Horizon View 6.0 Application Publishing Part 5: Manually Publishing an Application

The last post covered the process of creating an application pool using applications that have been installed on the server and are available to all users through the start menu.  But what if the application you need to publish out is not installed for all users or not even installed at all?

The application that needs to be published out might be a simple executable that doesn’t have an MSI installer.  It could be a ThinApp package located on a network share.  Or it could even be a web application that needs to be accessed from non-secure environments.  Whatever the reason, there may be times where an application will need to be published out that isn’t part of the default application list.

The steps for manually publishing an application are:

1.  Log into View Administrator

2.  In the Inventory panel, select Application Pools.

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3. Click Add to create a new pool.

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4. Select the RDS Farm you want to create the application in from the dropdown list and then click “Add application pool manually.”

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5. Enter the following required fields.:

  • ID – The pool ID.  This field cannot have any spaces.
  • Display Name – This is the name that users will see in the Horizon Client.
  • Path – The path to the application executable.  This must be the full file path of the executable.
  • Description – A brief description of the application.

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The following parameters are optional:

  • Version – The version number of the application
  • Publisher – The person or company that created or published the application
  • Parameters – Any command line parameters that need to be passed to the application executable. 

6. Make sure that the Entitle Users box is checked and click Finish.

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7. Click Add to bring up the Find User or Group wizard.

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8. Search for the Active Directory user or group that should get access to the application.  Select the user/group from the search results and click OK.

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9. Click OK to finish entitling users and/or groups to pools.

10. Log into your Horizon environment using the Horizon Client.  You should now see your published application as an option with your desktop pools.

Note: You need to use version 3.0 or later of the Horizon client in order to access published applications.  Published applications are not currently supported on Teradici-based zero clients.

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Horizon View 6.0 Application Publishing Part 3: Creating An RDS Farm #VDM30in30

The previous post covered the steps for configuring a Windows Server with the Remote Desktop Session Host role and installing the Horizon View agent.  There is one more step that need to be completed before applications can be published out.

That step is creating the server farm.  In Horizon View terms, a farm is a group of Windows Servers with the Remote Desktop Services role.  They provide redundancy, load balancing, and scalability for a remote desktop pool, multiple published application pools, or both for a group of users.

The steps for setting up an RDS Farm are:

1. Log into View Administrator

2. In the Inventory side-panel, expand Resources and select Farms.

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3. Click Add to create a New RDS Farm.

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4.  Enter a name for the pool in the ID field and a description for the pool.  The name cannot have any spaces.  Click Next to continue.

You can also use this page to configure the settings for the farm.  The options are:

  • Default Display Protocol – The default protocol used by clients when connecting to the application
  • Allow users to choose protocol – Allows users to change the protocol when they connect to their applications
  • Empty SessionTimeout – the length of time a session without any running applications remains connected
  • Timeout Action – Determine if the user is logged out or disconnected when the Empty Session Timeout expires.
  • Log Off Disconnected Sessions – Determines how long a session will remain logged in after a user has disconnected their session

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5. Select the RDS host or hosts to add to the Farm and click next to continue.

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6. Review the settings and click Finish.

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Once you have a farm created and an RDS host assigned, you can create application pools.  This will be covered in the next article in this series.

Horizon View 6.0 Application Publishing Part 2: Building Your Terminal Servers #VDM30in30

The application publishing feature of Horizon 6.0 utilizes the capabilities of the Remote Desktop Session Host role.  This requires servers with the role installed and licensed in order to publish applications.

Sizing RDS Servers

There isn’t a lot of guidance from VMware on sizing servers for application publishing.  Microsoft guidelines for sizing the Remote Desktop Session Host can be used, though.  The Microsoft recommendations are:

  • 2 GB of RAM for each CPU core allocated to the system
  • 64 MB of RAM for each user session
  • Additional RAM to meet the requirements of the installed applications

With these guidelines in mind, a server that has 4 vCPUs and sized for 50 users would need 11 GB of RAM allocated before accounting for additional RAM to support application requirements.

The local system drive should be large enough to accommodate the user profiles for all logged in users, temporary files, and other application data.  Drive space should be monitored carefully, and unneeded log, temp, and data files should be cleaned up periodically.

Group Policy Settings

There is a good chance that you will have more than one RDSH server in your application publishing pool.  Group Policy should be used to ensure consistent configuration across all servers in the pool.  A number of Remote Desktop Services specific policies, such as restricting users to a single session, can only be configured using group policy in Server 2012 R2.  Specific Group Policy guidelines for application publishing will be covered in another article.

Building and Deploying A Server

When you’re building up a server image for Terminal Servers, you should consider building up a new server image (or deploy from an existing barebones template), install the Remote Desktop Session Host role, and configure your base applications.  This will allow you to quickly deploy RDS servers more quickly than if you would have to build them from scratch and install your business applications on them.  This will also require periodic template maintenance to ensure that all of the Windows patches and applications are up to date.

There are already a few good walkthroughs on how to configure a new Windows Server 2012 R2 template, so I won’t cover that ground again.  One of my favorites can be found in this great article by Michael White.

While building or deploying your template, it is a good idea to not install any applications until after the Remote Desktop Session Host role has been installed.  Applications that are installed before the RDSH role is installed may not work properly.

Once you have your template built, or once you have deployed a new VM from an existing Windows template, we need to take the following steps to prepare the server to publish applications:

1. Connect into the new server using Remote Desktop

2. Launch the Server Manager

3. Click Manage –> Add Roles and Features

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4. Click Next to go to the Installation Type screen

5. Select Role-based or feature based Installation and click Next

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6. On the Server Selection page, click Next.  This will select the server that you’re currently logged into.

Note: It is possible to install and configure Remote Desktop Services remotely using Server 2012 or Server 2012 R2.  This can be accomplished using the Server Manager.

7. Check the box for the Remote Desktop Services role and click Next

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8. Expand the .Net Framework 3.5 Features and check the .Net Framework 3.5 (includes .NET 2.0 and 3.0) box to select it.

Note: This step is not required for installing the RDSH role.  I like to install this feature now, before adding the RDSH role, because many applications still require .Net 3.5.

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9. Scroll down to User Interfaces and Infrastructure and expand this list.

10. Check the box next to Desktop Experience. and click next.

Note: Desktop Experience is not required.image

11. Click Next to go to the Remote Desktop Role Services page.

12. Check the checkbox for Remote Desktop Session Host.  If prompted to install additional features, click Add Features and click Next to continue.

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13. Click Install to being the Role and Feature installation.

14. Reboot the server when the installation has finished.

15. Once the installation is complete, open a Command Prompt as an administrator and enter: change user /install  .  This command puts the RDSH server into software installation mode.

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16. Install any business or end-user applications.  Once you have completed installing any applications, enter: Change User /Execute.

Installing the Horizon Agent

The last step is to install the Horizon View Agent onto the Remote Desktop Services host.  The process for installing the agent is similar to installing it on a desktop virtual machine, but there are some differences in this process.

The steps for installing the View Agent are:

1. Double click the installer to launch it.

2. Click Next on the Welcome screen.

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3. Accept the license agreement and click Next.

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4. Select the options that you want to install and the directory to install to and click Next.

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5. Enter the Fully Qualified Domain Name or IP address of a Connection Server in your environment in the textbox labeled Server.

If the account that you’re logged in with has permission to add the server to the View environment, select the “Authenticate as Current User” option, otherwise select “Specify Administrator Credentials” and provide an account with the correct permissions.  Click Next to continue.

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6. Click Install to install the View Agent.

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7. Click Finish when the installation has completed.

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8. The server will prompt for a reboot.  Click Yes to reboot the server.

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The agent will be completely installed when the reboot completes.  But the server will not be available in Horizon View just yet.  Before it can be used to publish applications, a Farm and an Application Pool need to be configured.

In the next post, we’ll go over how to set up a Farm inside of View Administrator.

Horizon View 6.0 Application Publishing Part 1: Introduction #VDM30in30

One of the advantages that Citrix had over VMware in the EUC space was the ability to just publish specific applications to users with the MetaFrame/Presentation Server/XenApp line of products.  This suite utilized the Microsoft Terminal Services/RDSH roles on Windows Server to present users with centrally hosted and managed applications as if those applications were installed locally on their computer.

Application publishing was one of the new features that VMware added in Horizon 6.0 when it was released earlier this summer.  Like XenApp, this feature relies upon Windows Servers with the Remote Desktop Session Host role. 

The new application publishing feature reuses a lot of the infrastructure that is deployed to support virtual desktops.  This feature utilizes the same connection servers and security servers as the virtual desktop environment, and access to the published applications is done through the Horizon Client.    This provides a single point of management for the entire environment.

Why Publish Applications?

Application publishing technology is not new.  Citrix and Microsoft have both had versions of this technology for some time.  Many of the reasons for using those programs also apply to the Horizon application publishing feature.

The most common reasons I know of for publishing out applications are;

  • You want to centrally manage and provide access to core/critical Windows desktop business applications
  • You work in multiple locations and want applications to follow you – such as medical personnel in a hospital
  • You want to provide secure access to specific applications to remote users.

These are just a few of the reasons to publish out applications, and that list is by no means exhaustive. 

Licensing

The licensing model for publishing applications from servers using Remote Desktop Services is different from the licensing model for virtual desktops.  Like virtual desktops, Remote Desktop Services is not covered under the standard Windows licensing, and Microsoft requires separate RDS CALs to enable this feature on Windows Servers. 

A separate license server is required to manage the RDS CALs.  If this license server is not available, the RDSH services will shut down after the trial period expires.  Configuring the RDS license server is beyond the scope of this series, but there is a good walkthrough here.

More information on licensing Remote Desktop Services can be found on the Microsoft site, and you should contact your Microsoft licensing rep if you have any questions.  The whitepaper in the link also covers licensing Microsoft desktop applications such as Office in RDS environments.

Up Next

The next article in this series will cover how to configure a Windows Server as an Remote Desktop Session Host and add it into Horizon View as an application host.  Publishing out applications will be covered after that, and the final article in this series will cover how to access published applications from within a Horizon View virtual desktop.