In part 10 of my VCAP7-DTM Design exam series we take a look at the Horizon 7 Enterprise Reference Architecture.
To be honest, I didn’t study that much the last two weeks but I checked a few documents about App Volumes, Mirage, ThinApp and User Environment Manager.
This time I would like to summarize what I have learned from the reference architecture and the VMworld 2018 session called Architecting Horizon 7 Enterprise: The Official Reference Architecture (WIN3451BUR).
I only focus on the component design part since I already covered topics like use cases, business drivers, design methodology etc.
A successful deployment depends on good planning and a very good understanding of the platform. The core elements include Connection Server, Composer, Horizon Agent and Horizon Client. Part 4 to part 9 cover the Horizon 7 component design and also provide more information on the following components.
VMware Identity Manager (VIDM) can be implemented on-premises or in the cloud, a SaaS-based implementation. If you decide to go with the SaaS implementation, a VIDM connector needs to be installed on-prem to synchronize accounts from Active Directory to the VIDM service in the cloud.
If cloud is no option for you, you still have the possibility for the on-prem deployment and use the Linux-based virtual appliance. There is also a Windows-based installer available which is included in the VMware Enterprise Systems Connector. VMware’s reference architecture is based on the Linux appliance.
Syncing resources such as Active Directory and Horizon 7 and can be done either by using a separate VMware Identity Manager Connector or by using the built-in connector of an on-premises VMware Identity Manager VM. The separate connector can run inside the LAN in outbound-only connection mode, meaning the connector receives no incoming connections from the DMZ.
VIDM comes with an embedded PostgreSQL database, but it’s recommended to use an external database server for production deployments.
For high availability, based on your requirements, at least two VIDM appliances should be deployed behind a load balancer. After you have deployed your first appliance, you simply clone it and assign a new hostname and a new IP address.
As you still may know from part 8, App Volumes has two functions. The first is the delivery of applications for VDI and RDSH. The second is the provision of writable volumes to capture user-installed applications and the user profile.
For high availability, always use at least two App Volumes Managers which are load-balanced.
AppStacks are very read intensive, hence, you should place AppStacks on storage that is optimized for read operations. Writable volumes should be placed on storage for random IOPS (50/50). There reference architecture uses vSAN to provide a single highly available datastore.
For the SQL database it is recommended using an AlwaysOn Availability Group.
User Environment Manager
When User Environment Manager design decisions need to be made, you have to think about user profiles (mandatory, roaming, local) and folder redirection. As already described in part 9, VMware recommendation is to use mandatory profiles and folder redirection. Use appendix B if you need help configuring the mandatory profile.
The first key design consideration is using DFS-R to provide high availability for the configuration and user shares. Note: Connect the management console only to the hub member when making changes. DFS-R will replicated those changes to the spoke members.
The second consideration one is using GPO loopback processing.
Unified Access Gateway
In part 6 I mentioned that a UAG is typically deployed within the DMZ.
UAG appliances are deployed in front of the Horizon 7 Connection Servers and sit behind a load balancer. The Unified Access Gateway also runs the Content Gateway as part the AirWatch (WorkspaceONE UEM) service.
You have two sizing options during the appliance deployment:
- Standard (2 vCPU, 4GB RAM, 2’000 Horizon server connections, 10’000 AirWatch service connections)
- Large (4 vCPU, 16GB RAM, 2’000 Horizon server connections, 50’000 AirWatch service connections)
As you can see, the big difference here are the estimated AirWatch service connections per appliance. In production you would deploy dedicated UAG appliances for each service. Example:
- 2 standard size UAGs appliances for 2’000 Horizon 7 sessions (n+1)
- 3 large size UAG appliances for 50’000 devices using Content Gateway and per-App Tunnel which gives us a total of 100’000 sessions. The third appliance is for high availability (n+1)
vSphere and Physical Environment
The software-defined data center (SDDC) is the foundation that runs all infrastructure servers and components. The products and the licensing for the foundation are outside of the Horizon 7 product (except vSAN), but are required to deliver a complete solution.
And in my opinion this is what makes the whole solution so brilliant. Even I work for VMware, I would never say from the beginning that Horizon is better than XA/XD. This was also the case when I worked as a consultant for Citrix before I joined VMware in May 2018.
It depends on the requirements and use cases which need to be satisfied. That are the most important things if you choose a vendor or a specific technology. Our goal is to make the customer happy! 🙂
But I would say that VMware Horizon including WorkspaceONE is very hard to beat if you use the complete stack! But that’s another topic.
The vSphere infrastructure in the reference architecture includes vSAN and NSX. In part 5 I covered the basics of vSAN, but I think I maybe need to write a short overview about NSX and how you can use it with Horizon.
vSAN provides a hyper-converged storage optimized for virtual machines without the need for an external SAN or NAS. This means that the physical server not only provides the compute and memory resources, but also storage in a modular fashion. You can use vSAN for the management and resource block and follow a hybrid approach for the management resources and use all-flash vSAN for the Horizon resources.
I will not cover the vSphere design, but it’s important to understand that all components are operating redundantly and that you have enough physical resources to meet the requirements.
A general recommendation is to use at least 10 GbE connections, to separate each traffic (mgmt, VM traffic, vSAN, vMotion) and make sure that each of them has sufficient bandwidth.
NSX for vSphere
NSX provides several network-based services and performs several security functions within a Horizon 7 implementation:
- Protects VDI infrastructure
- Protects desktop pool VM communication with applications
- Provides user-based access control (user-level identity-based micro-segmentation)
If you want to use NSX you have to think about a NSX infrastructure design as the NSX platform adds new components (e.g. NSX manager) and new possibilities (distributed firewall and identity firewall).
The most important design consideration for Horizon 7 is the concept of micro-segmentation. In the case of Horizon 7, NSX can block desktop-to-desktop communications, which are normally not needed or recommended. Each VM can now be its own perimeter and this desktop isolation prevents threats from spreading:
The Horizon 7 reference architecture of probably the best document to prepare yourself for the VCAP7-DTM exam. What do the current VCAP7-DTM certified people say? What else needs to be covered? Jump to part 11
This is the 9th part of my VCAP7-DTM Design exam series. In part 8 I covered the creation of an application architecture design for Horizon 7. Let’s have a look at the last part of the exam blueprint, which is about session management and client devices:
Section 8 – Incorporate Endpoints into a Horizon Design
Objective 8.1 – Incorporate Session Connectivity Requirements in a Horizon End Point Design
Objective 8.2 – Incorporate Management Requirements in a Horizon End Point Client Design
Objective 8.3 – Incorporate Security Requirements in a Horizon End Point Design
In a Windows environment several types of user profiles are available:
- Local Profile
- Roaming Profile
- Mandatory Profile
The user profile include user-specific data and application settings which allows the users to have a persistent appearance regardless which desktops a user logs in to.
As a general leading practice, it is recommended to redirect as much user data as possible to a network share. But in a Windows environment, administrators have often experienced issues with roaming profiles. From my experience, a smaller profile causes less trouble and it’s worth to spend time to have a proper profile management strategy configuration.
VMware User Environment Manager
VMware’s solution for profile management is called User Environment Manager (UEM) which is part of the Just-in-Time Management (JMP) platform. JMP is composed of the Instant Clone technology for fast desktop provisioning, App Volumes for real-time application delivery and User Environment Manager for the profile and session management.
When I worked with Citrix products, the recommendation was to use Citrix UPM (roaming profile) and configure folder redirections via GPO.
One of the things I have learned when I joined VMware, is the different approach when it comes to profile management. VMware recommends mandatory profiles and the dynamic configuration capability of UEM:
User Environment Manager manages user and Windows settings and dynamically configures the desktop. For example, it can create drive and printer mappings, file type associations, and shortcuts. User Environment Manager can also manage and provide shortcuts to applications such as ThinApp to users.
This is Microsoft’s definition of a mandatory user profile:
A mandatory user profile is a special type of pre-configured roaming user profile that administrators can use to specify settings for users. With mandatory user profiles, a user can modify his or her desktop, but the changes are not saved when the user logs off. The next time the user logs on, the mandatory user profile created by the administrator is downloaded.
If you need to know how you create a mandatory user profile, check Microsoft’s article for Windows 10.
Very important to know when using UEM with mandatory profiles: Only the settings you have defined in UEM are kept for your sessions. Settings that you didn’t configure with UEM are not preserved and are discarded after a logout. This is called personalization.
Once you have configured your mandatory profile, the configuration in UEM is waiting:
- Personalization (e.g. configuration files for Windows settings)
- Application Configuration Management (initial settings for applications)
- User Environment Settings (printer/drive mappings, environment variables, shortcuts etc.)
- Dynamic configuration based on conditions (user, location, client device etc.)
If you need to know more about UEM, read the blog VMware User Environment Manager, Part 1: Easier, Faster Windows Logins with Mandatory Profiles, where you find information about installing and configuring VMware User Environment Manager.
Identify the customer’s client device characteristics and compare it with the requirements. Depending on the requirements you have the following client device options:
- Tablets and Smartphone
- Fat Clients (the traditional PCs or laptops including Mac)
- Thin Clients
- Zero Clients
For each device a different Horizon Client (depending on the OS) is available for download.
As already mentioned earlier in this series, Blast should be the primary protocol for your Horizon sessions. If you have endpoints where a Horizon Client cannot be used or installed, you still have the HTML access option.
Configuration for Smart Policies are done in the UEM console. Some of the settings you have configured via Group Policies before can now be done in UEM. I’m talking about configuration based on conditions like client location, launch tag or pool name. But it’s also possible to fill in your own personal View client properties:
With Smart Policies, administrators have granular control of a user’s desktop experience. A number of key Horizon 7 features can be dynamically enabled, disabled, or controlled based not only on who the user is, but on the many different variables available through Horizon 7: client device, IP address, pool name, and so on.
Example: Based on the client device used you can set different settings for USB redirection, clipboard and bandwidth profile.
Smart Policies can be enforced and evaluated at login/logout and reconnect/disconnect and at defined refresh intervals. This allows IT to maintain endpoint and session security even the user changes the network, the endpoint or both.
These are the basics about session management and client devices. We have now covered all sections of the exam blueprint:
Section 1 – Create a Horizon Conceptual Design
Section 2 – Create a Horizon Logical Design
Section 3 – Create a Physical Design for vSphere and Horizon Components
Section 4 – Create a Physical Design for Horizon Storage
Section 5 – Create a Physical Design for Horizon Networking
Section 6 – Create a Physical Design for Horizon Desktops and Pools
Section 7 – Incorporate Application Services into a Horizon Physical Design
Section 8 – Incorporate Endpoints into a Horizon Design
I know the basics about a Horizon 7 implementation but I need to gain more technical knowledge about each product. As a Solution Architect I have a customer-facing pre-sales role and in general have no hands-on experience. As a consultant, who works with the Horizon suite on a daily basis, I’m sure that the VCAP-DTM Design exam would a piece of cake. 🙂
The next weeks I will read a lot of the PDFs (reference architecture and admin guides) mentioned in the exam blueprint and they are about:
- Horizon 7.2 (including Mirage, ThinApp, UAG)
- App Volumes 2.12
- IDM 2.9
- UEM 9.2
- vROps 6.4
- vSAN 6.2
- vSphere 6.5
Because I have a quite big home office and love whiteboards, I decided to order whiteboard papers which hold to the walls by static charge. This should help me to note important stuff down. 😀
I have left six weeks to prepare! Let’s do this! 🙂 Jump to part 10
This is the 8th part of my VCAP7-DTM Design exam series. In part 7 I covered the creation of a physical design for Horizon desktop and pools. Now we take a look at section 7 of the blueprint, the creation of an application architecture design for Horizon 7:
Section 7 – Incorporate Application Services into a Horizon Physical Design
Objective 7.1: Design Application Integration and/or Delivery System(s) using Horizon Application Tools
Objective 7.2: Design Active Directory to Facilitate Application Assignment Objective 7.3: Design and Size RDS Application Pools and Farms
Objective 7.4: Create Application Architecture Design
Objective 7.5: Design Application Integration and/or Delivery System(s) using Horizon Workspace One
The purpose of implementing VMware Horizon 7 is to deliver virtualized applications and/or desktop for end users. You have different methods of application delivery and the delivery depends on many factors. The delivery method can have major impacts on the user experience.
End users want the “fat client experience” – they want speed and performance and ease of use. IT has to define and find a balance between user experience and security and these opposing goals of IT and end users could be a challenge.
Today, people don’t want to wait for anything. They want to use, consume, be independent and have all the permissions they need to download and/or install applications – they just want to do their job. In this case, for example, a self-service portal with workflows could provide the necessary flexibility and security. But what about application performance and delivery?
One of the biggest challenges during a VDI project are legacy applications and IT still has to manage them in 2018. And sometimes, the customer is making the money with legacy applications. If the performance suffers or these applications don’t work anymore, neither does the business.
With Horizon 7 you have different options for app delivery:
- Manually installed applications in the master image or in the virtual desktop
- Delivery using ThinApp, App Volumes or RDSH (RDS application pool)
Each method has advantages, disadvantages and a different way of management. In most of the cases you will find a mix of these application delivery methods, but it depends on your use cases which ones you are going to choose.
I expect you know the features and technology of ThinApp and App Volumes and therefore I don’t explain them further. Just think about flexibility and management. I assume you don’t want to end up with 10 different master images which you have to maintain separately and modify once or twice a week. In general, Office applications and Adobe Reader are installed in the base image and the other applications can be delivered by App Volumes. If you need a “secure browser” (sandboxed browser) environment, then ThinApp is the right solution for this. Maybe you have the same application but with different versions? Then, it depends on the use case and requirement – your options are the manual installation, the delivery with App Volumes and ThinApp. Make yourself familiar with all those methods and also study the multi-site reference guide of each product.
Note: Sometimes it’s hard to know all features of a specific product, but reading and understanding the release notes can save your life sometimes. Example: ThinApp 5.2.3 only supports Firefox version 50.1 and nothing else. Maybe you can install and deploy Firefox 52.9 which is working, but is not officially supported by VMware. And then, when you want to upgrade to 60.1, suddenly the compilation with ThinApp is not working anymore even it was with 52.9, which was also not supported.
If you have read and understood this requirement before, you or your customer wouldn’t have a problem now.
Just think about if you provide secure browsing with Firefox delivered by ThinApp and you have a high security environment. When a new Firefox version gets published which is more secure and is supported by Mozilla, you cannot deliver this browser anymore. What are you doing now? Do you have enough time to find, design and test another solution?
By the way, ThinApp’s general support ends in March 2021.
ThinApp, App Volumes and RDSH have unique characteristics that allow them to increase the user experience and decrease resource utilization. Evaluate each solution and use the appropriate one for your design.
PS: If you are using XenApp/XenDesktop you could also consider App Volumes
This is all I have to say about application delivery without going too deep. Make your homework and know what you need! Next time we take a look at section 8 which is about session management and client devices.