Misc

How to publish virtual desktop pools with VMware View

This is the fourth article in a series on the basics of VMware View.

Before we begin to look at Virtual Desktop Pools I want to discuss some of the requirements and best practices. Firstly, examine your group structures in Active Directory – you may wish to create a group structure specifically for assigning the right users to the right virtual desktop pool. Secondly, you might want to create a similar structure in vCenter of resource pools and virtual machine folders to keep your VMware View environment separate and distinct from the rest of your virtual infrastructure. Figures 1 and 2 show my configuration:

Figure 1 (click to enlarge)

Figure 2 (click to enlarge)

How to publish a persistent virtual desktop pool As you can see in the figures above, I have both a resource pool and virtual machine folder structure for my VMware View environment. Window7-64 and WindowsXP-SP3 are my test virtual desktops, which I will convert into templates to form the basis of my virtual desktop pools. The desktop pool feature uses templates, Microsoft Sysprep and the guest customization configurations, shown in Figure 3, to automate the bulk creation of virtual desktops; as such I always test my templates and the guest customization configurations to make sure they work before even thinking about creating a virtual desktop pool.

Figure 3 (click to enlarge)

The guest customization stored in vCenter must be DHCP based otherwise it will not be shown. VMware View assumes all your virtual desktops will be configured as DHCP clients.

 

Important: Templates created for virtual desktop pools must be in the "Convert to Template" format – they cannot be in the "compact" format which you see in the Clone to Template wizard. One of the most common mistakes I've seen is folks forgetting when they make a virtual machine into a template – everything about the VM is captured as part of the template – including connected CD-ROMs and floppy disks!

Additionally, in a Guest Customization Wizard it is possible to store a password to reset the administrator's password in Windows. These passwords are protected by encryption by using a public key. Now, the user account used in VMware View to communicate to VirtualCenter must have rights to the Guest Customization Settings.

 

1. Login to the Administrative web-page of the Connection Server .

2. Click the Desktop and Pools icon.

3. Click the blue Add… hyperlink.

4. Choose the option called Automated Desktop Pool.

5. In the Desktop Persistence page, shown in Figure 4 below, select Persistent as the type.

  1. Figure 4 (click to enlarge)

    Remember with the persistent desktop – the user is randomly assigned a virtual desktop from the pool, but always returns to their own personal desktop.

6. Choose the option called VirtualCenter virtual machine. Supports Offline Desktop.

7. Select the VirtualCenter which manages the virtual desktop.

8. Next you must specify a unique ID for this virtual desktop together with some friendly information by which the end-user will be able to identify the virtual desktop. In my case I set a friendly name of Sales Groups Desktop.

9. The next page allows you to control some per-virtual desktop settings which center around the end-user connection.

10. The Automated Provisioning Page controls, shown in Figure 5, how the virtual desktops will be created in the pool.

  1. Figure 5 (click to enlarge)

    The option called "Provisioning" with the setting "Enabled" means that after clicking Finish in the web-admin wizard the creation of the virtual desktops in the pool will begin automatically. The VM naming pattern is used to set the NETBIOs name of Windows as the desktops are created, and also creates a folder to contain them. The "Stop Provisioning on Error" option will halt the creation of the pool if a significant error occurs such as running out of space in the VMFS volume.

    Clicking the "Advanced settings" options allows you to set a Maximum, Minimum and Available setting. In my case the absolute maximum number of virtual desktops is 40, after clicking Finish 10 virtual desktops will be created. Once these 10 desktops have been allocated, VMware View will create another 5. The idea of this is to create only the number of desktops you initially need (10); as your organization grows and employs new users it will generate the virtual desktops needed (5), however because you will run out of disk or memory you have capped this growth to 40 virtual desktops. These fields contain validation so it is impossible to set something that is illogical, shown in Figure 6:

    Figure 6 (click to enlarge)

    In my case to save disk space and time I actually used 2,10,2 for the settings.

11. Next select the template, shown in Figure 7,that will form the basis of the Persistent Virtual Desktop Pool.

  1. Figure 7 (click to enlarge)

    As Windows 7 is not properly supported at the time of writing, and as Windows XP takes very little disk space in comparison – I used a Windows XP Virtual Desktop Template as the source of my desktop pools.

12. Next select a virtual machine folder to contain your virtual desktop pool, shown in Figure 8.

  1. Figure 8 (click to enlarge)

     

13. Next select an ESX Host or Cluster for the virtual desktop pool to run on, shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9 (click to enlarge)

Notice how I can only see the SanFran Datacenter – and not Chicago or NY Datacenters. This is because my template is restricted in its use to the ESX hosts in the SanFran Datacenter where it is registered.

14. Select a Resource Pool or Cluster where the virtual desktops will be contained, shown in Figure 10.

  1. Figure 10 (click to enlarge)

    15. Figure 11 depicts where to select a storage location. In my case I decided to use local storage due to my lack of SAN based storage. The somewhat cryptic warning at the bottom of this dialog box is a reminder that you don't just need space for the virtual disks of the virtual desktops – but also their swap files as well. It is possible to select more than one datastore in this list, and if you do this View will distribute the virtual desktop across the datastores selected

  2. Figure 11 (click to enlarge)

16. Finally, select a Guest Customization Setting, shown in Figure 12, for the correct operating system – that joins the virtual desktop to a valid Microsoft Active Directory Domain.

  1. Figure 12 (click to enlarge)

    After clicking Finish this should trigger the provisioning process – and also create a folder to hold the virtual desktops created in the pool, shown in Figures 13 and 14.

    Figure 13 (click to enlarge)

    Figure 14 (click to enlarge)

    Finally, handle the VMware View rights to allow all the Sales Group to access the desktop.

17. As depicted in Figure 15, select the virtual desktop pool in the list and click the Entitlements... link.

  1. Figure 15 (click to enlarge)

    18. In the Entitlements pop-up page, click the Add button.

19. Disable the filter on Users, and Enable the filter on Groups.

20. Click the Find button and locate the correct group, in my case Sales Group, shown in Figure 16.

  1. Figure 16 (click to enlarge)

    In my group model I used the "Virtual Desktop User" group to handle the Windows rights required to make Microsoft RDP work – and membership of a functional user group (Sales, Accounts, Distribution) to handle access to a particular desktop pool. Of course there are many, many different ways to handle the group structures depending on the size of your organization and the complexity of the end-user base.

    As a test I created a user called "Mike Sales" and added him to both the Virtual Desktop User Group and Sales User Group – membership of both groups is required in my case for this user to connect. See Figures 17 through 19.

    Figure 17 (click to enlarge)

    Figure 18 (click to enlarge)

    Figure 19 (click to enlarge)

How to publish a non-persistent virtual desktop pool
Non-Persistent Virtual Desktop Pools are set up in a very similar way as persistent pools. They differ in one crucial respect – the user is merely allocated a virtual desktop when they logon, and when they logoff we can set an option to delete their old virtual desktop and a new desktop. This has the net effect of giving the user a clean environment every time they login. This can be helpful in "kiosk" style environments like a school or college – which are somewhat notorious for being meddled with by teenagers who think downloading screen grabs of Pamela Anderson and leaving them as desktop backgrounds is very funny! Of course, one way to defeat these miscreants is by bolting down the desktop with policies to the degree that they can do next to nil with their environment. Due to its volatile nature it is imperative that users of non-persistent virtual desktops are not allowed to save files on the desktop or on the C: drive. If they do, when they logoff the data will be lost forever.

By now you are probably very familiar with the pages of VMware View web-administration – so I will keep screen grabs down to an absolute minimum in the following instructions:

1. Login to the Administrative web-page of the Connection Server.

2. Click the Desktop and Pools icon.

3. Click the blue Add… hyperlink.

4. Choose the option called Automated Desktop Pool.

5. In the Desktop Persistence page, select Non-Persistent as the type.

6. In the Add Desktop page enable the option "Power off and Delete the virtual machine after first use", shown in Figure 20.

  1. Figure 20 (click to enlarge)

    As well as including the power off and delete option this page also has an "Allow multiple sessions per user" option which you do not see in the "individual desktop" process.

7. Choose the option called VirtualCenter virtual machine. Supports Offline Desktop.

8. Select the VirtualCenter which manages the virtual desktop.

9. Next you must specify a unique ID for this virtual desktop together with some friendly information by which the end-user will be able to identify the virtual desktop. In my case I set a friendly name of Student Desktop.

10. The next page allows you to control some per-virtual desktop settings which center around the end-user connection.

11. The Automated Provisioning Page controls how the virtual desktops will be created in the pool.

12. Next select the template that will form the basis of the Non-Persistent Virtual Desktop Pool.

13. Next select a virtual machine folder to contain your virtual desktop pool.

14. Next select an ESX Host or Cluster for the virtual desktop pool to run on.

15. Select a Resource Pool or Cluster where the virtual desktops will be contained.

16. Select a storage location.

17. Finally, select a Guest Customization Setting for the correct operating system – that joins the virtual desktop to a valid Microsoft Active Directory Domain.

 


GETTING STARTED WITH VMWARE VIEW


 Part 1:  What's new with VDI?
 Part 2:  Installing VMware View
 Part 3: Publishing individual virtual desktops
 Part 4: Publishing virtual desktop pools
 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   
 
Mike Laverick
Mike Laverick is a professional instructor with 15 years experience in technologies such as Novell, Windows and Citrix, and he has been involved with the VMware community since 2003. Laverick is a VMware forum moderator and member of the London VMware User Group Steering Committee. In addition to teaching, Laverick is the owner and author of the virtualization website and blog RTFM Education, where he publishes free guides and utilities aimed at VMware ESX/VirtualCenter users. In 2009, Laverick received the VMware vExpert award and helped found the Irish and Scottish user groups. Laverick has had books published on VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3, VMware vSphere4 and VMware Site Recovery Manager.
 

This was first published in December 2009

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