In-Depth

11 Essential Tips for Installing VMware View

Save lots (and lots) of time setting up your virtual desktop infrastructure.

Having installed Horizon, View, and  Virtual Desktop Manager (VDM) more times than I care to account for over the past nine years, I've found that it has become considerably easier to install (the first release was just painful to install); however, there are certain aspects regarding its installation and configuration that are useful to know for novices. To make your deployment of View a little easier, here are 11 things you should know before you jump in.  

  1. VMware has done a very good job of documenting the process of installing and using View. Spend the time and read the entire installation guide and the release notes before you begin planning your installation, and once more as you do the installation. My friends over at technical support have told me that 85 percent of all their calls could have been avoided if the users would have read the documentation. Yes, it takes time to read the document, but you'll see a huge return on your time investment. VMware doesn't always update the installation guide with each release of View, so read the release notes for all the versions that have passed since the installation guide was published.

  2. Make sure all components of your infrastructure (Active Directory, network, storage and so on) are set up correctly before you start the install, because View is highly dependent on the infrastructure on which it runs. Infrastructural issues can cause headaches during the installation, along with unexpected problems during production. In View's early days, half the support calls I received regarding View concerned infrastructure issues. VMware and its partners have done a great job of educating customers on the infrastructure configuration needed by View; take advantage of this information when you plan and implement your View solution. Meet with the stakeholders in your company and your vendors before you begin your implementation to ensure an easy installation.

  3. Use fresh OS installs for your View components and virtual desktops. View Connection Server and View Composer are installed on Windows, so use new copies to avoid conflicts with any applications that may have been installed beforehand. Once I spent a week running down an issue that was related to an application that had been installed, then removed, before I installed the View Connection Server on it. I could have avoided this waste of time by starting with a clean install of the base OS. Virtual desktops should also be based on a fresh OS install.

  4. Use PCoIP or HTML access (Blast) rather than RDP for your display protocol, if at all possible. PCoIP and Blast have been optimized to deliver the best user experience possible. PCoIP continuously probes the network connection between the virtual desktop and client, and adjusts accordingly to deliver the best possible end user experience based on the existing network connections. Blast uses H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) to compress and transmit data, which makes it very efficient to use. Yes, it does take a little work on the front end to make sure your network is set up correctly for these protocols, but the payoff will be a better experience for your end users.

  5. Make sure all the ports you need are open for your View deployment. View uses many different network ports for its PCoIP connections (PCoIP uses UDP). VMware documents what ports are used by VMware in their various guides, Knowledge Base articles (KBs) and a huge poster. Obviously VMware thinks that these ports are important, so you should, too. If you believe you have the right ports open and configured your switches and firewalls correctly but are still having issues, VMware has a KB article about how to test for a clear network path. You can also use third party tools like telnet, netcap and iPerf to verify clear network paths. Tools are also available to test and measure bandwidth and latency.

  6. You can reduce your storage utilization by using deduplication and thin provisioning for your virtual desktops. Deduplication finds duplicate blocks of information and only keeps one copy of the information. In many desktop scenarios, much of the information -- OS, applications and files -- is the same on many of the desktops, and a considerable amount of storage can be saved by removing the redundant copies of that data. Many storage arrays have deduplication built into them and best practices for using deduplication with View. View comes with View Composer, which does deduplication independently of the storage array.  View Composer has the added benefit over array-based deduplication of simplifying the patching of the OS. vSphere allows thin provisioning of storage. Thin provisioning only uses the amount of space needed to store your data regardless of how large of a virtual disk you allocate to a virtual desktop. Both deduplication and thin provisioning can, and do, make a huge difference in the storage cost of a View deployment.

  7. If you use Access Point, use "Access Point Deployment Utility" to configure it. Access Point allows secure access from the Internet to VMware Horizon virtual desktops and RDSH servers. Currently, Access Point can only be configured via a command-line string. Access Point Deployment Utility is a GUI interface that creates a properly formatted input string, and can save you a lot of frustration. If you need more information on Access Point, you can read my article on it.

  8. Make sure you have the correct amount of RAM and CPU for your View Connection Server. The View Installation Guide has memory and RAM sizing guidelines for the View Connection Server. Use the recommended amounts, since unpredictable results will occur if you run low on these resources.

  9. Once virtual desktop OS is installed, use the "VMware OS Optimization Tool." This tool can decrease your desktop resource utilization (CPU, memory and so on) by as much as 40 percent, which equates to running more desktops on your hardware. This tool is free and easy to use.

  10. Do not tune PCoIP unless you have a compelling reason to do so. PCoIP is tuned correctly for 80 percent of the use cases, but in those cases where it's not, there are lots of variables that you can tweak. Do not start tweaking these variables unless you're sure it's necessary and that you fully understand the consequences tuning it.

  11. Use View Storage Accelerator, which caches frequently used blocks of storage on each server. This has a huge impact on the time needed to access this data; and because the data no longer needs to be fetched from the storage array, it can significantly reduce your networking traffic. View Storage Accelerator is very easy to set up, only takes up 2GB of server RAM, and can result in huge performance gains.

Virtual desktop infrastructures such as View can lead to a more secure, robust and cost-effective enterprise desktops if implemented properly. Overall, View is very easy to install and maintain. The suggestions here will help you get on the right track with your View implementation and a more productive desktop environment for your users.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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