Setting Up VMware Horizon View 5.2 Home Lab (Connection Server)

In this post we will see how to setup VMware Horizon View 5.2 Home Lab. I know many people are out there who are EUC (End User Computing) –VDI Fanboy like me. Some of you may have already experienced some kind of VDI or Application Virtualization like Citrix XenDesktop or may be Citrix XenApp or Presentation Server or perhaps VMware ThinApp. VMware Horizon View 5.2 is one of the two leading VDI solutions in the market, other one being Citrix XenDesktop.

VDI or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is the client end virtualization where your desktops are virtualized and hosted/provided via server based sessions, to put it simply. In VDI, all you use is a endpoint client device which could be either a repurposed PC, Laptop/Desktop, Mobile devices like iPad and Android Tablets, Thin/Zero Clients etc. Your desktop OS is not installed on the client device, rather you access the virtual desktop through a virtual desktop client (here VMWare View Client). Your actual desktop is sitting on the Server side in your data center. So, what it takes to learn VMware View 5.2 in your home lab? In the simple steps below, you will find that setting up a View Home Lab is absolutely easy. In fact much easier than other VDI contemporaries.

Assumption:

I assume you have more or less these kind of setup already in place for your VMware vSphere Home Lab:- (in case not, I suggest you to look at my previous blog posts on vSphere Home Lab set-up)

  1. Two ESXi Hosts (either physical boxes or one nested ESXi) with vCenter and an Active Directory Domain Controller. These vSphere Lab can also be very well sitting within VMWare Workstation in a Laptop/Desktop.
  2. Any kind of shared storage (A NAS is not absolutely necessary, I use NFS based Software Defined Storage from Nexenta -Community Edition. It may take little time to set up the initial configuration, but once done it works like a charm! I prefer NFS than iSCSI. Again absolutely my personal choice). You can create a 500GB to 1TB or more shared NFS/iSCSI volume to host your desktop pools.
  3. You have a Windows Server 2008 R2 template. Remember it has to be R2 only (preferably with SP1)

VMware Horizon View 5.2 Components:

A)     View Connection Server: This server will be the first server you will install in a View Setup. This will act as the connection broker for your virtual desktop. So, what is a Connection Broker? A connection broker is like a middle-man sitting between your client endpoint device and the Virtual Desktop Pool hosted on the data center. A connection broker will provide your end point device with a valid virtual desktop when you present your valid credentials like your username and password. It talks to the other components and makes sure a virtual desktop appropriate for you is delivered to you.

B)      View Composer: View Composer is a small software which is installed either on the vCenter Server ( if the vCenter Server is a Windows 2008 based Server) or installed on a separate Windows 2008 R2 Server (if you have chosen to use vCenter Server Appliance, as in my home lab). As the name suggest, it composes the virtual desktops meaning it helps in provisioning the virtual desktop pools when and as requested.

C)      View Client: This is invariably installed on the end-point device irrespective of whether you use Laptop, iPad or Desktop.

(Note: VMware Horizon View 5.2 is so simple to setup that with the above three components only, you can almost accomplish most of the stuffs in a basic VDI environment.)

However there are some additional (optional) components as well and in a full blown set up you can’t ignore their presence and so is the case when you implement View 5.2 on an Enterprise Scenario.

D)     View Security Server: This sits on the DMZ area and acts as a PCoIP proxy. Now what’s this PCoIP? PCoIP is the flagship VDI protocol from a trendsetter company called Teradici. It works on UDP (unlike Citrix ICA/HDX which works on TCP) and delivers the remote desktop experience from Server side to the client end device. Security Server is used so that you don’t need to expose your Connection Servers on the DMZ area to have your remote clients access their virtual desktops from a WAN/Internet scenario.

E)      View Replica Server: Replica Server is nothing but one or more additional Connection Servers which adds up to the Connection Server Pool for load balancing purpose. So, effectively for some reason if the primary Connection Server goes down, you have the Replica Server to handle the connection requests. When you install Connection Server, it asks if you want to install it as a Connection or Replica Server, Security Server or Transfer Server.

F)      Transfer Server: This is something very interesting feature in View! Think of a scenario when you are taking a long distance flight and you want to use a VDI desktop. Traditionally till the time you are connected to the Datacenter, you get your Virtual Desktop, but what happens when you are inside the flight and the connection to your data center is lost? You also lose the connection to your virtual desktop, in a way you can no more use your virtual desktop. But with Transfer Server in place, you can indeed download an offline copy of the entire Virtual Desktop and keep working on it. The moment it regains connection, it will sync back to the data center, a method which is called Checking Out and Checking In. You need a View Client with Local Mode to use this feature. This is also called Offline Desktop or Local Mode feature.

(The below diagram (courtesy: VMware) will give a visual representation of all the different building blocks of View 5.2)

VMware Horizon View Components

Now that you have some basic idea of Horizon View 5.2 let’s setup our View Lab:

Where to get the VMware Horizon View 5.2 Software ISOs: You need to register in My VMWare (https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/login) and register for a trial to download all the View Components. You will also need Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express Edition x64-SP1. Download it from: http://www.microsoft.com/en-sg/download/details.aspx?id=25052 Download only the file with name “SQLEXPR_x64_ENU.exe”

Step No. 1. Setting up Connection Server: Deploy a new VM from the Windows Server 2008 R2 Template. Give it a name as “View-Connection”. Thin Provision it’s storage when asked. Give it a 2 vCPU and 2GB RAM allocation. Once provisioned, Give it a Host Name say “View-Connection” and join it to your internal lab active directory domain. Also provide a Static IP and reboot it. After reboot login with the Domain Administrator Account.

Now install the View Connection Server Installer with a file-name like “VMware-viewconnectionserver-x86_64-5.2.0-987719.exe”. When asked select “View Standard Server” as the installation option. Select any recovery password of your choice, but make a note of it. This will later help you to recover your View Connection Server Installation. For Firewall configuration choose “Configure Windows Firewall Automatically”.  For account/group authorization choose “Domain Administrators” account for the lab internal AD domain.

After finishing the setup, a Windows Update is recommended.

(In the next post we will  see how to install the View Composer Server, SQL Server etc.). Thanks for reading & Stay tuned…

And be sociable and share :)

6 thoughts on “Setting Up VMware Horizon View 5.2 Home Lab (Connection Server)

  1. Thanks Mr. Amitabh, this is Santhosh from Bangalore. your blogs reflect your expert technical knowledge, I came to know about View connection server, replica server, security server and transfer server, worth reading your blog. You have explained in very simple and good English. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: VMware Horizon View 5.2 Home Lab: Installing View Composer Server | Amitabh Dey

  3. Thanks for sharing information. I was playing with the ESXi free version for vmware, I was wonder is there a way I just set it up and connect zero less or thin clients to it without all these set up. to me it is one expensive setup for home use after the lab, MS active directory will need Win server licence so does the horizon-view….any cheap alternate ?

  4. Hi Amitabh,
    Thanks for sharing the information with very well explained. As mention in above post i am looking for your previous post vSphere Home Lab set-up, could you please send me the link to start with the lab.

    Thanks in advance

    Ashraf

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