With my company I work for (Ictivity), we decided to develop a mobile Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) and End User Computing (EUC) lab environment. This mobile lab environment will be used to demo the VMware SDDC and End User Computing (EUC) stack with integration of third party solutions. One of the reasons to use a physical lab environment instead of cloud services was flexibility and having no dependencies.
The past moths I’ve got asked what components we used to build this lab environment. So here is an quick overview. The environment logically looks like the picture below:
This environment contains three physical hosts with VMware ESXi installed and one switch. One ESXi host function as management host. On this management host the following software bits are installed:
- vSphere 6
- VSAN Witness
- NSX Manager
- Fortigate VMX
- vRealize components
- The End User Computing stack such as Horizon View, App Volumes, User Environment Manager and Identity Manager
The other 2 ESXi hosts function as demo cluster. On this 2-node cluster the following software bits are installed:
- vSphere 6
- Virtual SAN (VSAN) All Flash (AF) configuration
- NSX integration
- Windows 10l
- Windows Server 2012 R2
A laptop is used to connect to the lab environment.
What component are used?
Some highlights of this lab are:
- 4U rackmount flightcase
- Mini-ITX motherboard
- Intel Xeon D-1541 single socket System-on-Chip 8 core processor
- 2 x 10 GbE Ethernet adapters
- Only SSD is used
- IPMI port
The case is a robust custom made 19″ 4U rackmount flightcase with a removable front and back. It has two wheels so you can carry it easily around. This case contains 3 servers and one switch.Here is a picture of the case including alle the hosts and the switch.
The flightcase contains three SuperMicro SYS-5018D-FN4T 1U Rackmount hosts with the following hardware specifications:
- Chassis: SuperMicro 19″ 1U with a 200W Gold level power supply. Optimized for Mini-ITX (SuperChassis SC505-203B)
- Motherboard: Super X10SDV-8C-TLN4F Mini-ITX board
- Processor: 1 x Intel Xeon D-1541 single socket System-on-Chip. This processor contains 8 cores with 16 threads (hypertreading)
- Memory: 4x DDR4 DIMM sockets (maximum 128 GB, 4 x 32GB DDR4 ECC memory)
- LAN: 2 x 10GbE and 2 x 1 GbE and 1 x IPMI LAN port
- Expansion slots: 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot and a M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4
- Video: Aspeed AST2400
- USB: 2x USB 3.0 and 4x USB 2.0
- Memory: 4 x 32GB = 128 GB
- SSD: 2 x Samsung PM863 MZ-7LM1T9E – SSD Enterprise – 1.92 TB – intern – 2.5″ – SATA 6Gb
- Disk: Seagate Enterprise 6 TB disk (for backup)
- USB Stick: Sandisk Ultra Fit USB3 16 GB (for booting ESXi)
Each host contains the following hardware:
- Memory: 2 x 16GB = 32 GB per server
- SSD: 1 x Intel P3500 SSD 1.2 TB PCIe 3.0 x4 (NVMe) and Samsung 950 Pro V-Nand M.2 PCI-e SSD 512GB
- USB Stick: Sandisk Ultra Fit USB3 16 GB (for booting ESXi)
- Switch: Netgear ProSafe Plus XS708E 8 x 10 Gbps +SFP slot
- 6 x UTP CAT6 0.50 cm cables
- 1 x UTP CAT6 5m
- 1 x UTP CAT6 10m
With this mobile SSDC lab environment we archived the following benefits:
- Mobile and easy to carry around
- Flexibility to install the latest VMware SDDC and 3e party software
- No dependency
- Enough horsepower
- Low noise and power consumption
- Remote accessible from our datacenter
- IPMI and KVM support
For a new End User Computing (EUC) project I installed a Hybrid Virtual SAN (VSAN) configuration on HP Proliant server hardware. VSAN will be used as storage layer for VDIs. Each HP Proliant DL360 Gen9 server has the following components:
- HP Workload Accelerator as caching device
- HP Smart Array P440 controller with several 10k SAS disks as capacity tier
To enable VSAN the the first thing to do is to check the VSAN HCL(link)
The VSAN HCL gives important information about:
- What hardware is supported?
- What configuration does the HP Smart Array controller support?
- VSAN supported version(s)
- Device driver and firmware versions including the download location of the driver.
All the hardware is supported and the firmware levels are listed in the HCL. So the next step is to do is to configure the HP Smart Array P440 controller in Pass-Through mode. HP calls this “HBA mode”. In HBA mode, all physical drives are presented directly to the operating system and the hardware RAID engine is disabled. This can be done in the Smart Storage Administrator.
After enabling the HBA mode the hosts needs a reboot.
The next step it to install the server with the HP Custom ESXi image . After the installation the ESXi, the HP Smart Array Controller is not recognized because the driver is not included. This same is for the HP Workload Accelerator that will serve for the caching tier. Download both drivers and add them to vSphere Update Manager. After both drivers are installed check the HP Smart Array Controller by using the following command (included in the HP Customed ESXi image):
esxcli hpssacli cmd -q "controller "slot=1" show config detail"
The “slot=” option depends on the slot number the HP Smart Array P440 controller is installed.
To list the drives attached to the controller with the following command:
esxcli hpssacli cmd -q "controller slot=1 physicaldrive all show"
The Workload Acccelerator status can be displayed with the following command:
The last step is to open the vSphere Web Client, start enabling VSAN and claiming the disks.
Horizon 7 introduced the Instant Clone feature leverages the vmFork technology introduced in vSphere 6.0 U1. With Instant Clone technology it is possible to clone and deploy a VDI desktop VMs in seconds. This is called the Just-In-Time Desktop.
Below is an overview how an Instant Clone VM is created:
- Master Image. The Master Image or Golden Image is a Windows 7 or 10 optimized image that contains installed software such as the Horizon Agent for example.
- Snapshot. A snapshot is taken of the master image.
- Template. Per snapshot a linked clone template is created of the master image.
- Replica. The replica is a full clone of the Template that is thin provisioned. The replica uses Content Based Read Cache (CBRC) and can be place on a specific datastore. This is the shared read disk for the desktop VMs.
- Parent. Per ESXi host a parent VM is created. The parent is powered on. From this Parent Instant Clones are created using vmFork.
- Instant Clone. In a couple of seconds the the Instant Clone is created. The Instant Clone will grow depending on the change rate but at logoff the Instant Clone is deleted and a new Instant Clone is created.
In the vCenter Server the following VM conventions are created:
- Template: cp-template-xxx
- Replica: cp-replica-xxx
- Parent: cp-parent-xxxx
What to know about Instant Clones
- vSphere 6.0 U1 or higher is needed for Instant Clones.
- For the Instant Clone feature Horizon Enterprise or Horizon Air in Hybrid-mode is needed.
- The Horizon View Storage Accelerator must be enabled.
- Instant clones VMs are always powered-on.
- Each time a user logs out of an Instant Clone, the desktop is deleted and a new desktop is provisioned and powered on.
- The Master image must be installed with Hardware Version 11.
- Uses ClonePrep for customization specification. All the Instant Clones uses a Single SID.
- Parent VMs are tied to VMware ESXi host they are on and cannot be migrated or powered off through the vSphere (web) Client. This prevents an ESXi host from entering maintenance mode. Follow KB2144808 to put an ESXi host in maintenance mode.
- In the Horizon Agent, the Instant Clone feature must be enabled and the Composer must be disabled. It is not possible to enable both the View Composer and Instant Clone in the same Horizon Agent.
- Instant Clones is part of the Horizon Connection Server. So no additional infrastructure component is needed. If the Horizon Connection Server fails another Horizon Connection Server takes over.
- A Instant Clone Domain Admin is needed to add the Instant Clone to the Active Directory.
- Deploy applications and System updates by updating the parent image and create a new snapshot. With the new push image feature you can point to the new snapshot.
What is supported:
- Only Single-user desktops
- Only floating pools
- 1 vCenter Server maximum
- 1 VLAN only
- Windows 10 (32-64 bit) and Windows 7 SP1 (32-64 bit) as desktop Operating Systems
- Maximum number of 2 monitors with a resolution up to 2560×1600
- VMFS and Virtual SAN (VSAN) storage
- Scales up to 2000 Instant Clones per pool
- vMotion, DRS and HA
What is not supported
- Persona Management
- 3D Graphics (NVIDIA GRID), only limited SVGA support
- Virtual Volumes, VAAI, NFS or local datastores
- Disposable disk
- Dedicated pools
- Persistent disks. If you need persistency use for example App Volumes with a writable disk and User Environment Manager (UEM).
- Storage vMotion of the Instant Clone
Horizon 7 includes a great new enhancement called “Instant Clones”. Within seconds VDI desktop VMs can be deployed. There is no extra infrastructure components needed such as a Composer service. With this version of Instant Clones there are some caveats you need aware off before implementing in production. Further versions of VMware Horizon will improve Instant Clones to add more support.
After upgrading to VMware Horizon View 7, the administrator webpage displays a blank error window when trying to connect using the IP address of the Connection Server.
Horizon View 7 adds new security features that checks for the original URL for the web request. If not, it rejects the request and display the blank error window.
Steps to resolve this:
- Use https://FQDN/admin
- On every Connection Server create a locked.properties text file in c:\Program Files\VMware\VMware View\Server\sslgateway\conf
- Add the following line:
- Save the file
- Restart the “VMware Horizon View Connection Server” service
After the modification you’re able to connect to the View Administrator URL using the IP address of the Connection Server.
VMware released vRealize Log Insight 3.3. vRealize Log Insight is a log monitoring and analytics dashboarding tool like Splunk.
In version 3.3 a new product license is added. For each vCenter Server Standard license you will get a free 25 OSI pack license for vRealize Log Insight. So every customer with a vCenter standard license can use vRealize Log Insight with no additional costs. OSI stands for Operating System Instance. For example 1 vCenter Server and 10 ESXi hosts counts as 11 OSI licenses. With a 25 OSI pack, 14 licenses are available for monitoring other devices or Operating Systems (Windows and Linux).
vRealize Log Insight 3.3 is available as appliance and can be downloaded here, link. The appliance is installed and configured within 15 minutes.
In the appliance enter the license number of the vCenter Server standard license. There is no additional license needed.
One vCenter Standard license is limited to 25 OSIs and only Content Pack published by VMware can be installed.
In order to enable other non VMware Content Packs, you’ll need to purchase a full-feature license for Log Insight.
vRealize Log Insight is a log analyzer and troubleshoot tool that is available for every vCenter Standard customer. A great way to get a better view of the VMware vSphere environment you’re hosting.