What VMware’s View 3 VDI offers and how to Install it

by [Published on 4 March 2009 / Last Updated on 4 March 2009]

What VMware’s new View 3 offers, how to install it and how it can help you.

Introduction

VMware recently announced their latest version of their enterprise VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) solution called “View” (version 3). VMware’s View 3 is a “new and improved” version of their previous solution, which was just called “VDI” or “VDM” (virtual desktop manager). In this article, I will cover what VMware’s new View 3 offers, how it can help you, and how to install it.

Whether you have completed the virtualization of your server infrastructure, or not, desktop virtualization is a popular type of virtualization that you should consider. VMware has recently updated their enterprise desktop virtualization solution with new features and a new name – “VMware View 3”.

I have worked in an enterprise business where we tested and later implemented VMware’s VDI solution (prior to View). I can tell you that we had a number of issues which we felt still needed to be addressed. I am impressed that VMware’s new View 3 really addresses the major issues we had. Some of the major issues we encountered included; support of Terminal Services, Citrix, Thin client printing, offline desktops, and much more. Let’s find out what VMware’s View can do.

What does VMware’s new View 3 do for you?

In its most basic form, all desktop virtualization packages work like this:

  • End user desktop PCs are replaced with virtualized guest operating systems, running inside virtual hosts, such as VMware ESX Server
  • End users then use a hardware or software thin client device to connect to those desktops. Typically, a protocol like RDP is used.
  • While you can manually have an end user to virtual guest mapping, this does not scale beyond a handful of users. A VDI “broker” is what comes in and automatically maps the correct user (no matter where they connect from) to their correct virtual desktop system running “in the cloud”. These VDI brokers go on to provide many more features such as dynamic creation of virtual desktop systems for end users, connection over the Web, universal printing support.

Previously, VMware’s VDI solution offered a desktop broker called “VDM”. This broker is still a critical piece of View but it offers so much more. VMware’s View 3 offers you:

  • Universal Client and universal web interface – a single client can be used whether you are accessing a Physical PC, Terminal Services, Application Virtualization Apps (using ThinApp), or a VDI Virtual Desktop
  • Reduce Costs of Desktop Management – just as you reduce IT costs and speed response to business needs with server virtualization, desktop virtualization will do the same
  • Disaster Recovery for Desktop systems – rarely do businesses find that disaster recovery for desktop PCs is cost effective. However, with desktop virtualization, due to the low cost of storing virtual desktops and using universal thin client devices, disaster recovery for desktops suddenly becomes viable. Automation of Virtual Desktop Provisioning
  • Virtual Printing and a universal print driver provided by ThinPrint. In fact, ThinPrint even has an enhanced version of this called the “.Print Engine for VMware View Environments
  • ThinApp, application virtualization
  • Offline Desktop – a truly amazing experimental feature where you can take your virtual desktop offline and re-sync it later
  • Thin Client Support
  • Single Virtual Disk Image for clients to share (as Brian Madden details in his article: A deeper look at VMware's upcoming "View Composer" VDI disk image technology) with the new View Composer.

Overall, VMware claims that View will reduce storage and desktop management costs by 90% and that desktop provisioning time can be cut down to just 15 seconds

What components make up VMware View?

So what does a sample VMware View infrastructure look like? Here is VMware’s vision:


Figure 1:  Sample VMware View Infrastructure

(Image thanks to VMware’s VMware View website)

As you can see in the diagram, a VMware View infrastructure is made up of the following components:

  • Clients connecting to view with either View Client, View Portal (web) or Thin client device
  • View Connection Server – the “VDI Broker” – running Windows Server 2003
  • A View Administrator, accessing the View Connection Server via a web browser
  • Microsoft AD Serve, only used to authenticate users
  • Virtual Center Server, managing the ESX Hosts
  • ESX Host systems, running the guest VMs which are the View Clients (or virtual desktops)
  • Guest VMs which are the VM desktops that the client machines are eventually connected to and which are running special VMware View software called the View Agent.

How do you Evaluate and Install VMware View?

Based on the list of the infrastructure that makes up the VMware View (above), you can imagine what will need to be done to get VMware View running in your environment. Assuming that you already have a Microsoft Active Directory running and your own domain controller, here is a list of the, very simplified, steps you would take:

  1. Download a 60 day evaluation license and software kit for VMware View 3. This kit includes:
    a.      VMware Virtual Infrastructure Suite (ESX Server & vCenter)
    b.      VMware View Manager
    c.       VMware View Composer
    d.      VMware ThinApp
    e.      Offline Desktop (experimental)
  2. Of course, the installation and evaluation of VMware View is easier if you already have VMware’s vCenter and ESX Server installed in your datacenter. Assuming you do not, you will need the following:
    a.      ESX Server (make sure it matches the HCL) - unless you already have ESX running
    b.      vCenter Server (or could be a virtual machine inside your ESX host)
    c.       Windows 2003 Server that will serve as the VMware View Manager (I also believe that this could be a virtual machine inside your ESX host)
    d.      Client PC running the View Client (or other type of client)
  3. Install the ESX host and vCenter Server
  4. Install VMware View Manager on the Windows 2003 Server
  5. Configure the VMware View Manager (see the View Manager Administration Guide)
  6. Create a new VM inside the ESX host and install the View Agent inside the VM.
  7. Connect to the new virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) using the Client PC running the View Client. The client will learn what VM guest it needs to connect to based on the rules configured on the View Manager.

Again, this is a simplified look at how View 3 is installed. For detailed information on requirements, configuring view manager, and deploying virtual desktops, please read the VMware View Manager Administration Guide.

Summary

VMware View 3 is the latest version of VMware’s VDI Solution. View has many valuable updates over the previous version including thin client provisioning, universal printing, application virtualization, offline desktop, and more. I encourage you to take the steps listed out in the “how do you evaluate and install VMware View” section to get started learning more about VMware View, first hand.

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