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:
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.
- Install Windows OS as usual (better if you strip it down)
- Install VMware Tool and View Agent as usual
- Install VMware Player
- Create a virtual machine and install the desired Linux distribution (when asked to download VMware Tools for the guest, say No)
- 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.