one. I quickly looked through the documentation and everywhere I looked, it stated that VM’s needed to be part of a domain. Luckily, it isn’t a hard requirement. For example, you can create VM’s in vCenter first and add them to a “Manual Pool” later. You need to use Sysprep though. Quickprep can only be used when desktops are added to the domain. Also, you need to create a local account on the VM for a specific user who gets access. Lastly, Single Sign On doesn’t work which is understandable.

This case isn’t about the lowest TCO possible. It isn’t about multimedia, bandwidth usage and lowest storage capacity. It is about high availability, making it easier and more efficient to manage and maintain these machines and more importantly, the applications. Maybe the most important feature is creating a platform for these kinds of applications, which can be used for many years. Writing off expensive lab equipment because of the controlling PC’s are difficult to replace.

Zero Clients, Host cards, Tera Chipsets and APEX card; what is what in VMware View and PCoIP land?

I have noticed people are mixing up/are confused about the different PCoIP hardware bits which can be used in a VMware View environment. For example, people sometimes think the Teradici APEX card is a GPU. Below I would like to give you a brief overview of what is what. I will also add links to sites where you can find more information.

Zero Clients;

ZC’s are access devices used by View users to access their virtual desktops using PCoIP as the protocol. They are called ZC’s because they don’t have an OS running on them. Firmware runs on top of the Teradici chipset. The chip today is the Tera 1 chipset. The latest firmware can be downloaded from the Teradici support site.

ZC’s come in standalone devices but also as integrated monitors.

Teradici develops the chipsets and firmware. It is Teradici who adds functionality to the ZC’s and not VMware. There is a chance that VMware adds new features in a new VMware View release and that the current ZC firmware/chipsets don’t support the new features. A current example is Client Side Caching; a feature in VMware View 5.0 but doesn’t work on ZC’s. Teradici continues developing and supporting new features and will continue releasing new version of the Tera chip and firmware.

Personally, I do like ZC’s. I’m not too fond of the name “Zero Client” because there is firmware running, so not zero or nothing. Anyway… The good part is the firmware’s footprint is very small and doesn’t need much patching like a typical Operating System. Also, no hard drive which can break or local data which can leak. On top of that, a lot of Zero Client don’t use a lot of power. Teradici also offers a ZC management tool for free. You can manage your clients from 1 central place.

Host cards;

Host cards are Teradici cards you put into a PC/Workstation, which you put in a datacenter. Instead of connecting to a virtual desktop, a user connects to a physical Workstation with a Host card.  On that Workstation an OS (support for Linux, Mac and Windows) is running with applications. Companies use this solution for high-end graphical users. Inside the Workstation a professional graphics card is present. The output of that card is being send to the Host card and put on the network as a PCoIP stream to the user’s access device. The users most likely will use a Zero Client as their access device and can use VMware View as their broker (Workstation can only run Windows). The software driver for the host cards can also be found on the Teradici support website.  A white paper about Host cards and VMware View has been published as well.

APEX 2800 Server Offload Card;

When a VMware View user connects to a virtual desktop and is doing a lot of multimedia related work, like watching videos, all that encoding/rendering needs to be done in software of the ESX servers. Remember, PCoIP is a host-based protocol. Read more about PCoIP basics here.

Encoding/rendering and compressing cost ESX CPU cycles that might lead to a decrease of your consolidation ratio when a lot of multimedia is being done. In that case, to ensure the high level of consolidation, a Teradici APEX 2800 Server Offload Card can be used. This card will take over that encoding from the server CPU’s. Don’t mix this card with a Graphics card or GPU. The APEX is an encoding offload card and for sure not a GPU! It won’t add hardware 3D capabilities to your VM’s. That’s something else VMware is developing with NVIDIA. I will come back to that later.

Hopefully this overview gives you a clear view of what is what in PCoIP/Teradici land.