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VMware View 6.x (from a Citrix XenApp administrator perspective) Part 1

As most of you know I work primarily as a Citrix architect implementing XenApp/XenDesktop infrastructures. However I also like to work with other similar product, so in the past I also deployed RDS only infrastructures. Besides it is always good to know how similar products work, to advice your customers between the differences and unique points of the product. Therefore it was time to install VMware View in my lab environment. In this article I will go through the infrastructure, installation, and configuration and user experience of the product. Logically I will compare it the current version of XenDesktop 7.x to show the differences and similarities.

Infrastructure

The VMware View infrastructure exists of several components. First let’s start with the View Connection Server. This component can be compared with the XenDesktop Delivery Controller. The View clients will connect to these Connection Server to determine for which applications or desktops the user has rights to start. Also load balancing is done by the Connection Server. You can have (luckily) more than one Connection Server. The first is called View Standard Server, while the following are Replica Servers. The Replica servers are there for load balancing and can execute the same tasks as the Standard Server. So you make changes to your View configuration, while the Standard Server is unavailable. Actually the replica server name does not totally represent the feature set it offers.




On the VDI or RDS machines you install the View Agent, comparable with the Citrix Virtual Desktop Agent. This makes it possible to connect as an end-user to the machine and set-up a session.

Next there is the View Composer. With this component you can create linked clones in combination with vCenter Server. In the version I used (6.1) this is only available for VDI and not for RDS. In the upcoming 6.2 version (announced during VMworld US 2015) Composer will also support RDS. In this first part article I will focus on the RDS basics, so don’t add the View Composer right now. I will do this further on the article series. Linked Clones can be compared with Machine Creation Services (MCS) within the Citrix XenDesktop suite.

At last there is the VMware View Security Server. This is the component used to connect users to the VMware View infrastructure from outside the internal network. View Security Server also runs on a Windows OS, but don’t have to be member of a domain and would be placed in the DMZ. In some organizations this will be difficult. While it is running on a Windows machine this is going back in time to the famous Citrix Secure Gateway product. What I don’t like about the Security Server that it has a one to one connection with a Connection Server. So when the Connection Server fails the Security Server also is unusable. You can install more Security Servers, but you need the same amount of Connection Server within the internal network. Happily VMware agrees with this vision. With the release of VMware View 6.2, they also released Access Point, which is an appliance which can communicate with each connection server. I’m looking forward to this great addition. The Access Point will also be described in one of the later articles in this article series as well.

Within the VMware View product no load balancing available for the Connection and Security servers, this need to be accomplished by using third party load balancers. The same applies to the Access Point, an additional load balancer is required.

Installation – the Basics

Now we briefly discussed the infrastructure of VMware View it’s time to start installing the product. The installation delivery of VMware is not that impressive as the XenDesktop 7.x currently. For different component a separate installation file is available. Let’s start with the installation steps of the Connection Server.

As already mentioned you start with installing the Connection Server(s). This is a single installation file for the Standard, Replica and the Security server (if not using the Access Point). It’s required that those machines has a fixed IP, when you use a DHCP (reserved) address the installation will mention that a fixed IP is required. During the installation steps you need to specify if this if the first server (Standard Server), a replica or a security server. In the same Window you also need to specify if you would like to allow HTML access. By default VMware View uses a client installed, but you can access the environment via a browser without the client installed as well (if you enabled the HTML access component).

Other questions asked during the installation wizard are the installation location, using IP4/IP6data recovery passwords (view database), automatically firewall configuration, enable/disable the user experience improvement program and the user/group that will be added as View administrators.

View is using HTTPS connection by default. Therefore you would like to add signed certificates (self-signed certificate is create during the installation). This process isnot well document, happily the community solved this. One of the best descriptions is written down by Ivo Beerens (http://www.ivobeerens.nl/2013/06/19/create-a-signed-certificate-for-vmware-view-connection-servers-using-a-windows-server-2012-ca/).

When installed the Standard and Replica Connection Server we will continue with installing the View Agent. As this article is focusing on the RDS part of View, the agent will be installed on a RDS server. You need to add the RDS role in advance manually. When the installation is started on a server without the RDS role installed a message will be shown that you are installing the agent while the RDS role is not active. You can continue the installation, but the agent will than install in the so called Desktop mode (VDI) mode. Also the agent installation asks if you are using IP4 or IP6 (cannot be combined), followed by which components need to be installed (think of USB redirection, client drive redirection, HTML access and the agent composer for example). Logically also the (Load Balanced) Connection Server need to be added here for communication with those servers.

As mentioned earlier I will describe the composer later in this series, so I will also postpone the installation of that component for now. The last part which requires an installation is the View Client. A client is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Also for mobile devices a client is available (iOS, Android and Windows). The installation is straight forwarded (I’m using the Windows desktop client) and is only asking for the connection server address, which automatically creates the connection to View in structure.

The installation steps are not really difficult. The only part it’s more complicated is the SSL certificate part. It’s not well documented and requires some additional steps. But I have seen much more difficult installations over the past. Don’t forget that the installation of Citrix XenApp just has become easier from version 6.x. Now the basic installation is done it’s time to start with the basic configuration, which will be done in part two.

Summarization

In this article series I’m taking a look at VMware View. As I’m working daily with Citrix XenApp (aka XenDesktop) I’m comparing View with XenApp both from functionality as usability (admin and user). In this first part I described the infrastructure globally, followed by the installation of the basic components (Connection Server, Agent and Client). In part two I will continue with the configuration within VMware View of the RDS hosts.