VMware introduced support for Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual desktops in Horizon View 5.3. This support wasn’t enabled out of the box. It required an administrator to edit the View LDAP database to enable the feature and a special command-line only installation of the agent on the target desktop.
Horizon View 6 brought many new changes, including better support for Windows Server desktop. The first patch set also added better support for this feature.
Why Use Windows Server 2008 R2 as a Desktop OS?
Historically, Microsoft licensing for virtual desktops has been a pain. In the past, it required connecting endpoints to be covered under software assurance or users to be covered under expensive subscription-based licensing, and there were no service provider licensing options.
Although some of this appears to be changing with the latest per-user licensing SKUs that will be available on December 1st, 2014, the service provider side still hasn’t been fixed.
From a cost perspective, there are some benefits as well. Windows Server Data Center licensing allows for unlimited Windows instances on licensed virtual hosts. This can generate significant savings compared to VDA subscriptions.
Note: I am not an expert on Microsoft licensing, and the features and terms of Microsoft’s licensing can change frequently. Please contact your Microsoft representative if you have any questions on licensing products for virtual desktop environments.
Enabling Windows Server 2008 R2 Desktop Support
Enabling Windows Server 2008 R2 desktop support have been streamlined from Horizon View 5.3, and manual edits to the LDAP database are no longer required.
The steps to enable this support are:
1. Log into the Horizon View Administrator console.
2. Go to View Configuration –> Global Settings
3. Click Edit.
4. Check the Enable Windows Server 2008 R2 Desktops checkbox and click OK.
Installing the Horizon View Agent
The process for installing the View Agent on Windows Server desktops has also been streamlined. Installing the agent in View 5.3 required a command-line installation with a special switch to force the installer into desktop mode as the installer was geared for servers with the RDSH role.
That has changed as well, and the installation process for Server 2008 R2 desktops is now the same as installing it on Windows 7/8/8.1 virtual desktops.