Select Page

vSAN Basics for a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure with VMware Horizon

As an EUC architect you need fundamental knowledge about VMware’s SDDC stack and this time I would like to share some more basics about VMware vSAN for VMware Horizon.

In part 5 of my VCAP7-DTM Design exam series I already posted some YouTube videos about vSAN in case you prefer videos instead of reading. To further proof my vSAN knowledge I decided to take the vSAN Specialist exam which focuses on the version 6.6.

To extend my vSAN skills and to prep myself for this certification I have bought the VMware vSAN 6.7 U1 Deep Dive book which is available on Amazon.

vSAN 6.7 U1 Deep Dive

vSAN Basics – Facts and Requirements

Out in the field not every EUC guy has enough sic knowledge about vSAN and I want to provide some facts about this technology here. This is no article about all the background information and detailed stuff you can do with vSAN, but it should help you to get a basic understanding. If you need more details about vSAN I highly recommend the vSAN 6.7 U1 Deep Dive book and the content available on storagehub.vmware.com.

  • The vSAN cluster requires at least one flash device and capacity device (magnetic or flash)
  • A minimum of three hosts is required except you go for a two-node configuration (requires a witness appliance)
  • Each host participating in the vSAN cluster requires a vSAN enabled VMkernel port
  • Hybrid configurations require a minimum of one 1GbE NIC, 10GbE is recommended by VMware
  • All-Flash configurations require a minimum of one 10GbE NIC
  • vSAN can use RAID-1 (mirroring) and RAID5-/6 (erasure coding) for the VM storage policies
  • RAID-1 is used for performance reasons, erasure coding is used for capacity reasons
  • Disk groups require one flash device for the cache tier and one or more flash/magnetic device for the capacity tier
  • There can be only one cache device per disk group
  • Hybrid configuration – The SSD cache is used for read and write (70/30)
  • All-Flash configuration – The SSD cache is used 100% as a write cache
  • Since version 6.6 there is no multicast requirement anymore
  • vSAN supports IPv4 and IPv6
  • vSphere HA needs to be disabled before vSAN can be enabled and configured
  • The raw capacity of a vSAN datastore is calculated by the number of capacity devices multiplied by the number of ESXi hosts (e.g. 5 x 2TB x 6 hosts = 60 TB raw)
  • Deduplication and compression are only available in all-flash configurations
  • vSAN stores VM data in objects (VM home, swap, VMDK, snapshots)
  • The witness does not store any VM specific data, only metadata
  • vSAN provides data at rest encryption which is a cluster-wide feature
  • vSAN integrates with CBRC (host memory read cache) which is mostly used for VMware Horizon
  • By default, the default VM storage policy is assigned to a VM
  • Each stretched cluster must have its own witness host (no additional vSAN license needed)
  • Fault domains are mostly described with the term “rack awareness”

vSAN for VMware Horizon

The following information can be found in the VMware Docs for Horizon:

When you use vSAN, Horizon 7 defines virtual machine storage requirements, such as capacity, performance, and availability, in the form of default storage policy profiles, which you can modify. Storage is provisioned and automatically configured according to the assigned policies. The default policies that are created during desktop pool creation depend on the type of pool you create.

This means that Horizon will create storage policies when a desktop pool get created. To get more information I will provision a floating Windows 10 instant clone desktop pool. Before I’m doing that, let’s have a look first at the policies which will appear in vCenter depending on the pool type:

Since I’m going to create a floating instant clone desktop pool I assume that I should see some the storage policies marked in yellow. 

Instant Clones

First of all we need to take a quick look again at instant clones. I only cover instant clones since it’s the recommended provisioning method by VMware. As we can learn from this VMware blog post, you can maissvely reduce the time for a desktop to be provisioned (compared to View Composer Linked Clones).

VMware Instant Clones

The big advantage of the instant clone technology (vmFork) is the in-memory cloning technique of a running parent VM.

The following table summarizes the types of VMs used or created during the instant-cloning process:

Instant Cloning VMs
Source: VMWARE HORIZON 7 INSTANT-CLONE DESKTOPS AND RDSH SERVERS 

Horizon Default Storage Policies

To add a desktop pool I have created my master image first and took a snapshot of it. In my case the VM is called “dummyVM_blog” and has the “vSAN Default Storage Policy” assigned.

How does it go from here when I create the floating Windows 10 instant clone desktop pool?

Instant Clone Technology

The second step in the process is where the instant-clone engine uses the master VM snapshot to create one template VM. This template VM is linked to the master VM. My template VM automatically got the following storage policy assigned:

The third step is where the replica VM gets created with the usage of the template VM. The replica VM is a thinprovisioned full clone of the internal template VM. The replica VM shares a read disk with the instantclone VMs after they are created. I only have the vSAN datastore available and one replica VM is created per datastore. The replica VM automatically got the following storage policy assigned:

The fourth step involves the snapshot of the replica VM which is used to create one running parent VM per ESXi host per datastore. The parent VM automatically got the following storage policies assigned:

After, the running parent VM is used to create the instant clone, but the instant clone will be linked to the replica VM and not the running parent VM. This means a parent VM can be deleted without affecting the instant clone. The instant clone automatically got the following storage policies assigned:

And the complete stack of VMs with the two-node vSAN cluster in my home lab, without any further datastores, looks like this:

vCenter Resource Pool 

Now we know the workflow from a master VM to the instant clone and which default storage policies got created and assigned by VMware Horizon. We only know from the VMware Docs that FTT=1 and one stripe per object is configured and that there isn’t any difference except for the name. I checked all storage policies in the GUI again and indeed they are all exactly the same. Note this:

Once these policies are created for the virtual machines, they will never be changed by Horizon 7

Even I didn’t use linked clones with a persistent disk the storage policy PERSISTENT_DISK_<guid> gets created. With instant clones there is no option for a persistent disk yet (you have to use App Volumes with writable volumes), but I think that this will come in the future for instant clones and then we also don’t need View Composer anymore. 🙂

App Volumes Caveat

Don’t forget this caveat for App Volumes when using a vSAN stretched cluster.

VCAP7-DTM Design Exam Passed

On 21 October I took my first shot to pass the VCAP7-DTM Design exam and failed as you already know from my this article. Today I am happy to share that I finally passed the exam! 🙂

What did I do with the last information and notes I had about my weaknesses from the last exam score report? I read a lot additional VMware documents and guides about:

  • Integrating Airwatch and VMware Identity Manager (vIDM)
  • Cloud Pod Architecture
  • PCoIP/Blast Display Protocol
  • VMware Identity Manager
  • vSAN 6.2 Essentials from Cormac Hogan and Duncan Epping
  • Horizon Apps (RDSH Pools)
  • Database Requirements
  • Firewall Ports
  • vRealize Operations for Horizon
  • Composer
  • Horizon Security
  • App Volumes & ThinApp
  • Workspace ONE Architecture (SaaS & on-premises)
  • Unified Access Gateway
  • VDI Design Guide from Johan van Amersfoort

Today, I had a few different questions during the exam but reading more PDFs about the above mentioned topics helped me to pass, as it seems. In addition to that, I attended a Digital Workspace Livefire Architecture & Design training which is available for VMware employees and partners. The focus of this training was not only about designing a Horizon architecture, but also about VMware’s EUC design methodology.

If you have the option to attend classroom trainings, then I would recommend the following:

I had two things I struggled with during the exam. Sometimes the questions were not clear enough and I made assumptions what it could mean and that the exam is based on Horizon 7.2 and other old product versions of the Horizon suite:

  • VMware Identity Manager 2.8
  • App Volumes 2.12
  • User Environment Manager 9.1
  • ThinApp 5.1
  • Unified Access Gateway 2.9
  • vSAN 6.2
  • vSphere 6.5
  • vRealize Operations 6.4
  • Mirage 5.x

But maybe it’s only me since I have almost no hands-on experience with Horizon, none with Workspace ONE and in addition to that I’m only 7 months with VMware now. 🙂

It is time for an update, but VMware announced already that they are publishing a new design exam version called VCAP7-DTM 2019 next year.

What about VCIX7-DTM?

 In part 2 of my VCAP7-DTM Design exam blog series I mentioned this:

Since no VCAP7-DTM Deploy exam is available and it’s not clear yet when this exam will be published, you only need the VCAP7-DTM Design certification to earn the VCIX7-DTM status. I have got this information from VMware certification.

This information is not correct, sorry. VMware certification pulled their statement back and provided the information that you need to pass the VCAP6-DTM Deploy exam, as long as no VCAP7-DTM Deploy is available, to earn the VCIX7-DTM badge.

I don’t know yet if I want to pursue the VCIX7-DTM certification and will think about it when the deploy exam for Horizon 7 is available.

What’s next?

Hm… I am going to spend more time again with my family and will use some of my 3 weeks vacation time to assemble and install my new home lab.

Then I also have a few ideas for topics to write about, like:

  • Multi-Domain and Trust with Horizon 7.x
  • Linux VDI Basics with Horizon 7.x
  • SD-WAN for Horizon 7.x
  • NSX Load Balancing for Horizon 7.x

These are only a few of my list, but let’s see if I really find the time to write a few article. 

In regards to certification I think I continue with these exams:

This has no priority for now and can wait until next year! Or…I could try the VDP-DW 2018 since I have vacation. Let’s see 😀

New Supermicro Home Lab

For a few years I ve been using three Intel NUC Skull Canyon (NUC6i7KYK) mini PCs for my home lab. Each NUC is equipped with the following:

  • 6th Gen Intel i7-6770HQ processor with Intel Iris Pro graphics
  • 2x 16GB Kingston Value RAM DDR4-2133
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 960 EVO NVMe M.2
  • 1x Transcend JetFlash 710S USB boot device

These small computers were nice in terms of space, but are limited to 32GB RAM, have only 1 network interface and no separate management interface.

This was enough and acceptable when I worked with XenServer, used local storage and just had to validate XenDesktop/XenApp configurations and designs during my time as Citrix consultant.

When I started to replace XenServer with ESXi and created a 3-node vSAN cluster for my first Horizon 7 environment, all was running fine at the beginning. But after while I had strange issues doing vMotions, OS installations, VCSA or ESXi upgrades.

So, I thought it’s time build a “real” home lab and was looking for ideas. After doing some research and talking to my colleague Erik Bussink, it was clear for me that I have to build my computing nodes based on a Supermicro mainboard. As you may know, the Skull Canyons are not that cheap and therefore I will continue using them for my domain controller VMs, vSAN witness, vCenter Server appliance etc.

Yes, my new home lab is going to to be a 2-node vSAN cluster.

Motherboard

I found two Supermicro X11SPM-TF motherboards for a reduced price, because people ordered and never used them. This was my chance and a “sign” that I have to buy my stuff for the new home lab NOW! Let’s pretend it’s my Christmas gift. 😀

The key features for me?

Chassis

I went for the Fractal Design Node 804 because it offers me space for the hardware and cooling. And I like the square form factor which allows me to stack them.

CPU

I need some number of cores in my system to run tests and have enough performance in general. I will mainly run Workspace ONE and Horizon stuff (multi-site architectures) in my lab, but this will change in the future. So I have chosen the 8-core Intel Xeon Silver 4110 Processor with 2.10 GHz.

Memory

RAM was always a limiting factor with my NUCs. I will reuse two of them and start with two 32GB 2666 MHz Kingston Server Premier modules for each ESXi host (total 64GB per host). If memory prices are reducing and I would need more capacity, I easily can expand my system.

Boot Device

Samsung 860 EVO Basic 250GB which is way too much for ESXi, but the price is low and I could use the disk for something else (e.g. for a new PC) if needed.

Caching Device for vSAN

I will remove one Samsung 960 EVO 500GB M.2 of each NUC and use them for the vSAN caching tier. Both NUCs will have still one 960 EVO 500 left to be used as local storage.

Capacity Device for vSAN

Samsung 860 Evo Basic 1TB.

Network

Currently, my home network only consists of Ubiquiti network devices with 1GbE interfaces.

So I ordered the Ubiquiti 10G 16-port switch which comes with four 1/10 Gigabit RJ45 ports – no SFPs needed for now. Maybe in the future 😀

This is the home lab configuration I ordered and all parts should arrive until end of November 2018.

What do you think about this setup?

Your feedback is very welcome!

VCAP7-DTM Design Exam, Part 12

I failed the VCAP7-DTM Design exam, but expected it and the first try of the exam showed me what stuff I need to learn better and where my weaknesses are. Let me tell you about my exam experience.

I arrived on time at the PearsonVUE test center, but they had PC problems and so I had to wait first for 30min until I could start the exam. The timer showed me that I have two hours for the 60 questions. The most of the time I was guessing and eliminating the obviously wrong answers and so I was through 50% of the questions of 50% of the time. If you would know a little bit more than I do and you work/worked with all the products on a daily basis, I would say that the exam is a piece of cake!

Nevertheless, I answered all 60 questions 15 minutes before the timer ended, but I didn’t review any of them, because I knew that I still wouldn’t have the better or correct answers. This may sound to you like I failed with a score of 0, but no. I had 252 of the 300 needed points and this is a sign for me that I just need to improve my weak spots and the topics I didn’t check during my preparation time.

Today I’m going to travel to VMware Airwatch in Milton Keynes (UK) for my VMware Workspace ONE: Deploy and Manage [V9.x] training which starts tomorrow. And I have to prepare a presentation for a roadshow with five events where I will be the speaker of a 30min slot. This means no time for studying yet.

But I’m lucky that I still got a seat at the Digital Workspace Livefire Architecture & Design training taking place in three weeks. This will be last part of my preparation for the retake which I planned for 23rd November 2018. But first I have to wait for my new exam voucher. 🙂

I cannot tell you which topics/technologies or questions were asked during the exam, but I can assure you that I didn’t expect some of the questions – they were just craaaaazy or about veeeery old stuff.

This is also one of my problems. You have to study things which are not valid anymore for the today’s product version or implementation. In a few cases the configuration limits or some parts of an architecture have changed.

So, I read the exam blueprint again and checked some of the attached URLs and document links again. In my opinion the following products and versions you should know for the exam:

  • Horizon 7.2
  • VMware Identity Manager 2.8
  • App Volumes 2.12
  • User Environment Manager 9.1
  • ThinApp 5.1
  • Unified Access Gateway 2.9
  • vSAN 6.2
  • vSphere 6.5
  • vRealize Operations 6.4
  • Mirage 5.x

So, this was my exam experience of the VCAP7-DTM Design exam and my advices after. It is totally okay to fail, because it will just help you if you are not prepared well enough or just went to early for your first shot.

My last advice: Use the note board for the difficult answers and topics you have no clue of. If you have enough time, reviewed your answers and you are ready to end the exam, memorize all your notes. Just in case you didn’t pass, you now have the notess in your mind and could transfer themto your personal notebook. This is totally legal and really helpful! 🙂

Good luck to you if you take the exam. I have another four weeks now to fill the gaps. 🙂 See if I passed or not.

VCAP7-DTM Design Exam, Part 11

My last article was about the Horizon reference architecture and four weeks have already passed since then. My VCAP7-DTM Design exam is scheduled for October 18 – that’s in five days!

I haven’t opened my books the last three weeks, because I think it’s important to take a break and get some distance of your books and documents, which allows you to understand things better and faster and see connections between things you haven’t seen before. And another reason was my pregnant wife who delivered our beautiful daughter on October 4! 🙂

I started from scratch and repeated reading all my training material and PDF documents.

Infrastructure Assessment

To design a Horizon 7 environment you have to follow a process to work out a VMware EUC solution that meets the customer’s requirements and follow the VMware design guidelines and use the reference architectures while considering customer constraints. It is very important that all customer business drivers and objectives are clearly defined. Then you will start to gather and analyze the business and application requirements and document the design requirements, assumptions, risks and constraints. For example, if you talk about technical requirements with your customer, the following categories should be covered:

  • Virtualization infrastructure and data center hardware
  • Storage
  • Networking
  • Security
  • Application
  • Directory services and GPOs
  • Monitoring and performance
  • Management
  • Profile management
  • Peripherals
  • Printing
  • Backup and recovery (business continuity)
  • Endpoints
  • Users/Use cases: correlation between hardware, software and user requirements)
  • High availability
  • Licensing

With the information from the assessment phase, the design work can begin and you create the conceptual design before you head over to create a logical design. Advice: Minimize risks and keep things simple!

Horizon Logical Design

The logical design (high level design) follows the conceptual design and defines how to arrange components and features. It is also useful to understand and evaluate the infrastructure design. The easiest and most common way to create a logical design is the use of architecture layers. Each layer contains one or more components and has functional and technical inter-dependencies:

  • User Layer
    • Self-Service portal
    • Authentication
  • Application Layer
    • Application deployment and type (cloud-based, locally installed, enterprise apps etc.)
  • Desktop Layer
    • Use cases and type of user
    • Scalability and multi-site
    • Desktop types and OS
  • Virtualization Layer
    • Hypervisor
    • Compute, network and storage
    • Graphics
  • Hardware Layer
    • Server
    • Network and storage
  • Management Layer
    • Patching
    • Monitoring
    • Cluster and resources
    • Capacity
    • Backup
  • Security Layer
    • Internal and external
    • Authentication and authorization
    • Policies
    • Antivirus etc.

A Horizon logical design could look like this:

Horizon Logical Architecture

If you need to write down use cases and their attributes, here an example:

AttributeDefinition
Business UnitFinance
User ClassificationTask Worker
Time of use07:00-18:00, mo-fr
User deviceThin Client
PeripheralsNone
ConnectivityLAN
PersistencyNon-persistent desktop
Data centerBasel DC1
AuthenticationWindows Login

Horizon Block and Pod Design

In part 4 I covered this topic how to use a repeatable and scalable approach to design a large scale Horizon environment.

Horizon Component Design

To have a complete design you must define the amount and the configuration of Horizon components required for your environment. You have to include certain design recommendations and design the configuration for Horizon components for your use cases. These are some required infrastructure components:

  • VMware Identity Manager
    • Load Balancing for resiliency and scale
    • Database required
    • Connection to Active Directory
    • SaaS-based implementation recommended
    • Approx. 100’000 users per virtual appliance
  • vCenter Server
    • Up to 10’000 virtual machines per vCenter
      • Recommendation: 2’000 desktops per vCenter
    • Dedicated vCenter Server instance per resource block
    • Database required
  •  Connection Server
    • Up to 2’000 sessions per Connection Server (4’000 tested limit)
    • Database required
    • Install at least one Replica Server for redundancy
    • Max. 7 Connection Servers per pod
      • Load-balanced
    • Max. 10’000 sessions per pod recommended
    • Cloud Pod Architecture
      • Max. 175 Connection Servers
      • Max. 120’000 sessions
      • Max. 5 sites
    • View Composer needed?
      • Database required
  • Security Server (not recommended anymore, use UAG)
    • Should not be member of AD domain
    • Load Balancing
    • Should be hardened Windows server (placed in DMZ)
    • 1:1 mapping with Connection Servers
  • Unified Access Gateway (UAG)
    • Virtual appliance (placed in DMZ) based on linux (Photon OS)
    • Scale-out is independent of Connection Server
    • Does not need to be paired with a single Connection Server
    • Load Balancing

Pool and Desktop Configuration

  • Desktop Configuration
    • Specification (OS, apps, RAM, disk, network)
    • Operating System Builds (master images)
      • Image Optimization (use OSOT)
    • Application Deployment
  • Pool Configuration
    • Map use cases to pools
    • Pool Design
      • Type
      • User Assignment
      • User Experience Settings
      • Pool Size
      • Performance
      • AD Groups
    • Pool Types
      • Automated Desktop Pool
      • Manual Desktop Pool
      • RDS Desktop Pool
    • Desktop Persistence
      • Dedicated
      • Floating
    • Desktop Pool Definition
      • Full Clones
      • Linked Clones (Composer)
      • Instant Clones
    • Remote Display Protocol
      • Blast (H.264 capable, TCP/UDP)
      • PCoIP (UDP)
      • RDP (TCP)
    • 3D Rendering (Horizon 7.2)
      • Nvidia GRID vCPU (shared GPU hardware acceleration)
      • Hardware
      • Virtual Shared Graphics Acceleration (vSGA)
      • Virtual Dedicated Graphics Acceleration (vDGA)
      • Soft 3D (Software-accelerated graphics)
      • AMD Multiuser GPU using vDGA
      • Pool must use PCoIP or Blast
      • (Live vMotion of vGPU VMs is supported since Horizon 7.6)

VMware Infrastructure Design

You need to map the Horizon desktop building block and the Horizon management building block to vSphere and identify factors and design decisions to figure out the sizing of the VMware infrastructure.

  • ESXi Hosts
    • ESXi Host Specifications
    • CPU requirements
    • Memory requirements
    • Storage requirements (specially if using vSAN)
    • Host density (max. VMs/desktops per ESXi host)
    • vSphere cluster requirements (HA and DRS)
  • Storage
    • Storage performance and desktop I/O requirements
      • Types of disks (SSD, SAS, SATA)
      • Dedicated array for VDI
      • FC/Network connectivity
    • Shared Storage recommended
      • vSAN recommended for Horizon desktops
      • Datastore sizing
    • Storage requirements depending on pool configuration
      • E.g. Instant Clones use significantly less storage

Network and Security Design

The network design should be simple, scalable and secure. More secure does not always mean less “user simple” (user experience), but it does less risks and does not imply more complexity.

  • Network
    • UAG appliance load-balanced in DMZ
    • Connection Servers load-balanced inside corporate firewall
      • Security Server would be placed in DMZ if no UAG
    • Know the key firewall considerations for Horizon 7
    • Bandwidth requirements for different types of users
    • LAN considerations
    • WAN considerations (e.g. latency, WAN optimization)
    • Optimization/Policies for display protocols (LAN/WAN)
    • vSphere networking requirements
      • Separate networks for management, VMs, vMotion etc.
      • Physical redundancy
      • Use vSphere Distributed Switch
  • Security
    • Secure your desktops (lockdown, GPOs, UEM)
    • Use secure client connections (secure gateways/tunnel)
    • Use Unified Access Gateway for remote access (use three NICs)
      • View Security Server (if needed)
    • User authentication method from internal and external
      • Two Factor Authentication for external connections
    • Restrict access (tags, AD groups)
    • Use NSX for micro segmentation
    • Install signed SSL certificates

Session Management

Our objective of a Horizon implementation is to provide better support to users than the physical solution. Session management is an aspect of this. Configuration and different settings on the sessions or client device are essential for a smooth user experience.

  • Personalization
    • Profile Management (mandatory profiles recommended)
      • Use folder redirection
    • User User Environment Manager (UEM) for Windows and application settings
      • Personalization
      • Application Configuration Management
      • User Environment Settings
      • Application Migration
      • Dynamic Configuration
  • Just-in-Time Management (JMP) Platform
    • App Volumes (real-time application delivery)
    • Instant Clones (rapid desktop provisioning)
    • User Environment Management (contextual policy management)
  • End-User Desktop Maintenance
    • Maintaining linked-clone desktops with Composer
      • Recompose – Patch and update desktop
      • Refresh – Revert OS disk to the base image snapshot
      • Rebalance – Management of datastore capacity
    • Manage Instant Clones by pushing an image
  • User Authentication Method
    • Smartcard
    • Two Factor Authentication (RSA, RADIUS, SAML, vIDM)
    • True SSO (short-lived certificate for Windows login process)
      • Enrollment Server required
  • ADMX template files for secure remote desktops
  • Client Devices
    • Thin clients, zero clients, fat clients, tablet and smartphones
    • Different Horizon Clients
    • Printing

Delivering Applications

The last topic I quickly repeat is about delivering and managing applications. Horizon has different methods of application delivery and the method of application delivery depends on many factors.

  • Applications in general
    • New or existing applications
    • App Lifecycle
    • Dependencies and conflicts
    • Performance and stability
  • Application delivery methods
    • RDS-hosted apps
    • ThinApp package (containerized applications, isolated from OS)
    • Natively installed Windows apps (in master image)
    • Citrix published apps
    • SaaS
    • App Volumes (real-time application delivery with LCM)
  • ThinApp
    • Isolation modes
      • Merged mode (full write access)
      • WriteCopy mode (restricted write access)
      • Full mode (no read/write access)
    • Package format
      • EXE
      • DAT (when EXE is larger than 200MB)
      • MSI

These are the topics you should cover when you prepare for the VCAP7-DTM Design exam. In addition I also read the following documents:

This is my recommendation. Within the last 8 weeks I’ve effectively studied 5 weeks for the exam. I work approx. since 4 months with Horizon products in a pre-sales role, not as a consultant. I will update you after the exam if the experience combined with learning was enough to pass! 🙂

Did I forget anything? Let me know! Jump to part 12

VCAP7-DTM Design Exam, Part 10

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.

Horizon 7

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.

Horizon 7 Logical Architecture

Identity Manager

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.

VMware Identity Manager Architecture

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.

App Volumes

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.

app volumes architecture

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.

vmware user environment manager

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.

VMware Unified Access Gateway

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.

VMware vSAN

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.

vSphere Networking

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)

VMware NSX for vSphere

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:

NSX isolation

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