A virtual desktop environment is nothing without virtual desktops. And many
Supported Operating Systems
Horizon View only supports virtual desktops running Microsoft Windows. The versions of Windows that are supported are:
- Windows 8.1 Enterprise or Professional
- Windows 8 Enterprise or Professional
- Windows 7 Enterprise or Professional
- Windows Vista Business and Enterprise (32-bit Only, SP1 and above)
- Windows XP Professional SP3 (32-bit)
- Terminal Servers running Windows Server 2008 SP2 or Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
Windows Server 2008 R2 is supported as a desktop operating system, but it requires additional configuration in the View LDAP database.
For this part, we’re going to assume that we’re building a desktop running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. We’ll cover Windows Server 2008 R2 in a different section. This will be more of a high-level overview of creating a desktop template for Horizon View, and I won’t be doing a step-by-step walkthrough of any of the steps for this section.
Configure the VM
Building a desktop VM isn’t much different than building a server VM. The basic process is create the VM, configure the hardware, install the operating system, and then install your applications. Building a desktop VM doesn’t deviate from this.
Although you should base the number of vCPUs and the amount of RAM assigned to your virtual desktops on the requirements for of the applications that you plan to run, there are some recommended minimums.
For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to ignore Windows XP. It goes end of life in a few months, so there is no point in trying to deploy it in a production environment.
The minimums for a virtual desktop are:
- SCSI Controller – LSI SAS
- Hard Disk – At least 40GB Thin Provisioned
- NIC – VMXNET3
- Remove Floppy Drive, and disable parallel and serial ports in BIOS
Note: You cannot remove the CD-ROM drive until after Windows has been installed if you are installing from an ISO.
You’ll notice that I didn’t put minimums for vCPUs and RAM. Sizing these really depends on the requirements of your user’s applications. I’ve had Windows 7 64-bit desktops deployed with as little as 1GB of RAM for general office workers up to 4GB of RAM for users running the Adobe Suite.
After you have created a VM and configured the VM’s settings, you need to install Windows. Again, it’s not much different than installing Windows Server into a VM or installing a fresh copy of Windows onto physical hardware. You can install Windows using the ISO of the disk or by using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and PXE boot to push down an image that you’ve already created.
When installing Windows for your desktop template, you’ll want to make sure that the default 100 MB system partition is not created. This partition is used by Windows to store the files used for BItlocker.
Since Bitlocker is not supported on virtual machines by either Microsoft or VMware, there is no reason to create this partition. This will require bypassing the installer and manually partitioning the boot drive. The steps for doing this when installing from the DVD/ISO are:
1. Boot the computer to the installer
2. Press Shift-F10 to bring up the command prompt
3. Type DiskPart
4. Type Select Disk 0
5. Type Create Partition Primary
6. Type Exit twice.
Once you’ve set up the partition, you can install Windows normally. If you’re using something like the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, you will need to configure your answer file to set up the proper hard drive partition configuration.
Install VMware Tools and Join the Template to a Domain
After you have installed Windows, you will need to install the VMware tools package. The tools package is required to install the View Agent. VMware Tools also includes the VMXNET3 driver, and your template will not have network access until this is installed. The typical installation is generally all that you will need unless you’re using vShield Endpoint as part of your antivirus solution.
After you have installed VMware Tools and rebooted the template, you should join it to your Active Directory domain. The template doesn’t need to be joined to a domain, but it makes it easier to manage and install software from network shares.
Install View Agent
After you have installed the VMware tools package and joined your computer to the domain, you will need to install the VMware View Agent. There are two parts to the agent install – the View Agent itself and the Remote Experience Installer that contains the Feature Pack 1 additions. The default install of the View Agent includes all of the features except for PCoIP Smartcard support. The agent install will require a reboot after it is completed.
Appendix B will contain more details about the various options that are available during the View Agent installation.
Installing Applications on the Template
After you install the View Agent and, optionally, the Remote Experience Agent, you can begin to install the applications that your users will need when they log into Horizon View.
With tools like Thinapp available to virtualize Windows applications or layering software like Unidesk, it is not be necessary to create templates for all of the different application combinations. You can create a base template with your common applications, such as your office suite, pdf reader, etc, and then either virtualize or layer your other applications on top of that.
Shutdown and Snapshot
After you have your applications installed, you need to shut down your desktop template and take a snapshot of it. If you are using linked-clones, the linked-clone replica will be based on the snapshot you select.
That’s a quick rundown of setting up a desktop template to be used with Horizon View desktops. I’ll be posting an appendix to go along with this section to cover the various options that are available in the View Agent installer.