VMware Horizon 7 – RDS Farms/Pools

Last Modified: Oct 17, 2017 @ 10:02 am

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This post applies to all VMware Horizon versions 7.0 and newer

Overview

Before following this procedure, build a master RDS Session Host.

This post details VMware Horizon configuration for Remote Desktop Session Host (RDS) Horizon Agents. Virtual Desktops are detailed at Master Virtual Desktop and Virtual Desktop Pools.

Before you can publish applications or desktops, you must create an RDS Farm. An RDS Farm is a collection of identical (cloned) Remote Desktop Session Hosts. Applications must be installed identically on every machine in the farm. If you have different applications on different Remote Desktop Session Hosts then these are different RDS Farms.

Horizon supports up to 200 RDS farms, each with up to 200 RDS hosts.

Once the RDS Farms are created, you publish resources from them by either creating a Desktop Pool or an Application Pool or both. When creating a Desktop Pool or Application Pool, all members of the RDS Farm are selected. It is not possible to select a subset of Farm members.

VMware Tech Paper Best Practices For Published Applications And Desktops in VMware Horizon 7:

  • vSphere Best Practices – Hardware, Network Adapters, ESXi BIOS Settings, ESXi Power Management
  • Core Services Best Practices – Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, NTP, KMS, RDS Licensing
  • ESXi Host Sizing Best Practices
  • RDSH Configuration Best Practices – Optimization
  • Horizon 7 Best Practices – Instant Clones, Load Balancing
  • User Environment Management Best Practices – Horizon Smart Policies, Folder Redirection, User Profiles, Printers, Hardware Graphics Acceleration
  • App Volumes Best Practices – dedicated AppStacks
  • Antivirus Best Practices
  • Maintenance Operations Best Practices – scheduled reboots

RDS Farms – Instant Clones and Composer Linked Clones

Horizon 7.1 and newer offers two methods of creating RDS Farm linked clones:

  • Instant Clones
  • Composer Linked Clones

Instant Clones are the preferred method. Here is the process: Instant Clones for RDSH in VMware Horizon 7.1 YouTube video

  1. You select a snapshot from a master image.
  2. Horizon creates a template VM that boots from the master snapshot. After some prep, the template VM shuts down and creates a new snapshot.
  3. The template snapshot is copied to a Replica VM on every LUN (datastore) that will host RDS Farm VMs.
  4. For each datastore, Horizon creates a Parent VM on every host in the cluster. This parent VM is powered on and running at all times.
  5. The linked clones can finally be created by forking the parent VM to new linked clone VMs. Notes:
    1. Once the Parent VMs are created, creating/recreating linked clones is fast. But it takes time to create all of the Parent VMs.
    2. And the Parent VMs consume RAM on every host. If you have multiple datastores and/or multiple pools, then there are multiple Parent VMs per host, all of them consuming RAM.
  6. You can schedule a periodic reboot of the Instant Clones, which causes the Instant Clone machines to refresh (revert) from the parent VM.
  7. Instant Clones require Distributed vSwitch and Distributed Port Group with Static Binding and Fixed Allocation. Standard vSwitch is not supported. Multi VLAN and vGPU for Instant Clones in VMware Horizon 7.1 YouTube video.

The other Linked Clone option is Horizon Composer. Here are some notes:

  • When Composer creates Linked Clones, Composer uses SysPrep with Customization Specifications. SysPrep is slow.
  • SysPrep is also used whenever the RDS farm is updated with a new master image snapshot.
  • No View Storage Accelerator.
  • No Rebalance.
  • No Refresh. The machines are persistent until you Recompose the farm.
    • The delta disks continue to grow until you Recompose the farm.
    • You can enable Space Reclamation to shrink the delta disks as files are deleted.

Customization Specification – Composer Linked Clones only

If you are using Instant Clones (7.1 and newer), then skip to creating the RDS farm. Customization Specifications are only needed for Composer Linked Clones.

  1. In vCenter, from the Home page, click Customization Specification Manager.
  2. Click the icon to create a new Customization Specification.
  3. In the Specify Properties page, give the spec a name and click Next.
  4. In the Set Registration Information page, enter your normal settings and click Next.
  5. In the Set Computer Name page, select Use the virtual machine name and click Next.
  6. In the Enter Windows License page, select Per seat and click Next.
  7. In the Set Administrator Password page, enter the local administrator password and click Next.
  8. In the Time Zone page, select the time zone and click Next.
  9. In the Run Once page, click Next.
  10. In the Configure Network page, leave it set to Use standard network settings. Horizon requires the VMs to be configured for DHCP. Click Next.
  11. In the Set Workgroup or Domain page, enter credentials that can join the machines to the domain, and click Next.
  12. In the Set Operating System Options page, leave the box checked, and click Next.
  13. In the Ready to complete page, click Finish.

Create an Automatic Farm – Instant Clones and Composer Linked Clones

To create an RDS Farm of linked clones, do the following:

  1. Make sure your RDS master Agent has the VMware Horizon Instant Clone Agent or VMware Horizon View Composer Agent feature installed. You can install one or the other, but not both.
  2. Make sure your RDS master Agent is configured for DHCP.
  3. Computer Group Policy – Make sure the Master VM is in the same OU as the Linked Clones so the Master VM will get the computer-level GPO settings. Run gpupdate on the master after moving the VM to the correct OU. New Instant Clones do not immediately refresh group policy so the group policy settings must already be applied to the master VM. See VMware 2150495 Computer-based Global Policy Objects (GPOs) that require a reboot to take effect are not applied on instant clones.
  4. Shut down the master image.
  5. Edit the specs of the master VM to match the specs you want the linked clones to have.
  6. Take a snapshot of the master image.
  7. In Horizon Administrator, on the left, expand Resources, and click Farms.
  8. On the right, click Add.
  9. In the Type page, select Automated Farm, and click Next.
  10. In the vCenter Server page, select Instant clones or View Composer linked clones depending on which agent you have installed on your RDS master Agent machine.
  11. Select the vCenter Server, and click Next.
  12. In the Identification and Settings page, enter a name for the Farm. A VM folder with the same name will be created in vCenter.
  13. In the Farm Settings section, set Default Display protocol to VMware Blast.
  14. In Horizon 7.3.1 and newer, if you set the Default display protocol to PCoIP, then HTML5 Blast won’t work unless Allow users to choose protocol is set to Yes. See VMware Communities Upgraded from 7.0.1 to 7.3.1, getting “You cannot access your applications or desktops”… error.  💡
  15. Horizon 7.2 supports Pre-launch. If pre-launch is enabled on a published app, when the user logs into Horizon Client, an empty RDS Session is immediately established. When the user double clicks an icon, the program launches quickly since there’s already a pre-launched session. When the user closes Horizon Client, the pre-launch session is disconnected for the duration specified here. The minimum duration is 10 minutes.
  16. For Empty session timeout, set it to 1 minute. For When timeout occurs, set it to Log off. You usually want the session to end when users close all of their applications.
  17. For Log off disconnected sessions, specify a disconnect timer. This is in addition to the idle timer configured in View Configuration > Global Settings.
  18. Check the Enabled box next to Allow HTML Access, and click Next.
  19. In the Provisioning Settings page, enter a naming pattern. Make sure the name includes {n:fixed=3} or something like that.
  20. Enter the number of machines to create, and click Next.
  21. In the Storage Optimization page, click Next.
  22. In the vCenter Settings page, click Browse next to each option, and make a selection.
  23. When selecting a datastore, Instant Clones sets the Storage Overcommit to Unbounded automatically. For Composer Linked Clones, set it to Unbounded. Click OK, and then click Next.

  24. If Composer, in the Advanced Storage Options page, decide if you want space reclamation or not. Space reclamation does reduce disk space but increases IOPS while the operation is occurring. If space reclamation is enabled, also configure a Blackout window so the increased IOPS does not affect production usage. Scroll down.
  25. If you scroll down, you’ll see an option for Transparent Page Sharing. By default it is disabled. You can enable it by setting it to Global. This should reduce some memory consumption. Click Next.
  26. For both Instant Clones and Composer, in the Guest Customization page, select an OU.
  27. Consider the Allow reuse of pre-existing computer accounts check box.
  28. For Composer Linked Clones, select a customization specification, and click Next.
  29. In the Ready to Complete page, click Finish.
  30. If you double-click the farm, on the RDS Hosts tab, you can see the progress of the farm creation operation.
  31. If Composer, since RDS Farms use SysPrep, it will take some time before they become available.
  32. Once the RDS Hosts are created, you publish resources from them by either creating a Desktop Pool, or an Application Pool, or both.

Add more RDS Hosts to an Automatic Farm – Instant Clones and Composer Linked Clones

  1. On the left, expand Resources, and click Farms.
  2. On the right, highlight an existing Automated Farm, and click Edit.
  3. Switch to the Provisioning Settings tab, and change the Max number of machines. Then click OK.
  4. For Instant Clones, if the parent VM is already running on destination host/datastore, then it should only take a minute to add the new VM.
  5. Composer Linked Clones use SysPrep, which takes a while to add the virtual machines. The new VMs reboot several times during the provisioning and customization process.
  6. The farm now has new RDS host(s).

Update an Automatic Farm – Instant Clones and Composer Linked Clones

  1. Power on the master session host.
  2. After making your changes, shut down the master session host.
  3. Right-click the virtual machine and take snapshot. You must create a new snapshot.
  4. Name the snapshot, and click OK.
  5. You’ll need to periodically delete the older snapshots. Right-click the master VM, and click Manage Snapshots.
  6. Delete one or more of the snapshots.
  7. In View Administrator, go to Resources > Farms.
  8. Double-click a farm name.
  9. For Composer Linked Clones, before beginning the Maintenance/Recompose operation, edit the Farm, and on the Provisioning Settings tab, consider specifying a minimum number of ready machines during Instant Clone (or View Composer) maintenance operations. If you leave this set to 0, then all machines will be in maintenance mode, and nobody can connect until Maintenance/Recompose is complete. Instant Clones are recreated quickly enough that this setting might not be needed.
  10. If Instant Clones, on the Summary tab, click Maintenance, and then click Schedule.
  11. If Composer Linked Clones, on the Summary tab, click Recompose.
  12. Instant Clones lets you either schedule recurring reboots, or you can change the Schedule to Immediate to update the machines now (or one time in the future). Click Next.
  13. In the Image page, uncheck the box next to Use current parent VM image, select the new snapshot, and click Next.

  14. In the Scheduling page, decide if the reboot should wait for users to logoff, decide when to apply this new image, and then click Next.

  15. In the Ready to Complete page, click Finish.

  16. On the RDS Hosts tab, you can check on the status of the maintenance/recompose task.
  17. If Instant Clones, it will take a few minutes to create a new parent VM. Once the parent VM is created, the Instant Clones are quickly deleted and recreated.
  18. If Composer Linked Clones, Composer uses SysPrep, which means this will take a while.

Instant Clones Maintenance

  1. If you double-click an RDS Farm that contains Instant Clones, and switch to the RDS Hosts tab, you can right-click a machine, and click Recover. This causes the VM to be deleted and recreated, thus reverting to the master image snapshot.

  2. On the Summary tab of the RDS Farm, you can click Maintenance > Schedule to schedule a reboot of every VM in the RDS Farm. Rebooting cases the VMs to revert to the master image snapshot.
  3. Specify how often you want the reboot to occur, and then click Next.
  4. In the Image page, you don’t have to change the snapshot. Click Next.
  5. Decide what to do about logged on users, and click Next.
  6. In the Ready to Complete page, click Finish.
  7. If you click the Maintenance menu again, you can click Reschedule to change when the reboots are scheduled. Or click Cancel.
  8. If you click Schedule again, you can only schedule a one-time update, typically to replace the master image snapshot used by the RDS Farm.
  9. In Horizon 7.1 and newer, ESXi hosts running Instant Clones can be placed into maintenance mode without any special instructions.

RDS Farms – Manual

To create a manual RDS Farm (no linked clones), do the following:

  1. Make sure the View Composer Agent is not installed on your RDS servers and make sure you saw the screen to register the Agent with a Horizon Connection Server.
  2. In View Administrator, expand View Configuration and click Registered Machines. Make sure your manually-built RDS Host is registered and listed on the RDS Hosts tab.

  3. In View Administrator, on the left, expand Resources and click Farms.
  4. On the right, click Add.
  5. In the Type page, select Manual Farm and click Next.
  6. In the Identification and Settings page, enter a name for the Farm.
  7. In the Farm Settings section, set the Default display protocol to VMware Blast.
  8. Horizon 7.2 adds pre-launch. If pre-launch is enabled on a published app, when the user logs into Horizon Client, an empty RDS Session is immediately established. When the user double clicks an icon, the program launches quickly since there’s already a pre-launched session. When the user closes Horizon Client, the pre-launch session is disconnected for the duration specified here. The minimum duration is 10 minutes.
  9. For Empty session timeout, set it to 1 minute. For When timeout occurs, set it to Log off. You usually want the session to end when users close all of their applications.
  10. For Log off disconnect sessions, specify a disconnect timer. This is in addition to the idle timer configured in View Configuration > Global Settings.
  11. Check the Enabled box next to Allow HTML Access, and click Next.
  12. In the Select RDS Hosts, select one or more identical Remote Desktop Session Hosts. Click Next.
  13. In the Ready to Complete page, click Finish.

Add RDS Host to Manual Farm

  1. On the left, expand Resources and click Farms.
  2. On the right, double-click an existing Farm.
  3. On the right, switch to the RDS Hosts tab and click Add.
  4. Select the new RDS host and click OK.
  5. The farm now has a new RDS host.

Published Desktop

To publish a desktop from an RDS farm, do the following:

  1. In View Administrator, on the left, expand Catalog, and click Desktop Pools.
  2. On the right, click Add.
  3. In the Type page, select RDS Desktop Pool, and click Next.
  4. In the Desktop Pool Identification page, enter an ID and name. They can be different. Click Next.
  5. In the Desktop Pool Settings page:
    1. Horizon 7.3 lets you select a Category Folder where the published icon will be placed on the client’s Start Menu. This applies to Horizon Client 4.6 and newer. See Configuring Start Menu Shortcuts for Desktop and Application Pools at VMware Docs.

    2. Horizon 7.3 adds a checkbox named Client Restrictions. When this is enabled, you can add Client Computer Accounts to an AD Group and entitle the published desktop to that AD group. The published desktop can then only be accessed from the client computers in the AD group. Notes:
  6. Click Next.
  7. In the Select an RDS farm page, select a farm, and click Next.
  8. In the Ready to Complete page, check the box next to Entitle users after this wizard finishes, and click Finish.
  9. In the Entitlements window, click Add.
  10. Browse to an Active Directory group, and click OK.
  11. Then click Close.
  12. If you go to Resources > Farms, double-click your farm, there will be a RDS Pools tab, where you can see which Desktop Pool is associated with this farm.

Published Applications

  1. In View Administrator, on the left, expand Catalog, and click Application Pools.
  2. On the right, click Add.
  3. The purpose of this wizard is to publish applications from an RDS Farm, and entitle them. The entitlements will apply to all of the applications you select on this page. If you want different entitlements for different applications, run this wizard multiple times, and select different applications. Once the applications are published, you can change their entitlements individually.
  4. Select one or more applications.
  5. There are additional options at the bottom of the window.

    1. Horizon 7.2 adds a Pre-launch option for published applications. Enable it on at least one application, and entitle the application to the users that need the Pre-launch feature.
    2. Horizon 7.2 adds the ability to assign tags (Connection Server restrictions) to RDS Desktop Pools.
    3. Horizon 7.3 lets you select a Category Folder where the published icon will be placed on the client’s Start Menu. This applies to Horizon Client 4.6 and newer. See Configuring Start Menu Shortcuts for Desktop and Application Pools at VMware Docs.
    4. Horizon 7.3 adds a checkbox named Client Restrictions. When this is enabled, you can add Client Computer Accounts to an AD Group and entitle the published application to that AD group. The published application can then only be accessed from the client computers in the AD group. Notes:
  6. Click Next when done.
  7. Or you can add an application manually by changing the radio button to Add application pool manually. Notice that Explorer is not one of the listed applications, so Explorer will need to be added manually.
  8. Notice the Entitle users box is checked by default. All of the applications in this list will receive the same entitlements. Click Finish.
  9. Then click Add to select a group that can see these icons.
  10. Horizon 7.1 and newer supports Unauthenticated users, which is detailed at Providing Unauthenticated Access for Published Applications at VMware Docs. Click OK when done.




  11. You can run the wizard again to publish more applications with different entitlements.
  12. If you double-click one of the application pools, on the Entitlements tab, you can change the entitlements.
  13. In Horizon 7.1 and newer, icons for the published apps can be changed using PowerShell. See the YouTube video Customizing Horizon RDSH Application Icons.
  14. If you go to Resources > Farms, double-click your farm, and switch to the RDS Pools tab, you can see which Application Pools (published applications) are associated with this farm. Notice you can’t really do anything from here.

Anti-affinity

You can configure Horizon to restrict the number of instances of an application running on a particular RDS host. Here are some limitations:

  • If the user already has a session then anti-affinity is ignored.
  • If the application is launched from within an RDS Desktop then anti-affinity is ignored.
  • Not recommended for Horizon Mobile clients.

See Configure an Anti-Affinity Rule for an Application Pool at VMware Docs.

Do the following to configure Anti-Affinity:

  1. On the left, expand Catalog, and click Application Pools.
  2. On the right, edit an existing app/pool.
  3. In the Anti-Affinity Patterns field, enter process names to match. Wildcards are supported. Each match is counted.
  4. In the Anti-Affinity Count field, enter the maximum number of matches that can run on a single RDS Host.

Related Pages

2 thoughts on “VMware Horizon 7 – RDS Farms/Pools”

  1. Hello

    First of all ,thank you for sharing !
    We are deploying an Automatic Farm, allowing HTML access with Blast
    At the begining we had certificates alert regarding autosigned blast certificates.
    We now used a wildcard certificate, and have installed it on the RDS Host with success following Vmware KB.
    But composed RDS Host seems to lost certificate private key with the sysprep.
    Have you ever encountered this problem ?

    Thanks in advance

    1. This is a common problem with pooled machines.

      One option is to create a computer startup script that imports the wildcard, sets the registry key, and restarts the Blast service.

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