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VMware View 6.x (from a Citrix XenApp administrator perspective) Part 2

In this article series I’m installing and configuring VMware View 6.2 (with a XenApp administrator perspective). In Part 1 I discussed the global view infrastructure, followed by the installation of the basic components: Connection Server, Agent and Client. In this second part I will continue with describing the basic configuration of the RDS hosts.

Configuration – the Basics




The console of VMware View is web based. That is nice, however it’s a pity that it requires Flash. If you would to do this on Windows 2012 Server you need to enable the Desktop Experience for Flash to work. The first step is to add the license information into the console, so the product can be fully used. After adding the license key, the first step is to create a farm (which includes the RDS hosts) via Inventory – Resources – Farms. First you need to choose if it’s an automated Farm using the Composer functionality (introduces in 6.2 for RDS) or a manual farm (6.1 default). In the following wizard you need to provide a name, the protocol(s) used (PCoIP/RDP), session/disconnection time-outs and enable/disable HTML access. Logically you need to add one or more RDS hosts (the installed agents are automatically displayed). A RDS host can only me member of one farm. As a farm is well known used name in Citrix infrastructures it’s not comparable with the farm in XenApp 6.x (or earlier). The farm has the same function as a Machine Catalog in XenDesktop 7.x.

Once the farm is created we can create a Desktop Pool or an Application Pool. This is comparable with creating a Published Desktop or Published Application in XenApp 6.x and similar with creating a Delivery Group in XenDesktop 7.x. The set-up is found under Inventory – Catalog. I will start with creating a RDS Desktop Pool (based on a manual created farm).

During the wizard you are asked to provide an ID (unique identification), a display name (shown to the end user), limit connection servers and Flash configuration settings (quality and throttling). You assign a full RDS Farm to the Desktop Pool. In comparison with XenDesktop this is different, where a machine catalog can be used by more delivery groups (but a machine can only assigned to one delivery group). Personally I like the VMware way better, as it more clearly from an administrative perspective. After the creation you need add a so called entitlement, which is assigning users/groups to the pool, which are allowed to use the Desktop Pool.

View also support the usage of seamless applications via the Applications Pool. This is only available for RDS servers (so no VDI hosted apps like XenDesktop can). When adding Applications to the Application Pools within Inventory – Catalog you need to select the RDS farm you would like to use.

There you can select the automatically detected applications or add an application manually. It’s a pity that you need to enter the path complete manually when the application is not detected. I would expect that you could browse on the RDS disk to select the executable. The filter option at the detected applications is nice to quickly find the application out of the list. You can select multiple applications at once. When the applications are selected, you can directly assign user(groups) to the application. Within the applications properties you can configure an anti-affinity possibility. Here you can define (a port of) an executable name and a number that his may run on one server. Personally I think this is poor man solution, as this not guarantee anything at the end.

View in action – the Basics

Now we have a Desktop Pool and an Application Pool ready, so we let the user connect to our View infrastructure. As mentioned earlier this can be done via the View Client software. Within this client the user clicks on the configured Connection Server Connection and after authentication (SSON is configurable) the available Desktop Pools and Applications are shown.

The Desktop is working fine in my opinion. Just as with the Citrix Receiver in Desktop Viewer mode you can resize the session window and the session properties are adjusted accordingly. Also the seamless application is working fine without any issues. So with a basic view I did it looks fine. I did not really do a performance test as several people already that kind of results (for example Benny Tritsch).

The preview of the application within the taskbar is showing the current view of the desktop. The application does not show a current view, this was the same behavior in earlier version of XenDesktop. Currently Citrix does show the view of the Published Application currently.

Another methodology is using the so called HTML access. The infrastructure will be accessed via a browser and the HTML client will be used. Therefore HTML access functionality need to be installed both on the Connection Server and the View Agent. Also the HTML Access need to be enabled on the Farms level. Documentation also mentions HTML access enabled on the Desktop Pool, however this option is not available within an RDS Desktop Pool. It is however possible, in one of the document I found that you need to configure additional settings using ADSI edit on the Connection Server (https://www.vmware.com/pdf/horizon-view/horizon-html-access-document.pdf). After that change it was going to work. Users browse to the connection server via https and first will see the option to download the View Client or connect via the HTML functionality. When choosing the HTML functionality a logon box will be provided. Next both the Desktop(s) as Application(s) are shown. The user can pick and within the browser the session is shown. The user experience is actual really good, it was running quickly and smooth. However just as with the Citrix HTML Receiver it offers only basic functionality.

Configuration – more advanced

Now we have the basic set-up up and running it’s time to take a look at the additional configuration options. Within the VMware View Administrator Console there are two options in the menu for additional configuration settings: Policies and View Configuration.

First take a look at the View Configuration. Within View Configuration you will find several option. Within Server all machines with the connection server, security server role and the vCenter server can be found and logically you can the settings of these machines. The next option Product Licensing and Usage is all around licening. You can see how much licenses you have purchased, how they are currently used and the peak limit in history. At Registered Machine you can see which machines having the View Agent installed. For RDS you can change the maximum amount of users per machine. This is one of the parameters used for load balancing within VMware View together with the application affinity rules mentioned earlier. In one what’s new it’s also mentioned that it’s based on perfmon counters. Unfortunate there is no option available to tweak/configure the load balancing rules as within Citrix XenDesktop can be done.

At Global Settings some additional configuration settings can be made. First thing you probably would change is the View Administrator time outJ. Also here a disconnection time is available, that is a bit confusing as you also can configure this on the Desktop Pool as well. View support Delegation of Control, which can be configured at the Administrators level. Integration with ThinApp is also available. Last two are the Cloud Pod architecture, which makes it possible to connect two View infrastructures for disaster recovery possibilities. Event configuration configures a SQL database (which is created before within SQL) so it is possible to store all kind of events of the VMware infrastructure, which will be show in the upcoming monitoring paragraph.

The second part Policies is pretty limited. There is one component Global Options, which just a few settings as shown in below figure.

For more configuration options there is an additional download within the View section which contains a set of ADMX templates. These ADMX templates contains additional settings for Connection Servers, Agents and Clients like PCoIP, client mappings, USB configuration, logging, performance alerts and more. It’s too much details to discuss everything setting in this article, but definite check those ADMX template for additional configuration and tuning when configuring the View infrastructure. You will need to have the knowledge to understand what can be accomplished with each settings. This is similar with the Citrix settings and policies, which also have a learning curve and are even more extended that the VMware View options at this moment.

Monitoring

Currently Citrix is providing nice basic monitoring functionality via Citrix Directory. If we look at VMware View the options are more comparable with Microsoft RDS management tools. At sessions the active sessions are shown including some details. It also offers the possibility to disconnect the session, logoff the session and send a message to the user (which a nice cool option to select an icon shown to the user).

When the event database is configured at Events all actions in the View infrastructure are shown both actions within the management console as user based actions.

There is also a general dashboard that provides an overview how the View infrastructure is functioning.

Summarization

In this article we started with the basic configuration of View for RDS hosts, followed by showing the user interface options. At last we dived a bit more into detail about the configuration and monitoring options.

From a user perspective the View Client is working nice, resizing of the Window is working nicely. The View Client will bring back memories to the famous Citrix PNAgent (you can say this is a good or bad thing). The HTML functionality is pretty neat from a user perspective, but enabling it for a RDS Pool is ridiculous. Personally I would like to a Citrix StoreFront similar interface. VMware had a separate product for that called Workspace Portal, but this will be replaced by VMware Identity Manager Standard Edition. I did not see the product yet, it should be part of the VMware Horizon bundle (but I could not find it).

The Management Console is simplistic and offers basic configuration settings. This can be good or bad, dependent of your infrastructure and knowledgelevel. It’s not overwhelming as Citrix XenDesktop can be, but advanced Citrix administrators will miss a lot of functionality. However I have seen a lot of implementation those features were not used at all, in other words View could be easily replace XenDesktop in such scenarios.

In part three I will go into more detail about the View Composer in combination with RDS, which is new functionality in Horizon View 6.2.