Horizon View 5.3 Part 5 – Horizon View Components

Before I start discussing the installation of the various Horizon View components, I wanted to go over what those components were and what purpose they served in a Horizon View environment.  These components are divided between server components and desktop components.

There are five server components in a Horizon View environment.  These components, and their roles in the environment are:

  • View Connection Server – the View Connection Server is main component of the Horizon View environment and the only one guaranteed to be in every environment.  The Connection Server handles four roles: managing connections between clients and virtual desktops, authenticating users, managing desktop resources with vCenter and Composer, and hosting the View Administrator web-based management console.  There are two types of Connection Servers – Standard and Replica.  Functionally, there is no difference between Standard and Replica Connection Servers except that a Standard server is the first/only Connection server in the environment.
  • View Security Gateway – The View Security Gateway is a server that is designed to sit in a DMZ to external connections to the View Connection Server.  Each Security Gateway must be paired with a Connection Server.
  • View Transfer Server – The View Transfer Server is used with clients that support Local Mode.  Local Mode allows a user to check out a desktop and use it without Internet access.  The transfer server provides the mechanism for transferring and updating the copy of the virtual desktop to the client.
  • View Composer – Composer is the component works with vCenter to create and manage linked-clone desktops.
  • VMware Blast – VMware Blast is a component that is installed on the Connection Servers to provide HTML5 access to virtual desktops.  In order to use HTML5 access, Feature Pack 1 needs to be installed on the virtual desktops.

There are three desktop components in the View environment.  Two of these components are installed on desktops that are managed by Horizon View, and the last component is the View Client that is used for accessing the desktops.  These components are:

  • View Client – The View Client is used to access Horizon View desktops using the Microsoft RDP protocol or the PCoIP protocol.  Clients exist for Windows, Linux, OSX, iOS, and Android.
  • View Agent – The View Agent is installed on the virtual desktop and provides a number of services, features, and drivers for the virtual desktop such as ThinPrint for client printer support and Persona Management for managing user profiles.  A desktop source, which can be a virtual machine running Windows or a Microsoft Terminal Server, must have the View Agent installed in order to be used with Horizon View.
  • Feature Pack 1 – Feature Pack 1 is an add-on to Horizon View 5.3.  It contains support for Real-Time Audio/Video, Flash URL redirection, and HTML Access.

Now that I’ve briefly described the components that are in a Horizon View environment, it’s time to start installing them.  The first components that will be installed are View Composer and a Standard View Connection server.  These two components are needed to get a basic Horizon View environment up and running with Linked-Clone desktops.

Horizon View 5.3 Part 4 – Active Directory and vCenter Configuration

The only desktops that are supported for virtual desktops in Horizon View 5.3 are Windows-based.  This includes the latest versions of the Windows Desktop operating system and Windows Server running Windows Terminal Server or as a desktop.  Because Windows desktops are the core of Horizon View, Active Directory is used to handle authentication into the View environment.

As I mentioned in my last post, an Active Directory environment is a requirement.  Per the documentation, Server 2003 and Server 2008/R2 Active Directory environments are supported.  The documentation doesn’t go into any details as to whether Windows Server 2012 domain controllers are unsupported or if the Server 2012 domain and forest functional levels are unsupported.

Edit 3/26/2014: VMware has updated the release notes for Horizon View 5.3 to clarify support, and the 2012 Domain/Forest functional levels are not supported.  2012 domain controllers are supported. h/t rboyett

Some Active Directory objects need to be configured before any Horizon View components are installed.  Some of these objects require special configuration either in Active Directory or inside vCenter.  The Active Directory objects that need to be set up are:

  • An organizational unit structure for Horizon View Desktops
  • A service account for View Composer
  • A service account that View will use to access vCenter

Optionally, you may want to set up an organizational unit for any security groups that might be used for entitling access to the Horizon View desktop pools.  This can be useful for organizing those groups and/or delegating access to Help Desk or other staff who don’t need Account Operator or Domain Administrator rights.

Creating An Organizational Unit for Horizon View Desktops

The first think that we need to do to prepare Active Directory for a Horizon View deployment is to create an organizational unit structure for Horizon View desktops.  This OU structure will hold all of the desktops created and used by Horizon View.  A separate OU structure within your Active Directory environment is important because you will want to apply different group policies to your Horizon View desktops than you would your regular desktops.  There are also specific permissions that you will need to delegate to the View Composer service account.

There are a lot of ways that you can set up an Active Directory OU structure for Horizon View.  My preferred organizational method looks like this:


View Desktops is a top-level OU (ie – one that sites in the root of the domain).  I like to set up this OU for two reasons.  One is that is completely segregates my VDI desktops from my non-VDI desktops and servers.  The other is that it gives me one place to apply group policy that should apply to all VDI desktops such as disabling non-essential services, turning off screen savers, or setting the inactivity timeout to lock the machine.

I create three child OUs under the View Desktops OU to separate persistent desktops, non-persistent desktops, and desktop templates.  This allows me to apply different group policies to the different types of desktops.  For instance, you may want to disable Windows Updates and use Persona Management on non-persistent desktops but allow Windows Updates on the desktop templates.

You don’t need to create all three OUs.  If your environment consists entirely of Persistent desktops, you don’t need an OU for non-persistent desktops.  The opposite is true as well.

Finally, I tend to create department or location OUs underneath the persistent or non-persistent OUs if I have locations that require special Group Policy settings in addition to the default settings.  One example where I used this was in a previous job that HEAVILY used Microsoft Access databases at one site.  Microsoft Access includes a security groups option that uses a centrally stored database file to manage access to databases.  This can be configured with group policy, and since other locations used Access without the security groups configured, applying that policy to all desktops would have broken any Access databases that the other locations used.

These grandchild OUs are completely optional.  If there is no need to set any custom policy for a location or a department, then they don’t need to be created.  However, if a grandchild OU is needed, then an entire pool will need to be created as desktop pools are assigned to OUs.  Adding additional pools can add management overhead to a VDI environment.

Creating a View Composer Service Account

There are two service accounts that need to be created in Active Directory to support a Horizon View deployment.  The first is the account that will be used by View Composer.  This account can be created as a standard domain user.  This account should not have domain administrator or account operator rights – it only needs a select group of permissions on the OU (or OUs) where the View Desktops are being stored.

After this account has been created, you need to delegate permissions to it on the OU (or OUs) where your VDI desktops will be placed.  If you use the structure like the one I outlined above, you only need to delegate permissions on the top-level OU and permission inheritance, if turned on, will apply them to any child or grandchild objects beneath it.

Note:  If inheritance is not turned on, you will need to check the Apply to All Child Objects checkbox before applying the permissions.

The permissions that need to be delegated on the OU are:

  • Create Computer Objects
  • Delete Computer Objects
  • Write All Properties
  • Reset Password

Note: Although granting this account Domain Administrator or Account Operator permissions may seem like an easy way to grant it the permissions it needs, it will grant a number of other permissions that are not needed and could pose a security risk if that account is compromised.  Only the required permissions should be granted in a production environment.

Creating a vCenter Server Service Account

The second Active Directory account that needs to be created is a service account that will be used by Horizon View to access vCenter.  Because Horizon View has a number of different configurations, the actual rights required by vCenter will vary.  I will be using View Composer in this series, so I will be setting up the vCenter Service Account with the permissions required to use View Composer.

Note: If you are not using View Composer, or you plan to use View Composer and Local Mode, different permissions will be required in vCenter.  Please see Chapter 8 of the Horizon View 5.2 Installation Guide for more details on the permissions that need to be assigned to the service account.

The user account that is created for accessing vCenter Server should be a standard domain user account.  Unlike the View Composer, it shouldn’t have any rights to administer objects in the domain as the permissions that this account needs will be assigned within vCenter.

To create a new role in the vCenter Web Client, you need to go to Administration –> Roles from the main page.  This will bring up the roles page, and we can create a new role from here by clicking on the green plus sign.


The permissions that need to be assigned to our new role are:

Edit June 16th, 2014 – The Datastore permissions were missing from the list of permissions needed for the vCenter Service Account.  They have now been added in.

Privilege Group


Datastore Allocate Space
Browse Datastore
Low Level File Operations
Folder Create Folder
Delete Folder
Virtual Machine Configuration –> All Items
Inventory –> All Items
Snapshot Management Note 2–> All Items
Power On
Power Off
Deploy Template
Read Customization Spec
Clone Virtual Machine
Allow Disk Access
Resource Assign Virtual Machine to Resource Pool
Migrate Powered-Off Virtual Machine
Global Enable Methods
Disable Methods
System Tag
Act As vCenter Note 1
Network All
Host Configuration:
Advanced Settings Note 1

Note 1: Act as vCenter and Host Advanced Settings are only needed if View Storage Accelerator are used.  If these features are not used, these permissions are not required.

Note 2: The documentation says to grant all permissions to State under virtual machine.  However, in vCenter 5.1 and later, there does not appear to be an item called State.  The state item existed in earlier versions of vCenter and was renamed to Snapshot Management.  For more information, please see this post by Terence Luk.

After the role has been created, we will need to assign permissions for our vCenter Server service account to the vCenter root.  To do this from the roles screen, you will need to go back to the vCenter Web Client Home screen and take the following steps:

  1. Select vCenter
  2. Select vCenter Servers under Inventory Lists
  3. Select the vCenter that you wish to grant permissions on
  4. Click on the Manage Tab
  5. Click Permissions
  6. Click the Green Plus Sign to add a new permission
  7. Select the role for View Composer
  8. Add the Domain User who should be assigned the role
  9. Click OK.


This wraps up the preparation work for configuring Active Directory and vCenter to support a Horizon View deployment.  Now we can start installing the components for a Horizon View environment beginning with View Composer.

Horizon View 5.3 Part 3 – Prerequisites

In order to provide a virtual desktop environment that meets that often varied needs of the users, Horizon View 5.3 contains a number of components and moving parts.  And like any complex system, there are a number of prerequisites and requirements that need to be met at an infrastructure level for Horizon View to be successfully deployed.

So what infrastructure do you need to have in place in order to successfully run a Horizon View environment? 

Horizon View is a virtual desktop environment, and the environment is based upon the vSphere platform.  The compatibility matrix for Horizon View 5.3 has not changed from the previous version, and Horizon View 5.3 supports vSphere 5.5 and the vCSA appliance.

Note: I won’t cover how to install and configure vSphere 5.5 or vCenter 5.5 in this series.  If you’re working with the Windows version of vCenter 5.5, please check out Derek Seaman’s excellent series on vCenter 5.5 at http://www.derekseaman.com/2013/10/vsphere-5-5-install-pt-1-introduction.html.  If you want to know more about the vCSA, you can check out my articles on the vCSA 5.5 appliance at http://seanmassey.net/vcenter-server-appliance/.

Horizon View also requires an Active Directory environment.  This isn’t surprising considering that Horizon View only supports virtual desktops running Windows.  The only versions of Active Directory that are supported are the Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 versions.  I’m not sure if this means that the domain controllers have to be running a version of Server 2003 or Server 2008 or if the domain and forest functional levels cannot be raised above the Server 2008 R2 versions.  The documentation isn’t clear on this, and I haven’t had a chance to test it in my lab.

If you plan on using Horizon View Composer for linked-clone desktops, you will need to have a database for the Composer data.  Composer supports versions of Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server, including SQL Server Express.  It can be run on the same server with Composer.  Generally speaking, SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 and Oracle 10g and 11g are supported, but because there are multiple patch levels and versions of Oracle and SQL Server, please refer to the compatibility matrix to find out if your database server is supported.

There are some best practices for configuring Active Directory in a VMware View environment, and I will be covering those in Part 4.

Horizon View 5.3 Appendix A – Links to Resources

This appendix to the Horizon View 5.3 series will contain links to various resources from VMware and the community.  This page may be updated throughout the series as new links and resources are added.

VMware Documentation

All of the documentation for Horizon View 5.3 can be found at https://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/view_pubs.html.

PDF: VMware Horizon View Optimization Guide for Windows 7 and Windows 8

Note: Many of the manuals for 5.3 are the same as the manuals for 5.2.

VMware KB Articles

Connecting to the View ADAM Database

Using Windows Server 2008 R2 as a desktop operating system in VMware Horizon View

Community Blogs

Craig Kilborn has a series on upgrading from Horizon View 5.2 to Horizon View 5.3:
Part 1: Composer Server
Part 2: Connection Server
Part 3: Security Server
Part 4: View Agent
Load Balancing Horizon View – Design
Load Balancing Horizon View – Failure Testing

View Connection Server Memory Sizing and JVM Heap Size

Horizon View 5.3 Part 2–What’s New

Although there haven’t been a lot of earth-shattering architecture changes in Horizon View 5.3, there have been some great new features added.  No, there aren’t virtual appliances that you can deploy as Connection and Security Servers.  Feature Pack 1 and VMware Blast haven’t been integrated into the base install – they are still add-on components that need to be installed on the View Desktops after the agent is installed.

In fact, there have been so few major changes to Horizon View 5.3 that VMware has said that the Horizon View 5.2 documentation still applies.  Aside from some release specific notes, the documentation that you view or download from the support site.

The full release notes can be found on the VMware support page.

What’s New in Horizon View 5.3

  1. Support for virtual desktops running Windows Server 2008 R2 – this is perhaps the biggest new feature as it provides one avenue for providing VDI without having to deal with Microsoft’s broken VDA licensing model.  While this was possible, albeit hit-or-miss, in previous versions, Horizon View 5.3 provides official support for Server 2008 R2 desktops.  Some features, like Persona Management and ThinPrint, are not available.
  2. Support for Windows 8.1 – Horizon View 5.3 supports Windows 8.1 as a virtual desktop OS.  Unlike Server 2008 R2 desktops, all functionality of Horizon View is supported.
  3. Support for using Horizon Mirage for Managing Virtual Desktops – Horizon Mirage can be used for managing and deploying applications in Horizon View.
  4. vDGA Support – Virtual Dedicated Graphics Acceleration is now supported in Horizon View desktops.  This could provide better support for graphics intensive applications like medical imaging and CAD/BIM.
  5. Unbounded Linked-Clone Overcommit – In previous versions of Horizon View, there were a few settings that controlled how aggressively a pool would overcommit its storage and would limit the number of desktops placed on a datastore.  The unbounded overcommit option in Horizon View 5.3 will not limit the number of desktops placed on a datastore.
  6. Add Administrator Groups to Persona Management Redirected Folders – Persona Management includes the option to redirect certain Windows Profile folders, such as Desktop and Documents, to a network share.  However, if the Persona Management GPOs were used, domain administrators would not have access to those folders.  The updated GPO templates add a setting to grant Domain Administrators access to these folders.
  7. Direct-Connection Plugin – The direct-connection plugin provides yet another option for connecting to Horizon View desktops – this time foregoing the Connection Server entirely by connecting directly to the desktop.
  8. VSAN – VSAN is “supported” by Horizon View 5.3 as a tech preview since VSAN is still in Beta.  So unfortunately, no official support will be provided.

What’s New in Horizon View 5.3 Feature Pack 1

  1. Windows 7 Multimedia Redirection – Multimedia Redirection has been available for Windows XP and Windows Vista in previous versions of Horizon View, and it has now been extended to support Windows 7.
  2. Support for Server 2008 R2 Desktops – Real-Time Audio-Video, Unity Touch, and HTML Access are fully supported in Feature Pack 1.
  3. Support for Windows 8.1 – Real-Time Audio-Video and Unity Touch are supported in Feature Pack 1.
  4. Real-Time Audio-Video – Now supported on Linux Clients when using the Horizon View 2.2 client.
  5. HTML Access – There have been a number of additions and changes to this feature:
    • Sound is now available from the remote desktop
    • Copy and Paste between remote desktop and client device
    • Available for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 as tech preview – no official support at this time
    • VMware Blast Gateway can now support up to 350 simultaneous users per Connection Server.

That pretty much covers what’s new in Horizon View 5.3.  As this series continues, we’ll start going into the requirements for running View and the various components that are needed in the environment.

Horizon View 5.3 Part 1–Introduction

One of the many hats that I wore at [Previous Job] was VDI Administrator for a 200-seat VMware View deployment.  That deployment, initially built by a consultant, started with View 4.6.  I had updated it to View 5.1 and was planning another update to View 5.3 when I left.  I no longer work with Horizon View on a daily basis, but I run it in my home lab and am a VDI hobbyist.

The announcement of Horizon View 5.3 at VMware Europe in October was somewhat shocking.  Horizon View 5.2 had been released about seven months earlier in March 2013 and added a number of new features such as Unity Touch for mobile devices, HTML5 access to desktops, and support for larger clusters and multiple VLANs.

Horizon View 5.3 hit General Availability on November 21st, 2013, and it improved on Horizon View 5.2.  There have been few major changes from Horizon View 5.2, but the documentation from 5.2 is still valid for 5.3.

Unless Microsoft changes their licensing model yet again, one of the additions to Horizon View 5.3 could make 2014 the mythical “Year of VDI” more likely.  OK…maybe that’s a little hyperbolic, but between official support for VDI desktops running Windows Server and the number of new entries into the Desktop As A Service market, I’d like to think that there will be an uptick in VDI adoption.

Series Agenda

Horizon View is a large application with at least four major components, and it would be impossible to cover it all in one or two posts.  I’m not sure how many posts this series will be in total, but it should be at least ten covering the following topics:

  1. Changes/What’s New and System Requires for Horizon View 5.3
  2. Configuring SSL Certificates and Active Directory for Horizon View
  3. Installing Horizon View Composer
  4. Installing a standalone Horizon View Connection Server
  5. Installing a Replica Connection Server
  6. Installing and Configuring a Security Server
  7. Configuring the View Events Database
  8. Configuring Windows  7 and 8.1 as Desktop Sources
  9. Configuring Server 2008 R2 as a Desktop Source
  10. VMware Blast (HTML Access)
  11. Configuring a Transfer Server
  12. Automating Your View Environment

If time allows, I will look at the Real-Time Audio/Video component, Persona Management, and other components of Horizon View.

You’ll notice that I don’t cover setting up a vSphere Environment as part of this series.  Both ESXi and vCenter Server are required for Horizon View, and the best walkthrough for setting up a vSphere 5.5 environment is Derek Seaman’s 19+ part blog series.  I’ve linked to Derek in the past because he has some well researched and seriously good content.