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May 07 2012

Ubuntu Linux with VMware View and PCoIP – How-to…

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I have recently published a video of a Ubuntu Linux desktop brokered by VMware View using PCoIP display protocol. This video received a lot of attention and I received in numerous twits, direct messages and emails asking how one would be able to implements the solution. After all the enquires, one thing is clear to me – the demand for Linux hosted desktops is out there and growing by the day. This growth is not only due to Linux based application requirements, but also because of organizations trying to break free from the vicious cycle of Microsoft licensing nightmare and it’s costs.

For those of you who didn’t have the chance to watch the video I’m publishing it again…watch in Full HD for better experience.

 

 

Most of us know that to this date (May, 2012) VMware View does not support Linux desktops, nor PCoIP display protocol being used with Linux desktops.

The video I published was in part a response to a question that  a VMware colleague posed to me last week. Some of you may find this solution not appropriate for production deployments; however for some others it may represent a solution for a real business problem.

How to present remote Linux desktops to my end-users with VMware View today?

 

So, I decide to enumerate the truths about what you are seeing in this video.

Truth Number 1 – Yes, Ubuntu Linux is being displayed using PCoIP display protocol and users are getting all the PCoIP benefits, including the desktop-like and the lossless experience.

Truth Number 2 – Yes, Ubuntu Linux is being brokered by VMware View, therefore providing users the ability to use VMware View client on computers, tablets and Zero Clients to connect to their virtual desktops.

Truth Number 3 – No, Ubuntu Linux is not running natively in the virtual desktop. A Windows image is running as the base operating system.

Truth Number 4 – Yes, VMware Player is running inside the Windows virtual desktop to present Ubuntu to the end-users.

Truth Number 5 – Yes, a 3 second frame has been cut from the video. In those frames VMware View was executing the seamless Single-Sign On into the Windows desktop that already had Ubuntu running on VMware PLayer in Full Screen mode.

 

The architecture I used is rather simple and stack as the picture below:

 

image

 

For organizations that have the need to provide remote access to Linux desktops running graphic intensive applications this solutions may represent a good workaround to the lack of Linux and PCoIP support.

However, this solution can also be used to avoid the upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8, while moving end-users to Linux based guest OS. If your organization already have Windows XP licenses you should be able to strip it down to it’s bare bones removing all unnecessary components (nLite is still a good option for that end) and making sure that virtual desktops are powering On the VMware Player Linux desktop in full screen mode after boot or logon.

Another good user case could be related to developers or engineers that need access to a full blown Linux desktop that must live in a secured or in-confidence zone of the network.

 

How-to…

  1. Install Windows OS as usual (better if you strip it down)
  2. Install VMware Tool and View Agent as usual
  3. Install VMware Player
  4. Create a virtual machine and install the desired Linux distribution (when asked to download VMware Tools for the guest, say No)
  5. Configure VMware Player to start in Full Screen mode adding the following to the preference.ini settings file:pref.vmplayer.fullscreen.autohide = “TRUE”
    pref.autoFit = “FALSE”
    pref.autoFitGuestToWindow = “TRUE”
    pref.autoFitFullScreen = “fitGuestToHost”

You could go further and automate VMware Player restart with a PowerShell task monitoring script to help user that may accidentally shutdown the Linux desktop. Another option would be a simple script running in the background to always bring the focus to VMware Player.  If you do so, please send me the script for publishing along with this article.

 

Finally, I would like to make some considerations before anyone start deploying this:

  • A Windows License is still required as Windows is still the Guest OS.
  • Running VMware Player with Linux on top of Windows require additional CPU, Memory and IO resources.
  • Linux run with minimal memory footprint, however you should make sure that there is enough RAM to accommodate Linux OS and application memory footprint  to avoid memory swap. The lack of memory in both operating systems could create a scenario of double disk swap.
  • If you allow double disk swap to happen  make sure that the storage if backed by SSD or a very fast storage tier.
  • Linux support VNC and RDP protocols and may be directly accessed without VMware View; however it won’t provide the same graphic experience to end-users.
  • Is this supported by VMware? I would like to encourage you to talk to your VMware Rep.
  • What about USB and Printing? I have not tested yet. If you do, please let me know how it goes.

This article was first published by Andre Leibovici (@andreleibovici) at myvirtualcloud.net.

 

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://myvirtualcloud.net/?p=3275

14 comments

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  1. Datto

    A person could also use XRDP to access Linux desktops accessed through the Windows RDP client. In that case, you’d get a Linux desktop in an RDP session while sitting at your Windows computer. The Linux sessions would come from a single Linux box (or VM for that matter) which would act like a Terminal Services box serving up multiple XRDP Linux desktops.

    I use CentOS as the Linux flavor — haven’t tried other flavors.

    http://www.xrdp.org/

    I used an RPM (download the matching RPM version to the Linux type and version) to do the install:

    http://rpmfind.net/linux/rpm2html/search.php?query=xrdp

    Sure would be nicer if VMware would just set up a fling or similar to get Linux desktops coming directly but XRDP has worked fine for me for now.

    Datto

  2. Mike Brown

    Good day!

    This actually works well. We used a similar setup with XP and Player for a custom app in Linux used by the US Army. Folks would log in to a thick XP client, then log in to an XP View desktop, which automatically ran Player and the Linux app in full screen mode. This was a training environment, but the desktops and app worked just fine. As you note, your physical hardware needs to support it, but it’s certainly do-able when one must implement it.

    Cheers!

    Mike Brown

    http://VirtuallyMikeBrown.com
    https://twitter.com/#!/VirtuallyMikeB
    http://LinkedIn.com/in/michaelbbrown

  3. Lieven

    A petition to push VMware in developing a View desktop agent for Linux: http://www.change.org/petitions/view-development-department-development-of-a-view-desktop-agent-for-linux

  4. Andre Leibovici

    @Lieven
    Nice! :-)

    Andre

  5. Brian

    I don’t know if the demand is that big right now but sure to grow. I think if you could get Apple to allow this there would be a huge demand.

    Would be nice if VMware was working on these while trying to garner support and demand.

  6. Andre Leibovici

    @Datto
    Thanks for sharing the solution. Would be good to have RDP support for Linux in VMware View.

    Andre

  7. Andre Leibovici

    @Mike Brown
    Thanks for sharing the solution. You also could run the Linux OS in Unity Mode and publish the application in use only. That should work as a treat in your case.

    Andre

  8. Andre Leibovici

    @Brian
    I am not sure that I understand what you are trying to say when you mention the Apple support.

    Andre

  9. Tim Mori

    I heard about this at VMworld and wanted to give it a shot. I’m not sure if newer versions of things (ESX 5.0 update1, vmware player 5, windows 7 32-bit base image) has broken this, but in trying this out, each time I’ve installed VMware player, upon rebooting of the windows 7 guest VM, the mouse driver has become corrupted in some way.

    I was able to move a pre-built ubuntu vm over to the base image and it will run, but the mouse is still not usable. I’ve tried uninstalling and re-installing vmware tools without any success.

  10. Tim Mori

    I think I found a way past the problem by installing player first, getting the Ubuntu vm working and then installing Tools and finally installing the View Agent.

    Pretty cool so far.

  11. suanhwee

    hi
    i managed to install the vmware player however i couldnt get the redhat vm running in windows xp to ping outside the windows xp environment

    im running vsphere 5.1

    i could ping the windows xp host though but not outside of it. for the redhat vm i tried disabling firewall n selinux (didnt work as well)

    anything i missed?

    have u encountered this issue?

    thanks

  12. Andre Leibovici

    @suanhwee I did not run into this issue, but make sure ou are using NAT for your VMware Player network.

  13. REZ

    So basically you would still need a windows 7 license…

  14. Andre Leibovici

    REX, yes you do. However, this is not a proper solution. I would recommend looking for a solution that offers support for Linux.

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