VMware View 4.5 (Part 1)

by [Published on 21 Dec. 2010 / Last Updated on 21 Dec. 2010]

This article gives an overview of VMware View 4.5 and it looks at some typical scenarios.

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Introduction

VMware View 4.5 has been out for a bit now and is certainly worth a look for organizations that have standardized on VMware as their virtualization platform of choice. However, you don’t have to be VMware-heavy to buy into View 4.5. VMware makes it pretty easy for non-VMware shops to pick up View by bundling with View licenses all of the software necessary to make View work – the hypervisor, the management software, the broker and, optionally, tools that can help organizations scale out larger virtual desktop installations.

Primary licenses features

VMware View 4.5 is sold in two primary license configurations – Enterprise and Premier. While there are other ways to buy individual View features, those options aren’t discussed here. As of this writing, the Enterprise edition carries a list price of $150 per license while the Premier edition’s list price is $250 per license. VMware View uses a concurrent licensing model which means that you need to buy licenses only for the maximum number of simultaneous connections you’ll have at any one time.

vSphere for Desktop

When you buy VMware View licenses, you’re provided with ESX/vSphere licenses for use solely in supporting the desktop infrastructure. These are the exact same versions used in server-based virtualization projects, but with the added licensing restrictions. Both the Enterprise and Premier editions of VMware View include vSphere for Desktop.

The vSphere for Desktop edition contains the same features as VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus so you are able to bring to bear VMware’s most advanced and capable availability and scalability mechanisms in your virtual desktop environment.

Vcenter Server Standard for Desktop

Even if you’re not running vSphere for your server-based virtual environment, you need it for your View environment.  Likewise, you need a Vcenter server to manage the whole thing. When you buy VMware View 4.5 licenses, you’d provided a limited license for Vcenter that allows you to manage your desktop environment. If you’re already running Vcenter for a server-based virtual infrastructure, you can simply use your existing service.

View Manager

VMware View Manager is the last piece of software included in a VMware View 4.5 Enterprise bundle; everything else is available only in the Premier package. View Manager is the single-pane-of-glass console used to manage and provision View-based virtual desktop computers. It’s also the connection broker tool that acts as the traffic cop from clients to hosting servers.

View Composer

Available only in the Premier package, View Composer is the component that provides some advanced features that optimize your View environment. With Composer, you gain the ability to create a single golden master image from which you can create linked clones to which users connect to perform their work. By using this linked clone capability, you’re able to reduce overall administrative overhead and can also reduce storage costs associated with the virtual infrastructure, further reducing costs. VMware indicates that storage requirements can be reduced by as much as 50% to 70%. Of course, since Composer is available only in the Premier edition of View, there are additional software costs associated with the initial purchase. If you’re looking at Premier just for Composer, do a cost/benefit to see if Composer makes sense. As you start to scale your VDI implementation, Composer starts to make a lot of sense.

Local Mode (aka Offline VDI)

Not every user stays connected to the corporate network all the time. In fact, mobility is sort of a weird thing with VDI – and with View. In one sense, View can significantly enhance mobility efforts by decoupling users from their tethered desktops. View-hosted desktops can be accessed from any number of different devices, including repurposed desktop computers, dedicated terminals, thin clients, PCoIP-based terminals, iPhones, iPads and more. However, with traditional VDI, there is one huge Achilles Heel: The network. When a network isn’t available, the client has no means by which to connect to the hosting server. With Local Mode – sometimes called Offline VDI – you can get the best of both worlds, but with a caveat that I’ll explain later. Local Mode allows you to bring the View-hosted desktop image down to a local client – such as a laptop – and run it as a local virtual machine. In this way, you can use the same image for your mobile laptop users that you’re using for the rest of your users running View. Mobile clients can “check out” a virtual desktop; the initial synchronization can take a long time. Once it’s complete, only changes are synchronized from that point on as the machine is checked back in.

The main drawback to VMware’s offline VDI implementation lies in the need to use a pretty hefty endpoint for mobile systems. For View, you’re actually running the View-based image inside a virtual machine running under Windows on the mobile client. In fact, the View client – even for Local Mode – runs only on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 computers (as well as Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6). Under that local OS, you’re running the virtual machine. So, you’re running two full machines on that single hardware platform. VMware has yet to release a true desktop system bare metal hypervisor. Once the client bare metal hypervisor panacea arrives – hopefully soon! – This situation will change but for now, this is reality and you need to plan for it if you intend to use Local Mode. By the way, Local Mode is available only with a VMware View Premier license.

vShield Endpoint

Antivirus and antimalware software is a required component no matter how you deploy your desktops. In some cases (i.e. non-persistent desktops), you don’t necessarily have to deploy this security software, but for most deployments, you still need to secure your virtual computing environment just like you would for a physical deployment.

Antimalware and antivirus software can have a significant impact on the overall performance of a virtual desktop environment, particularly if the individual clients are configured to perform daily scans at the same time. Imagine having 1,000 clients on 25 host servers all kicking off a CPU-intensive, disk-intensive scan all at the same time. Calamity! Not to mention the need to add yet another client to each virtual machine.

vShield Endpoint is intended to help you streamline your security efforts by allowing you to deploy a single security virtual machine that handles what was formerly a distributed task. Further, by eliminating the need for the antivirus/antimalware agent to be installed in each virtual machine, you can, at least theoretically, gain additional density (what VMware calls consolidation ratios) on your desktop hosts since the processing workload is reduced.

ThinApp

Consisting of two components – Client and Packager – ThinApp is another Premier-only component. ThinApp brings to View additional efficiencies in the form of application virtualization, which makes it much easier for IT to deploy software into virtual machines as well as onto existing physical machines. ThinApp also makes it possible to deploy smaller desktop images to virtual machines, which can further reduce the cost of the VDI infrastructure. Since each ThinApp-based application is fully isolated from the others, ThinApp also allows you to run multiple versions of the same application on a system. So, you can run Internet Explorer 6 alongside Internet Explorer 8 on the same machines with no compatibility issues.

What’s new in VMware View 4.5?

VMware View 4.5 brings a number of new features to the desktop computing table that brings virtualized desktop infrastructure more in line with its physical brethren. Among the new features available in View 4.5:

  • vSphere 4.1 support. vSphere 4.1 alone brought a lot to the virtualization game including support for up to 10,000 virtual machines in a cluster. Although View 4.5 supports running under older versions of ESX/vSphere, use 4.1 for new installations to get the best results.
  • Windows 7 support. VMware View 4.5 adds support for Windows 7-based virtual desktops. With the death of Windows XP sales and support, it’s probably a good that VMware caught up on this front sooner rather than later.
  • Support for tiered storage in View Composer. Tiered storage allows View administrators to use different levels of storage for different desktop computing needs. For example, you can place boot volumes on fast, expensive solid state disks while you use less expensive SAS or SATA disks for
  • Support for vShield Endpoint. I discussed vShield Endpoint earlier.

The possibilities are endless

A virtual desktop environment can mean a lot more than just shifting the computing burden from the physical, distributed desktop client to the virtual, centralized data center. While this kind of centralizing and consolidation is often one deciding factor in undertaking a virtual desktop initiative, there has to be more to the story.

So, why are some companies and other organizations making the jump to a virtual desktop computing environment? Let’s look at some of the possibilities as they pertain to VMware View.

  • Lower total cost of ownership. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not absolutely certain that virtual desktops provide a hard, direct return or lower overall costs, particularly as you move into higher function clients, such as those that support Teradici’s PCoIP protocol, which brings to VDI a more desktop-like multimedia experience. However, for companies that have pretty simply computing requirements and have lots of endpoints, there is a good potential for increasing client consolidation ratios which, in turn, can bring the per-client cost down considerably.
  • Mobility and always on. VDI decouples the user experience from the device. Now, the user’s desktop follows them from location to location and from device to device. I like this. I’ve deployed Terminal Services in the past as a way for users to do some remote work, but they still don’t get “their” desktop. With VDI, I get it all.
  • Ability to create on-demand workspaces. I work at a college and we still have a number of physical, fixed computer labs. When I think of VDI, I think of two things:

    o   The aforementioned possibility of lowering costs.

    o   The possibility of creating an anytime, anywhere computer lab. Now, instead of having a lab dedicated to the Math department, students simply bring their own laptops to class and connect to a college-provided virtual desktop that has all of the licensed software that they need for their classes. I don’t need to worry about each and every student having his or her own license for all of our software and once they connect to our VDI-based desktop, they all get a consistent desktop that enables the faculty member to focus on teaching rather than on having to work with 20 or 30 different student desktops to get things working.
  • A desktop like experience. Although a virtual desktop environment has a lot of plusses, it also has some downside; in particular, the multimedia experience can leave a bit to be desired. However, a number of vendors have taken steps toward more closely replicating desktop-like multimedia capabilities in software. In particular, VMware View 4.5 supports Teradici’s PC-over-IP protocol, which does a pretty good job with both Flash and other multimedia.  For a classroom-like environment, this is a must.

Summary

VMware View 4.5 brings a lot to the table and VDI in general has the potential to help make organizations for flexible and agile. In this article, you learned about what’s new in View 4.5, how it’s licensed and some reasons for using it. In part 2, you’ll learn about deployment planning and walk through a View 4.5 installation.

If you would like to be notified of when Scott Lowe releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our VirtualizationAdmin.com Real Time Article Update newsletter.

The Author — Scott D. Lowe

Scott D. Lowe avatar

Scott has written thousands of articles and blog posts and has authored or coauthored three books, including Microsoft Press’ Exchange Server 2007 Administrators Companion and O’Reilly’s Home Networking: The Missing Manual. In 2012, Scott was also awarded VMware's prestigious vExpert designation for his contributions to the virtualization community.

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