Install Horizon 6 – Part 5 – Preparing Desktop Golden Image

How you will configure the desktop golden image can depend on the type of desktop pools that you are going to deploy.  The type of desktop pools that you deploy can depend on the applications and how you intend to deploy them.  In this post we will cover how to configure a desktop golden image that will be used for linked clone pools, and in the following posts we will cover how to set up a linked clone pool.

Before starting to configure the desktop image is important to understand the applications that you will deploy to your virtual desktops because applications and how they can be deployed have an impact on the desktop pools that can be used.

Some things you should consider are

  1. Licensing – How are the applications licensed?  Are the licenses locked to the computer in some way?  Is a hardware key required?
  2. Hardware – Does the application have high resource requirements or does it require specific hardware in order to function?  This is usually a consideration for high-end CAD or engineering applications that require a 3D card, but it could also apply to applications that need older hardware or access to a serial port.
  3. User Installed Applications and User Profiles – Will users be able to install their own applications? Are user profiles being centrally managed (with Roaming Profiles or Persona Management), or are they local to the virtual desktops?
  4. Application Remoting – Can the applications be installed on a terminal server and presented to the users using an application remoting technology such as XenApp or Horizon Application Remoting?

Once you’ll understand your needs, you can start planning your pools and creating your golden images.

Supported Operating Systems

Horizon View only supports virtual desktops running Microsoft Windows.  The supported OS are the following:

  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise or Professional
  • Windows 8 Enterprise or Professional
  • Windows 7 Enterprise or Professional
  • Windows Vista Business or Enterprise SP2 (32-bit only)
  • Windows XP Professional SP3 (32-bit only)

Windows Server 2008 R2 is supported as a desktop operating system.  Configuring support for Server 2008 R2 desktops is easier in Horizon 6.0, and it only requires checking a single checkbox without editing the Horizon LDAP database.

Here we are going to have an high level overview of what you should do to prepare a virtual machine running Windows 7 (Windows 8/8.1).

VM preparation

Configuring a desktop VM is more or less like configuring a virtual server. The basic steps are the same: configure the hardware, install the operating system, and then install applications.

The recommended hardware for a virtual desktop is:

  • SCSI Controller – LSI SAS
  • Hard Disk – Thin Provisioned
  • Remove Floppy Drive, and disable parallel and serial ports in BIOS
  • Remove the CD-ROM drive (this can be done once you have installed the OS)

You should size vCPUs and RAM of your virtual desktops on the requirements for of the applications that you plan to run and fine tune based on user performance and resource utilization.

OS install

Installing the operating system for a desktop golden image isn’t different than installing Windows Server into a VM or installing a fresh copy of Windows on physical hardware. There are only few additional things you should do.

Since Bitlocker is not supported on virtual machines, there is no reason to create the default 100 MB system partition used by Windows to store the files used for it. To do this,  you have to bypass the installer and manually partitioning the boot drive. When you install windows form DVD, the procedure is the following:

  1. Boot the computer to the installer
  2. Press Shift-F10 to start the command prompt
  3. Type DiskPart
  4. Type Select Disk 0
  5. Type Create Partition Primary
  6. Type Exit twice.

After this you can normally install Windows.

Install VMware tools and join to Active Directory 

After you’ll complete the operating system install, you have to install the VMware tools. Installing the tools is required by the View Agent and the package also include the VMXNET3 driver; your template will not have network access until the VMware tools are installed.

Once installation is completed and the system has been rebooted, I usually join the template to my domain. This task is not mandatory but it make easier manage the desktops and install software from network shares.

Install View Agent

After you have installed the VMware tools package and joined your computer to the domain, you will need to install the VMware View Agent.  The default install of the View Agent includes all of the features except for PCoIP Smartcard support.  The agent install will require a reboot after it is completed.

Install Applications

After you install the View Agent, you can begin to install the applications you chose for you golden image.

You can also decide to minimize the applications installed on your desktops and use tools like ThinApp or App Volumes.

Final Image Configurations

Once you installed all the required applications, you have to finalize the image to prepare it for Horizon View.  You should disable unnecessary services and make configuration settings changes to ensure a good user experience.

You can do this in two ways: the first is to use the batch file provided by VMware in the Horizon View Optimization Guide; the second option is to use the VMware OS Optimization tool. The optimization tool includes customizable templates to enable or disable Windows system services and features, per VMware recommendations and best practices. (This is one of my favorite flings and it’s the option I’m using in most cases).

Before shutting the virtual machine down to snapshot it, verify that all services required by applications are enabled. This includes the Windows Firewall service which is required for the View Agent to function properly.

Shutdown and Snapshot

After you have your applications installed, you need to shutdown your desktop golden image and take a snapshot of it.  If you will use linked-clones, the replica will be based on the snapshot you create and select.

Here you had a quick overview of the procedure to prepare a desktop golden image, in the next post we will see how to build a linked clone desktop pool.

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