VMware Horizon View 6.2 – View Composer & RDS Hosts

With VMworld US a few weeks behind us I finally got some time in the home lab to do some upgrades around the some of the latest software announcements. More specifically I wanted to upgrade my Horizon View environment to the newly released 6.2 version. If you happened to miss the announcements Brian Suhr ( blog / twitter ) has a great recap post located HERE and the VMware release notes are located HERE.

For this post I wanted to focus on what I believe is one of the cooler features related to this release, the support for View Composer/linked clones for the deployment and configuration of RDSH servers. While RDSH has been supported since the initial release of Horizon View 6.x, the creation and management of the host servers fell to the traditional one to one server management lifecycle. A little cumbersome for those looking to deploy and manage large farms.  With the inclusion of support for linked-clones Horizon View now supports the same one to many deployment option that we have been used to for desktops. Create a single golden image and off to the races.

Getting Started

First things first, I needed to create RDSH image that I can leverage with View Composer to start spinning up some servers. I worked through the Horizon 6 Setting Up Desktop and Application Pools in View documentation, and specifically sections seven and eight. Using that as a guide as well as some additional changes by base image consists of:

  • Installed Windows Server 2012R2 with latest patches
  • Installed Windows RDSH and Windows Desktop Experience Roles
  • Installed VMware Tools
  • Installed VMware View Agent 6.2 (be sure to select View Composer in Custom Setup)
    • Note – That during the agent install, when selecting “VMware Horizon View Composer Agent” you will not be prompted to add and authenticate against a Horizon View Connection Server.

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  • Since I don’t have access to KMS licensing in the lab, modified the Windows Registry to bypass Windows activation during the View Composer process:
    • HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\vmware-viewcomposer-ga
      • Set the SkipLicenseActivation to 1
  • Download and ran the latest version of the VMware OS Optimization Tool. Latest version has a template for Windows Server 2008/2012 hosts

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  • Created a Customization Specification in vCenter. View Composer with RDSH hosts will leverage MS Sysprep as VMware Quickprep is not supported
  • Released the IP address from the system
  • Shutdown the guest OS and created a snapshot via VMware vCenter

One might ask why I did not install the VMware App Volumes agent into the golden image, as I have blogged about the integration of RDSH and App Volumes in the past. Well, at the time of release Horizon View 6.2 doe not support the current release of VMware App Volumes, v2.9. Here’s hoping that v2.10 of App Volumes is released soon with support for Horizon View 6.2.

 Creating an Automated Farm

With the hard work completed and my image ready to go it is time to create an Automated Farm. Log into the View Administrator Console to get started. In the screenshot below, I am showing the dashboard view of my environment. Take notice that under the “System Health” section there is not a listing for “RDS Farms”:

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From the navigation menu, under “Inventory”, expand “Resources” and select “Farms”. In the right hand pane click the “Add” button to start the farm creation wizard:

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For anyone used to creating View Desktop pools, most of the following steps should seem pretty familiar. From the “Type” dialog select the radial for “Automated Farm” (Note the listing for View Composer under “Support Features”). Click “Next”:

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Select the vCenter Server for your environment and click “Next”:

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Provide a name for the Automated Farm as well as configure the “Farm Settings”. When complete click “Next”:

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Give a naming pattern and the number of RDS servers you would like to be created. Click “Next” to continue:

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Select the appropriate radial option for the storage in your environment. Click “Next”:

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Select the vCenter Settings for the parent VM, snapshot, cluster, Datastores, etc for the environment. Click “Next” when ready:

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While my lab doesn’t support the “Advanced Storage Options”, your results may vary. Select the relative options and click “Next” to continue:

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So here is where things differ a bit from when creating a traditional desktop pool. As stated above, only Microsoft Sysprep is supported when creating an automated farm. So be sure that you have already created a vSphere “Customization Specification” before hand. One thing to mention from my testing, in the customization specification I did not need to provide user account details for joining the systems to the domain. As the View Composer services is already granted these permissions on my given OU it was not needed.

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And finally we get to the last screen. Confirm your settings and click “Finish”:

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With the Automated Farm configured I am just now waiting for View Composer to do its magic. Looking at the RDSH_Farm from View Administrator I can see the RDSH hosts are in the “Provisioning” state:

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And after a given amount of time, in my vCenter Server console I can see the creation of the replica image and the build out of the two RDSH host servers:

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We will take one final look in the View Administrator console, and from the System Health Dashboard we can see the newly created RDS Farm and its status, all greens:

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As you can see this is a pretty quick and painless process and a welcome feature to Horizon View 6.

Thanks for reading,

-Jason

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