Friday, August 23, 2013

Xen Desktop Minimum Cost Deployment Guide


Let's say you're a small business and you need VDI for your staff when they're out of the office / working from home.

Let's face it - Citrix is the established name in this area.

Having said that, they're a bit of a closed book when it comes to purchasing software and licenses and the only way you seem to be able to get it setup is by paying a contractor to set it up for you out the nose.

Well this guide is for those contractors.

Rather than making your customers pay for all sorts of Virtualisation server licensing, there's a cheaper way (in terms of licensing and overall for the customer) to do this, which means more money for you in professional services :)

There's an older verison of Xen Desktop called Xen Desktop 5 Express which is free for 10 users.
That's pretty cool.

There's three main requirements if you want to implement an on-network version of this for free.
Firstly, you need to have a Citrix Xen Virtual Server to run it on, a Windows 2K8 Server and then enough resources to host a bunch of Win 7 guests.

To setup external access, you need some type of SSL-VPN server to provide users with secure but high-speed access to the Citrix VDI service (IPSEC will be WAAAAY too slow).

Anyway, we'll get to the external access bit later.

In all this - there's one thing they don't tell you.

If you want to use VMWare as your Virtualisation platform, you need to use the licensed version of ESX as Xen Desktop requires vCentre when running on VMWares technology.

vCenter iteslf is licensed (and quite expensive) and doesn't work with the free version of ESX.

So - what's your best bet?

It's actually SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper to buy a separate physical server for your Xen Desktop environment and run the free Xen Server on it.

I priced the cost of ESX (licensed) + vCenter Essentials (as at 17/08/13) and that was at least $3000.

The best alternative is to buy a physically separate server for ~$1000 (for a Dell Xeon based unit) and bang the free version of Xen Server on there.

The other alternative is to run Xen Server as a nested host on ESXi but performance will probably suck.

Anyway, that's the best option for a live real world environment for your clients.

To test this in a lab however you can take the nested xen server option.

Requirements for a basic Xen VDI deployment:

  • 2 * Win 2K8 VMs and a Win 7 Pro (or better - AD membership required) VM and then as many VMs as users you will have.

One of the 2k8's runs AD, the other is an AD member and runs all the Citrix server components.

You then have a Win 7 template VM which is used as the base for all the Citrix VDI VMs.

Step 1) Create ESXi guest for Xen Server
Step 2) Enable "vhv" for esxi Xen Server Guest
Step 3) Install Xen Server on VMWare Guest
Step 4) Install 2K8 AD DC.
Step 5) Install 2K8 member and Xen Desktop Server.
Step 6) Install Win7 on guest VM and install any apps you want the VDIs to have.

primary win server required (ad dc)
have to run win 7 vdi install twice (fails first time) - run again after first reboot
account logged in as is one used for xen desktop server config so use a domain admin account
xen desktop 2k8 server storage increased to 48gb
each time you make a vdi it consumes the same amount of storage as the master.

win 7 x32 client used

dhcp configured on dc

xen desktop virtual agent installed as local machine admin (non-domain account)

virtual desktop agent threw no errors using this method.

private and domain firewalls disabled on all servers and workstations

Edit->Preferences->General->[GUI Settings]

Check [x] Always use manual mode when adding links

running xen desktop studio had to add xenlab.local\xenadmin as local admin

install of xen desktop was created using local admin account on 2k8 xendesktop server

domain admin xenadmin was added as local admin on win7 machine before running quick deploy on xendesktop server

when running quick deploy logged on as domain xenadmin received error account permissions not good enough
had to supply local admin account creds (appears account used to install has permission and others don't)

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