Posts Tagged View

End of year Randomness

I’m not big on “end of year” posts or predictions and lacking any other ideas, thought I’d write down some random thoughts about technology going through my head as this year draws to an end.

All Flash Array Dominance
I’m not buying the hype surrounding all flash array’s (AFA).  Certainly there are legitimate use cases and they’ll be deployed more in the near future than they have in the past but the coming dominance of all flash array’s, I think, has been greatly exaggerated.  It’s clear that the main problem these array’s are trying to solve is the extreme performance demands of some applications and I just think there are much better ways to solve this problem (e.g. local disk, convergence, local flash, RAM caching, etc) in most scenarios than purchasing disparate islands of SAN.  And many of the things that make an AFA so “cool” (e.g. in-line dedupe, compression, no RAID, etc.) would be even cooler if the technology could be incorporated into a hybrid array.  The AFA craze feels very much like the VDI craze to me, lots of hype about how “cool” the technology is but in reality a niche use case.  Ironically, VDI is the main AFA use case.

The Emergence of Convergence
This year has seen a real spike in interest and deployment of converged storage/compute software and hardware and I’m extremely excited for this technology going into 2014.  With VMware VSAN being GA in 2014, I expect that interest and deployment to rise to even greater heights.  VSAN has some distinct strategic advantages over other converged models that should really make the competition for this space interesting.  Name recognition alone is getting them a ton of interest.  Being integrated with ESXi gives them an existing install base that already dominates the data center.  In addition, it’s sheer simplicity and availability make it easy for anyone to try out.  Pricing still hasn’t been announced so that will be the big thing to watch for in 2014 with this offering, that and any new enhancements that come with general availability.  In addition to VSAN, EMC’s ScaleIO is another more ‘software-based’ rather than ‘appliance-based’ solution that is already GA that I’m looking forward to seeing more of in 2014.  Along with VMware and EMC, Nutanix, Simplivity, Dell, HP, VCE, et al. all have varying “converged” solutions as well so this isn’t going away any time soon.  With this new wave of convergence products and interest, expect all kinds of new tech buzzwords to develop!  I fully expect and predict “Software Defined Convergence” will become mainstream by the end of the year!

Random convergence links:
Duncan Epping VSAN article collection – http://www.yellow-bricks.com/virtual-san/
Scott Lowe – http://wikibon.org/wiki/v/VMware_VSAN_vs_the_Simplicity_of_Hyperconvergence
Cormac Hogan looks at ScaleIO – http://cormachogan.com/2013/12/05/a-closer-look-at-emc-scaleio/
Good look at VSAN and All-Flash Array performance – http://blogs.vmware.com/performance/2013/11/vdi-benchmarking-using-view-planner-on-vmware-virtual-san-part-3.html
Chris Whal musing over VSAN architecture – http://wahlnetwork.com/2013/10/31/muse-vmwares-virtual-san-architecture/?utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=buffer59ec6

The Fall of XenServer
As any reader of this blog knows, I used to be a huge proponent of XenServer.  However, things have really gone downhill after 5.6 in terms of product reliability.  So much so that I really have a hard time recommending it at all anymore.  ESXi was always at the top of my list but XenServer remained a solid #2.  Now it’s a distant 3rd in my mind behind Hyper-V.  I’ll grant that there are many environments successfully and reliably running XenServer, I have built quite a few myself, but far too many suffer from bluescreen server crashes and general unreliability to be acceptable in many enterprises.  The product has even had to be pulled from the site to prevent people from downloading it while bugs were fixed.  I’ve never seen so many others express like sentiments about this product as I have seen this past year.

Random CTP frustration with XenServer:

Random stuff I’m reading
Colin Lynch has always had a great UCS blog and his two latest posts are great examples.  Best UCS blog out there, in my opinion:
UCS Manager 2.2 (El Capitan) Released
Under the Cisco UCS Kimono

I definitely agree with Andre here!  Too many customers don’t take advantage of CBRC and it’s so easy to enable:
Here is why your Horizon View deployment is not performing to it’s max!

Great collection of links and information on using HPs Moonshot ConvergedSystem 100 with XenDesktop by Dane Young:
Citrix XenDesktop 7.1 HDX 3D Pro on HP’s Moonshot ConvergedSystem 100 for Hosted Desktop Infrastructure (HDI)

In the end, this post ends up being an “end of year” post with a few predictions.  Alas, at least I got the “random” part right…

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PCoIP Proxy for Horizon View

A couple months ago F5 came out with a very intriguing announcement when they released full proxy support for PCoIP on the latest Access Policy Manager code version, 11.4.  Traditional Horizon View environments use “Security Servers” to proxy PCoIP connections from external users to desktops residing in the datacenter.  Horizon View Security Servers will reside in the DMZ and the software is installed on Windows hosts.  This new capability from F5 completely eliminates the need for Security Servers in a Horizon View architecture and greatly simplifies the solution in the process.

In addition to eliminating Security Servers and getting Windows hosts out of your DMZ, this feature simplifies Horizon View in other ways that aren’t being talked about as much.  One caveat to using Security Servers is that they must be paired with Connection Servers in a 1:1 relationship.  Any sessions brokered through these Connections Servers will then be proxied through the Security Servers they are paired with.  Because Security Servers are located in the DMZ, this setup works fine for your external users.  For internal users, a separate pair of Connection Servers are usually needed so users can connect directly to their virtual desktop after the brokering process without having to go through the DMZ.  To learn more about this behavior see here and here.

Pictured below is a traditional Horizon View deployment with redundancy and load balancing for all the necessary components:

TraditionalView

What does this architecture look like when eliminating the Security Servers altogether in favor of using F5’s ability to proxy PCoIP?

ViewWithProxy

As you can see, this is a much simpler architecture.  Note also that each Connection Server supports up to 2000 connections per server.  I wouldn’t recommend pushing that limit but the above servers could easily support around 1500 total users (accounting for the failure of one Connection Server).  If you wanted full redundancy and automatic failover with Security Servers in the architecture, whether it was for 10 or 1500 external users, you would still need at least 2 Security and 2 Connection servers.  A lot of times they are not there so much for increased capacity but just for redundancy for external users, so eliminating them from the architecture can easily simplify your deployment.

But could this be simplified even further?

ViewProxywithInternalVIP

In this scenario the internal load balancers were removed in favor of the load balancers in the DMZ having an internal interface configured with an internal VIP for load balancing.  Many organizations will not like this solution because it will be considered a security risk for the device in the DMZ to have interfaces physically outside the DMZ.  ADC vendors and partners will claim their device is secure but most customers still aren’t comfortable with this solution.  Another solution for small deployments with limited budget would be to just place that VIP in the above picture in the DMZ.  Internal users will still connect directly to their virtual desktops on the internal network and the DMZ VIP is only accessed during the initial load balancing process for the Connection Servers. Regardless of whether you use an internal VIP or another set of load balancers, this solution greatly simplifies and secures a Horizon View architecture.

Overall, I’m really excited by this development and am interested in seeing if other ADC vendors offer this functionality for PCoIP in the near future or not.  To learn more, see the following links:

Inside Look – PCoIP Proxy for VMware Horizon View

Big-IP Access Policy Manager VMware Horizon View Integration Implementations

In 5 Minutes or Less – PCoIP Proxy for VMware Horizon View

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View and XenDesktop vCenter Permissions

Both VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop require permissions within vCenter to provision and manage virtual desktops.  VMware and Citrix both have documentation on the exact permissions required for this user account.  Creating a service account with the minimal amount of permissions necessary, however, can be cumbersome and as a result, many businesses have elected to just create an account with “Administrator” permissions within vCenter.  While much easier to create, this configuration will not win you any points with a security auditor.

To make this process a bit easier I’ve created a couple quick scripts, one for XenDesktop and one for View, that create “roles” with the minimal permissions necessary for each VDI platform.  For XenDesktop, the script will create a role called “Citrix XenDesktop” with the privileges specified here.  For View, that script will create a role called “VMware View” with privileges specified on page 87-88 here.  VMware mentions creating three roles in its documentation, but I just created one with all the permissions necessary for View Manager, Composer and local mode.  Removing the “local mode” permissions is easy enough in the script if you don’t think you’re going to use it and the vast majority of View deployments I’ve seen use Composer, so I didn’t see it as necessary to separate that into a different role either.  You’ll also note that I used the privilege “Id” instead of “Name”.  The problem I ran into there is that “Name” is not unique within privileges (e.g. there is a “Power On” under both “vApp” and “Virtual Machine”) while “Id” is unique.  So, for consistencies sake I just used “Id” to reference every privilege.  The only thing that will need to be modified in these scripts is to make sure to enter your vCenter IP/Hostname after “Connect-VIServer”.

Of course, these scripts could be expanded to automate more tasks, such as creating a user account and giving access to specific folders or clusters, etc., but I will let all the PowerCLI gurus out there handle that. 🙂  Really, the only goal of these scripts is to automate the particular task that most people skip due to its tedious nature.  Feel free to download, critique and expand as necessary.

VMwareView_CreateRole.ps1

CitrixXenDesktop_CreateRole.ps1

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VMware and Citrix integration

Which is better, Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View?  XenServer or ESXi?  HDX or PCoIP?  While the answer to these questions are debated on numerous blogs, tech conferences and marketing literature, what is explored far less often is how Citrix and VMware technologies can actually work together.  What follows is a brief overview of some different ways that these technologies can be combined, forming integrated virtual infrastructures.

1) Application and Desktop delivery with VMware View and XenApp

Many organizations deploying VMware View already have existing Citrix XenApp infrastructures in place.  The View and XenApp infrastructures are usually managed by separate teams and not integrated to the degree they could be.  Pictured above are some possible ways these two technologies can integrate.  As you can see, there are many different options in terms of application delivery with both environments.  The most obvious is publishing applications from XenApp to your View desktops.  This can reduce the resource consumption on individual desktops and also provides the added benefit of accessing those same applications outside your View environment with the ability to publish directly to remote endpoints as well.  Existing Citrix infrastructures may also be utilizing Citrix application streaming technology as well.  By simply installing some Citrix clients on your View desktops, applications can be streamed directly to View desktops or alternatively directly to end-points or even to XenApp servers and then published to View desktops or endpoints.  Another option is to integrate ThinApp into this environment.   Tina de Benedictis, had a good write-up on this a while back.  The options for this are similar to Citrix streaming.  You can stream to a XenApp server and then publish the application from there, stream directly to your View desktops or stream directly to end-points.  As shown in the above picture, both Citrix Streaming and ThinApp can be used within the same environment.  This might be an option if you’ve already packaged many of your applications with Citrix but either want to migrate to ThinApp over time or package and stream certain applications that Citrix streaming cannot (e.g. Internet Explorer).  Whatever options you choose, it’s clear that both technologies can work together to form a very robust application and desktop delivery infrastructure.

2) Load Balancing VMware infrastructures with Citrix Netscaler

Some good articles have been written about this option as well.  In fact, this option is becoming popular enough that VMware even has a KB dedicated to ensuring the correct configuration of Citix Netscalers in View environments.  VMware View and VMware vCloud Director have redundant components that should be load balanced for best performance and high availability.  If you have either of these products and are using Citrix Netscaler to proxy HDX connections or load balance Citrix components or other portions of your infrastructure, why not use them for VMware as well?  Pictured above is a high-level overview of load balancing some internal-facing View Connection servers.  Users connect to a VIP defined on the Netscalers (1), that directs them to the least busy View Connection server (2) that then connects them to the appropriate desktop based on user entitlement (3).  After the initial connection process, the user connects directly to their desktop over PCoIP.

3) XenApp and XenDesktop on ESXi

This is actually an extremely popular combination and the reasons are numerous and varied.  You can have 32 host clusters (only 16 in XenServer and 8 with VMware View on ESXi), Storage vMotion and Storage DRS (XenServer doesn’t have these features and you can’t use them with VMware View), memory overcommitment (only ESXi has legitimate overcommit technology), Storage I/O Control, Network I/O Control, Multi-NIC vMotioning, Auto Deploy, and many more features that you can only get from the ESXi hypervisor.  Using XenApp and XenDesktop on top of ESXi gets you the most robust hypervisor and application and desktop virtualization technology combinations possible.

4) XenApp as a connection broker for VMware View

This option intrigues me from an architectural point of view, but I have yet to see it utilized in a production environment.  With this option you would publish your View Client from a XenApp server.  Users could then utilize HDX/ICA over external connections or the WAN and from the XenApp server would connect to the View desktop on the LAN over PCoIP.  What are the flaws in this method?  I can think of a couple benefits to this off-hand.  First, HDX generally performs better over high latency connections, so there could be a user experience boost.  Second, VMware View uses a “Security Server” to proxy external PCoIP connections.  The Security Server software just resides on a Windows server OS,  a hardened security appliance like Netscaler would be more secure.  I’d be interested to see how things like printing and USB redirection would work in such an environment, but for me, it’s definitely something I’d like to explore more.

So, those are a few of the possibilities for integrating VMware and Citrix technologies, what are some other combinations you can think of?  Any other benefits or flaws in the above mentioned methods?

 

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VCP5-DT Blueprint Study Guide

Those familiar with VMware certification exams will have experience studying for those exams with the excellent exam blueprints that occompany each test.  I took the VCP5-DT (VMware View 5) test several weeks ago and used its exam blueprint to study from.  While filling out the blueprint for my own study purposes, I thought it might be a useful tool for others as well so I went ahead and filled out most of the rest of the blueprint as well.  I did however, leave out certain portions for various reasons.  These reasons range from a) the meaning of the particular section was unclear, b) portions of the blueprint were redundant or c) certain sections can only be known through real-world experience (e.g. troubleshooting).  Despite these short omissions, there is quite a bit of content here (30 pages).  I got most of it from the resources listed in the exam blueprint and even copied and pasted tables as necessary.  I did add my own commentary in several places where I felt the listed resources did not go far enough in their explanation.

Download the blueprint study guide here.

Screenshots:
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