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.
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
- 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.