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How to create Citrix XenDesktop vs. VMware View virtual desktop pools

Not all virtual desktop pools are made equal. Creating and managing them calls for different processes in VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop.

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Guide to VMware Horizon View

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Pooling virtual desktops can simplify management as well as patching and updating, but Citrix XenDesktop and VMware

View have different ways of letting admins create and manage those pools.

A virtual desktop pool is a group of desktops that can be centrally managed, allowing you to apply identical settings and deploy the same applications to all desktops in the pool. Both View and XenDesktop make it possible to create and pool virtual desktops through a relatively simple wizard.

VMware View virtual desktop pool creation

You can create a View virtual desktop pool through the View Administrator console. Open the console, click on Desktops and Pools, then click the Add link.

Next, View will display the Add Desktop wizard, which prompts you to select the type of pool that you want to create. You can create an individual desktop pool, automated desktop pool, manual desktop pool or a Microsoft Terminal Services desktop pool. An automated desktop pool is usually the best choice for general use. With this option, desktops are based on VirtualCenter virtual machine templates and are automatically created by the View Manager.

The next screen asks if the desktops in the pool should be persistent or nonpersistent. In a persistent desktop pool, users are assigned to a virtual desktop that is dedicated to them. In a nonpersistent pool, users are assigned to a random virtual desktop.

Next, you must select the VirtualCenter server that you want. You can also use linked clone technology, which uses deduplication to minimize the storage space virtual desktops require. It is worth noting that offline desktops do not work with linked clone technology.

You are now prompted to enter a unique ID name, display name and optional description for the pool. The wizard then shows a screen that allows you to control the general behavior of the pooled desktops. For example, you can decide whether VMs that are not in use should remain powered on or if they should be turned off to save resources.

Next, the Provisioning Settings screen allows you to specify the number of virtual desktops that you want to create in the pool and assign a naming pattern for those desktops. After providing this information, you select the image that you want to use for virtual desktop creation.

To use a virtual machine as an image, at least one snapshot must exist for the image. In fact, the setup process requires you to select the snapshot you want to use. Then, you will be asked to choose the data center, host and resource pool that will run the VMs created within the virtual desktop pool.

At this point, a screen asks you how to store user data. You can redirect user data to a separate disk or store data on the OS disk. Storing data on the OS disk is usually not recommended because it only works if you are creating persistent virtual desktops; user data is deleted when View Composer operations are performed. As such, it is usually better to store user data on a separate disk.

The last two steps in the View virtual desktop pool creation process involve selecting the data store for the new VMs and specifying Active Directory settings for the new virtual desktops.

Creating a virtual desktop pool using Citrix XenDesktop

The primary tool for creating a virtual desktop pool in a XenDesktop environment is the XenDesktop Setup Wizard.

First, select the desktop farm that you want to use. You must define it ahead of time, and the wizard must be able to access the Active Directory to acquire a list of desktop farms.

The next step is to select the hosting infrastructure. You will provide the IP address, URL or fully qualified domain name of the infrastructure. Then, a prompt asks you to enter your authentication credentials.

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Once you have logged into your hosting infrastructure, select the VM template that will create the new virtual desktops. (You will have to set up this template ahead of time.)

The next screen asks you to select the provisioning server vDisk for the virtual desktops. The list of vDisks will only include vDisks that are in standard-image access mode.

Click Next, and you will see a screen asking you how many virtual desktops you want to create and what naming convention you want to use for them. This part of the process is nearly identical to the VMware View Administrator.

Then, provide the location where the new virtual desktops should reside within the Active Directory. You can place them into the default organizational unit (OU) or a custom OU.

After this section, you will need to specify a desktop group in which to place the new virtual desktops. You can specify an existing group or create a new one. If you decide to create a new desktop group, select the Allow Immediate Access box so that the new desktop group will be automatically enabled.

Finally, you will see a summary of the configuration options you have chosen. Click Next and the wizard will create the virtual desktop pool.

This was first published in May 2013

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