VMware View 5 Lab on a basic home PC with 8GB RAM

This was an interesting project which offered a few lessons I thought I’d share.  It demonstrates how much you can do with little resources as well as how simple VMware View 5 is to configure.

Basically I built a functional VMware View 5 environment all running from a standard PC with 8GB of RAM and a single SATA spindle.  Why attempt this?

My original idea was to access a Windows 8 (dev.  preview) desktop using an iPad over View 5.  This part of the concept fell apart when I discovered that Windows 8 would not install in a nested ESXi 5 host.  Windows 8 runs fine under VMware Workstation 8, but the problem here is an ESXi5 host running UNDER Workstation 8.  The Windows 8 bootstrap would initialize, but once the Windows 8 kernel was fully loaded, the VM powered off with a CPU error.

My next idea was to do the same with a Windows 7 desktop, but I eventually learned that there are some challenges with the current iPad view client and SSL, which has not been updated for View 5 yet.  But I did get the View 5 environment fully functional for Windows clients.

CONFIGURATION

The hardware is a basic Dell PC (Intel Sandy Bridge) with 8GB of RAM and a single SATA spindle.  All the software I used consisted of trial versions obtained from either Microsoft or VMware.

For VMs I would need the following:

  • AD Domain Controller
  • vCenter
  • View Connection Server
  • ESXi5 host
  • Windows 7 desktop

It became a challenge to find the right mix of settings within VMware Workstation and the VM’s to get the memory and disk I/O stabilized. I had originally used the vCenter appliance until I noticed that View 5 currently requires a Windows based vCenter which required a bit more RAM.   I also disabled Aero on the Windows 7 host PC to gain some extra memory.

If I allocated too little memory to the VMs, the guest OS would swap at various points – sometimes constantly swap – making it nearly impossible to do anything.  The final mix of VM’s running under Workstation 8 looked like this:

  • AD Domain Controller (2008 R2) – 512MB
  • vCenter 5 (2008 R2) – 1.5GB
  • View 5 Connection Server – 1GB
  • ESXi 5 host – 2GB

That’s 5GB of VM’s running under VMware Workstation 8 running on top of Windows 7.  The ESXi5 host would of course host an additional Windows 7 VM which would be presented by the View 5 connection server.

One thing I perhaps could have done to improve memory utilization would have been to move more of the VM’s under the nested ESXi host – this would have allowed the use of transparent page sharing (TPS) which would have reduced the memory footprint by de-duplicating common memory pages across VMs.  As I had only 1 SATA spindle I skipped this extra VM importing activity and tried to make progress with the status quo.

After various DNS tricks and more I got to the point where everything was functional.  The actual configuration of View 5 was incredibly fast and straight forward.  Add a vCenter server, create a pool, add VMs and configure the settings appropriately.  The actually View configuration took only a few minutes and after experimenting with the settings I was able to connect to the Windows 7 VM – nested two hypervisors deep – using a View 5 client.

The biggest takeaways for me was what could be accomplished with so few resources (no cost beyond the PC!) and also how powerful yet simple to configure View 5 was.  Granted this was not a complex View 5 configuration but with other products there would be many more configuration steps (and time) involved.  I was also impressed with the PCoIP 5 experience.  Even though everything was on my local home network the user experience (with Aero turned on in the hosted VM and 3D graphics enabled in View) was remarkably fast and responsive and felt much more “snappier” than I ever recalled RDP feeling.

When you look at everything View 5 can do and start adding things like vShield Endpoint, Persona Management, mobile endpoints (iPad, Android, etc.) and how the entire desktop provisioning process is vastly simplified from the “traditional” full PC model , there’s a great deal of value and productivity available in the View 5 suite.  We’ve been hearing that 20xx will be the year of VDI for quite some time.  I think VDI is on the verge of a big push and View 5 will be a big part of that.

9 Responses to VMware View 5 Lab on a basic home PC with 8GB RAM

  1. Matt B says:

    I’ve not had any issues with View 5 connection through SSL via Security Server from my iPad, what problems did you run into? The only issue I’ve had around View and SSL is the nightmare of setting of SSL java keystores with intermediate certs, it’s painful. If this is a home lab and you’ve not got a static IP for your router, I recommend the following post to get View working with a dynamic IP: http://www.gabesvirtualworld.com/enabling-vmware-view-4-6-pcoip-with-dynamic-ip-address/

    Use Server 2003 if you’re not concerned with Server 2008’s advanced GPO functionality, it’ll help you think down the disk footprint of your VMs.

    Also, if you want to try the Win8 DP over View, you could try running View 5 in Workstation then loading the agent into the VM and brokering to it as if it were a standalone, physical machine. I’ve not yet played with it, but it sounds plausible.

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Matt. Thanks for responding.

      I didn’t do anything on the View side with SSL certs (yet). So I got the Windows client to connect once I disabled SSL.

      On the iPad there do not seem to be any connection options. When I enter the View connection server’s IP the iPad simply times out saying that it was unable to connect.

      I honestly did not take the time to look at the SSL config in more detail. Perhaps I will revisit later this week. Thanks

  2. Mike Preston says:

    Nice post. I have always run vcentre outside of my nested esxi, I’ve never even thought of the improvements with TPS. Might have to give that a shot!

  3. Mittal Parekh says:

    Now try this with Citrix VDI-in-a-Box(Kaviza). It is simpler. You don’t need VirtualCenter. Also, for small home deployments such as you have described, you don’t need an AD domain controller (you can use one if you want) VDI-in-a-Box allows Windows Workgroups. Not having these two components will saved you 2GB and eliminate the swapping issues. Finally, VDI-in-a-Box comes with HDX which supports Aero and works with over 1B devices including the iPad.
    ..Just a thought.

    Look me up @parekhmittal on twitter!

  4. Richie says:

    Hi,

    It was inspiring to see your archievement.

    I tried to do the same things but having a network trouble. Not sure if you know how to overcome.

    My network issue:

    Environment Structure

    Router (192.168.6.1)
    -Linux
    –VM Work Station 8
    — ESXi5 (192.168.6.220)
    —srv01 ((Win2008r2) (192.168.6.221)(static ip)
    —srv02 (WIn2008r2) (192.168.6.111)(DHCP)

    srv01 can ping srv02
    srv01 can ping ESXi5
    srv01 cannot ping

    srv02 can get ip from DCHP server (192.168.6.1)
    srv02 can ping srv01
    srv02 can ping ESXi5
    srv02 cannot ping Router

    Router cannot ping srv01, srv02
    Router can ping ESXi5

    Question:
    What should I do:
    to get srv01 ping Router
    to get router to ping srv01?

    Network structure:
    http://communities.vmware.com/servlet/JiveServlet/showImage/2-1857162-16901/Network+structure.png

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  6. DraganRadakovic says:

    Would have been really awesome if you could make a youtube tutorial on how you did this. I tried doing that with the current videos on youtube and it was very complicated but the biggest issue was i needed to run way too many virutal machines. 4 Windows servers to be exact. My 8gigs of ram werent enough.

  7. Tuan Huynh says:

    Did you have to configure a DNS server? When I try to add my View Connection Server to my AD, it gives me a DNS error. I get the prompt to enter a username/password to join the domain and then get the error

    “The following error occurred attempting to the join the domain “xyx.”:

    An attempt to resolve the DNS name of the domain controller in the domain being joined has failed. Please verify this client is configured to reach a DNS server that can resolve DNS names in the target domain. For information about network troubleshooting, see Windows help.”

    Thanks

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