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VMware View 6.x (from a Citrix XenApp administrator perspective) Part 3

In this article series I’m installing and configuring VMware View 6.2 (with a XenApp administrator perspective). In the earlier two articles I discussed the global view infrastructure, followed by the installation of the basic components: Connection Server, Agent and Client and the basic configuration of the RDS environment. In this third part article series I’m going into more detail in the View Composer for RDS which is new functionality in View 6.2.

 

Update: In February 2016 VMware announced VMware Horizon View 7, which will include a new mechanism called Instant Cloning. The version expected to be released in March 2016 won’t have support for this new feature for RDS, it will be VDI only in this first release.




Linked Clones

The View Composer functionality also known as (aka) Linked Clones is a technique by VMware which is comparable with Citrix Machine Creation Services, which only is compatible with VMware vSphere. Before View 6.2 this functionality was available for VDI’s in 6.2 it’s now also available for RDSH. With the technique you build a master VM, which will be used to “build” the other hosts. The disk of the master VM will be the main disk for the others and a difference disk will be created of the actual RDSH hosts. With this technique you need less storage space and also updating the RDSH hosts is much easier.

Set-up View Composer

The first step is to set-up the environment for working with the View Composer. The process is started by creating a database on a database server (in my case Microsoft SQL).

Secondly you need to create the ODBC connection on the machine where you also install the View Composer software on. The installation is pretty straight forwarded process, where you connect to the database using the ODBC connection created earlier. You can install the View Composer component on a separate machine or combined on the vCenter Server.

Also you need to create a customization profile with vCenter for the set-up of the farm later on.

Next step is install and configure the Master VM. As you are used to be you install Windows, RDS services, applications and so on. When installing the VMware View Agent it is important to enable the VMware Horizon View Composer Agent, so the machine can be used as the master VM.

The last step is to add the View Composer (not necessary the order you need to execute the tasks) to the Horizon View configuration. Therefore you will need to a vCenter Server (and the View Composer server) via the View Configuration – Servers tab.

Setting-up a View Composer RDS Farm

After the installing and configuring the View Composer component we are ready to set-up a RDS Farm based on View Composer. The process is started with creating a new Farm under Resources Farms. In the first window of the wizard we select the Automated Farm, followed by the just configured vCenter server and View Composer Server. Logically the Farm needs to have a unique name as the normal Farm wizard. Within the automated farm you need to configure your naming convention and the amount of server that can be created in the farm.

You also need to specify the Master VM, which snapshot on this machine should be used, the host/cluster the Cloned VMs should be created including which datastore should be used.

Also you need to specify a customization profile, which should be create in advance within vSphere as described earlier and the location where the computer accounts should be created within Active Directory. At the end of the wizard the VMs are created within vSphere.

We can continue with the next step setting a Desktop Pool or Application Pool based on the Automated RDS Farm. Therefore we go to Catalog and select the Desktop Pool or Application pool option. I will use a Desktop Pool, when creating a new Desktop pool you need to choose for RDS Desktop Pool in the window of the wizard and further on you select the just created RDS Farm.

Now we have an RDS Desktop pool based on View Composer and users can start a Desktop session.

Updating the RDS Farm View Composer

After some time you would like to update your RDS servers with application updates, Microsoft security updates and so on. With a RDS Farm via View Composer the following steps need to be taken. Update the master VM with the updates and create a new snapshot (you can also set-up a complete new master VM if wanted/needed). When you have the new snapshot available you go to the RDS Farm within the View Console (Resources – Farms) and double-click the corresponding farm. Select the Recompose button found on the summary tab. During the wizard you first select the snapshot you want to use for the re-composition, followed by schedule the re-composition and the behavior of the process (wait for users to log off or force them to log).

Summarization

The implementation of the RDS View Composer functionality is working as expected and comparable with the Citrix Machine Creation Services (actually Citrix based MCS on the Linked Clone principle of VMware), but VMware lacked the option to use it for RDS Farms. For VMware you need to install a separate software component for the View Composer including a separate dataset while Citrix has embedded it within the XenDesktop installation and in the same database as XenDesktop, however that’s not a big deal in my opinion. Summarized are the techniques similar and also in practice they are comparable. VMware did a nice job with the RDS View Composer addition, it’s necessary to have similar functionality as Citrix and the implementation is just working fine. Looking forward to the next step with the announced Instant Clones in VMware View Horizon 7.