Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Didja Know? - VSC for Full Clones into XenDesktop and View!


Lately I've been talking with a bunch of folks that are dipping their toes in the VDI pool and they aren't quite ready to jump off the diving board.  They have their non-persistent desktops strategy down pretty well, but they're not sure what to do with persistent/semi-persistent.  I've got an earlier blog regarding profile management, and I've had a chance to play with Liquidware Labs Profile Unity and it is a VERY cool product.  I'll save that for a full review coming soon!

So lots of folks want to go VDI for their power-users / knowledge-workers and they're planning on doing full persistent desktops on the first pass.  Let me say, there's nothing wrong with that, but you will experience some of the headaches you're currently running into with your physical model. Patching, profile sizes, virus scanning, corrupt images, to name a few.  One huge win is critical data will NO longer be on a laptop that can get lost!  I'm sure we've all heard stories of a laptop getting stolen out of someone's car and now <<fill in the blank data>> is out on the street.  Which can lead to legal ramifications, as well as the loss of consumer confidence.

So you want persistent desktops and you're not quite ready to dive into pvdisk or advanced profile software?  How about using NetApp cloning and import the images into XenDesktop or View?  But Neil, that's gotta be a horrendous procedure!  No no my friends it's quite easy and built right into VSC for vSphere!  If you haven't downloaded VSC for vSphere, please, give it a try.  It's free!  **(Edit 02/07/2013 - Regarding VSC for both VMware and XenServer - They are free to download, but do require specific licenses for some features.)**  I know I love free stuff!  Don't even get me started about shows, I'll be the guy with the biggest bag of free stuff!   What about space you ask?  All those persistent desktops HAVE to use up a lot of space, right?  Nope, NetApp's got you covered.  We use our FlexClone technology and ONLY the deltas take up space.  How cool is that?  You're getting machines with no space consumed (except deltas)!

So how do you do this?  Keep reading.

After you've installed and set a controller to do your provisioning and cloning, right click on the golden image you want your users to use, select NetApp > Provisioning and Cloning > Create rapid clones.  Select your storage controller, what ESXi machine or cluster these virtual desktops should be cloned to, whether the image should be thin, thick or the same provisioning as the source.

Now, here's where the magic happens!

Here you can select your connection broker.  Currently we support VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop.

 Here I've highlighted a bunch of things.  The connection broker, number of processors, memory, number of clones, clone name, starting clone number, clone increment, power on, etc.  You can really customize these guys however you want.  Now what I've got the most emphasis on is the customization specification.  I know I say this about everything, but this is the COOLEST feature!  It's part of vSphere and allows you to customize your clones however you want.  Add them into AD, give them names, networking etc.  Create this before hand and then we can call it from VSC.

If you choose XenDesktop, provide the connection name or the site name in XenDesktop and the domain these desktops will be part of.  The desktops will get created and you can import them into XenDesktop in two ways.  A .CSV file will be created and placed on the machine VSC is installed on.  Take this .CSV file and put it on your XenDesktop machine or a share it can access.  Tell XenDesktop you've got existing machines you want to import and that you have a .CSV file.  Or, you can browse for them and import them from vSphere.

If you choose to import them into View, you'll see this menu.  Enter in the View credentials, whether this will be a new or existing pool, the number pools, names and if they will be dedicated or floating.  After the desktops are created they'll be pulled into View.  It's actually quite neat to watch, you'll see them come into View and listed as un-registered.  As the customization specification runs they'll start go through a metamorphoses and will soon be useable desktops with their own identity!

So you've put these desktops on an NFS share and have thin provisioned them.  Awesome!  But what happens as those desktops start to use space and delete it?  The luster of thin provisioning goes away because we don't know what's going on inside of NTFS.  All we know is that the clean blocks are now dirty.  So the VSC engineers came up with something truly awesome called Reclaim Space.  It reads NTFS and looks for white space and after it finds it, it punches the space out giving you back free space!  If you right click on one of your desktops, it's under NetApp > Provisioning and Cloning > Reclaim Space.

I think this is a great way to make the first hop into persistent/semi-persistent desktops, especially if you don't have the time or financial commitment yet.

Until Next Time!


  1. Where are all the cool drawings?!

  2. Very cool...thanks for sharing!