Windows Virtual Desktop and FSLogix – What you need to know?

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Expanding on my last post on Windows Virtual Desktop,  let’s talk about FSLogix.  So, let start at the beginning, FSLogix was founded by Randy Cook and Kevin Goodman, VDI industry veterans, tackling user experience problems with virtual desktops.

FSLogix was one of the first along with Liquidware to use virtual hard disks as a way to migrate the user’s profile data between virtual desktops and sessions.

Giving users local admin rights on Windows desktops has become a thing of the past.  More and more apps (for example, Modern Apps) install themselves and their caches directly into the user profile (because the user always has permissions to write there).  While there are proven solutions for using only the required parts of the user profile and ignoring things like app installs some administrators prefer the approach of just roaming everything and not trying to manage the contents of the profile.

In the last couple of years, the attention has shifted from user profile roaming to solving the problem of roaming Office 365 caches in virtual desktops, so that they perform and feel as fast as a physical desktop. Microsoft’s early attempt using this approach – User Profile Disks, as introduced in Windows Server 2012 – was a step in the right direction but was lacking, and the acquisition of FSLogix allows them to accelerate their support for this capability.

When a user logs on to their Windows session, the Windows User Profile is loaded. The profile includes everything from the user’s download folder to their mouse scrolling speed preference and everything in between. So you can imagine that profiles can get big.  Check out my blog post on Windows Users Profiles – The Untold Mysteries to learn more.

There are also some programs that create massive profile data like AutoCAD – which – due to Nvidia GRID, works great in a VDI environment but easily generates GB’s of profile data. If the user’s profile grows this big, a roaming profile solution won’t work. Logon will take minutes or in some extreme cases hours to complete because the FileServer will copy all the profile data to the endpoint. Even “just in time” profile technology like Zero Profiling isn’t able to handle the big application data quick enough for a good user experience because it also just copies the data from a FileServer to the endpoint but not in one big chunk like roaming profiles.

So, how does FSLogix Profile Containers help?

FSLogix Profile Containers creates a Virtual Hard Drive (VHD) file on a FileServer and stores the user profile including registry in the VHD file. Sounds relatively simple, right? Although, why does this improve speed? Well, during login the only thing that is happening is that the endpoint mounts the VHD file as a Virtual Hard Drive and then the profile is just accessible. So there is NO data copy! This results in lighting fast logons. And eliminates FileServer and network bottlenecks from login storms.

FSLogix Profile Containers also has additional benefits for the end user native support for Office 365 products, such as Outlook, Search, OneDrive for business, SharePoint folder synchronization, Teams, and Skype for Business GAL

Profile Containers Cloud support

It’s worth mentioning that FSLogix has a cool tech called Cloud Cache. This functionality adds the possibility to add multiple storage repositories to the existing products to provide high availability to on-premises and cloud environments.

Imagine a workspace scenario where you are running a VDI\WVD environment in Microsoft Azure. Typically, you store your profile data on a Windows file share in Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service. The Cloud Cache Driver makes it possible to provide the store of the Containers directly on much less expensive Azure Blob Storage. This is just one of the significant use-cases which FSLogix is solving with this tremendous new Cloud technology.

Other uses of Cloud Cache include high availability in the event of storage or network interruptions, profile storage server migrations, cloud migrations, offline access to FSLogix containers, and more.

So, how do you setup FSLogix Profile containers?

As always first, download the software here.

Next, you need to push the installer to your endpoints.  To make your life easier, use these silent install parameters:

“FSLogixAppsSetup.exe /install /quiet /norestart ProductKey=YOURPRODUCTKEY”. 

With the install, you also get a FSLogix.ADML and ADMX file. You need to copy these to your PolicyDefinitions folder in \YOURDOMAIN\SYSVOL\Policies. Next, you need  to create a new GPO object and set the following options:

Make sure you don’t forget to disable roaming profiles and enable local profiles on the endpoint. You can monitor if the Profile Container is working correctly with the easy FSLogix Tray application located in: “C:\Program Files\FSLogix\Apps\frxtray.exe”.

And that’s it. 🙂  Your users can now log in with the speed of Flash Gordon and you never have to worry about profile issues again. It’s a win\win!

FSLogix technology will be available to Microsoft customers with the following licenses vs just WVD as they had originally stated:

    • M365 E3, E5, F1  – These are subscriptions that include the Windows OS which also includes everything in the Office 365 license and additional tools and security software.
    • Windows E3, E5 – These are subscription licenses of the Windows OS
    • Any Microsoft RDS Server Cal holder  (For example, Citrix XenApp users and this is the newly added part that makes it more available)

Now that we understand how it works, a basic understanding of the setup and licensing.  My next blog post in this series will be a video walkthrough on the setup and usage.

Until next time,

Rob

Nutanix SCVMM Fast Clones Plug-in

Hi Everyone…I love to show off the cool Microsoft integrations that Nutanix has and most recently Nutanix released System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 R2 Fast Clones plug-in.

With NOS 4.1.3, Nutanix has released a Fast Clone plugin for SCVMM.  The plug-in has the ability to provide space efficient, low impact clones from SCVMM and quickly. The plugin is a wrapper around Nutanix powershell commands for Fast Cones. The plugin does need proper access rights to the Hyper-V hosts and SCVMM and already should be setup for most environments that have Nutanix with Hyper-V deployed.  You will need to install the plugin on the SCVMM host along with the Nutanix powershell command-lets.

Once you have the SCVMM Fast Clones plug-in installed, you can start creating Fast Clones right away. Installation is quick and easy and creating clones is just as easy as shown below.

To create VM clones using the Nutanix Fast Clones wizard, follow the below steps:

  1. Start the SCVMM
  2. Navigate to the Nutanix hosts.
  3. Select a host and then select the VM to be cloned.
  4. To invoke the wizard, do one of the following: Click the “Nutanix Fast Clone” button on the top menu-bar. Right-click the target VM and select “Nutanix Fast Clone” from the pop-up context menu:
    fastclones2 Fast Clones
  5. In the Introduction screen, read the instructions and then click the “Next” button.  NOTE: On start of the wizard, it makes a connection to the VMM to be able to communicate with it to run SCVMM PowerShell cmdlets to gather information about the selected VM.
    fastclones1 Fast Clones
  6. The “Identity” screen is displayed. The “Source VM Name” and “Source VM Host Name” is prepopulated, enter the following information and then click the “Next” button:
    1. Clone Type: Click the “Clone One Virtual Machine” radio button and enter a name for the clone when creating a single clone or click the “Clone Multiple Virtual Machines” radio button and enter the following information:
      1. VM Prefix Name: This is the root part of the new VM name.
      2. Beginning Suffix: a number to start the numbering of the new VMs
      3. Number of Clones: a number between 1 and 100.
        fastclones3 Fast Clones
  7. In the Authentication screen, enter the Prism and VMM Service Account user names and passwords in the appropriate fields, and then click the “Next” button.
    fastclones4 Fast Clones
  8. In the “Select Path” screen, select the destination path and then click the “Next” button. Leave the default path “as is” or change it to a new path as needed by clicking the “Change the default path” box. Click the Browse button to select a destination path for the clone VMs. This is the path where virtual machine configuration files will be stored. The path must be on the same Nutanix SMB share as the VM configuration file.
    fastclones5 Fast Clones
  9. In the “Add Properties” screen, click the appropriate radio button to either power on or not power on the VMs after cloning and then click the “Next” button.
    fastclones6 Fast Clones
  10. In the Summary screen below, review (confirm) the settings are correct.
    fastclones7 Fast Clones
    Clicking the “View Script” button displays the script to be executed:
    fastclones9 Fast Clones
    Clicking the “Enable Verbose Messages” displays detailed log messages as the VMs are being created.
  11. When the settings are correct, click the “Create” button to create the cloned VM(s). An hour glass is displayed and progress messages are displayed.
  12. After the clones are created, click the Finish button to close the wizard and you just created VM’s at lighting speed.fastclones10 Fast Clones

If you want to check out Fast Clones for your environment, you can download Fast Clones from the Nutanix Portal at https://portal.nutanix.com.

Below is a demo video shows traditional cloning vs Fast Clones that my buddy @mcghem created.  It shows the awesome benefit of Fast Clones.

As always, if you have any questions please post a comment.

Until next time….Rob

Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference 2015…Picture Highlights

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This gallery contains 48 photos.

Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference 2015 WPC is the largest event for Microsoft partners When it comes to meeting the right people in the right place, bigger is better. The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) brings together over 15,000 attendees … Continue reading

NPP Training series – Cluster Components with Hyper-V

To continue NPP training series here is my next topic: Cluster Components

If you missed other parts of my series, check out links below:
Part 1 – NPP Training series – Nutanix Terminology
Part 2 – NPP Training series – Nutanix Terminology
Cluster Architecture with Hyper-V

Data Structure on Nutanix with Hyper-V
I/O Path Overview

To give credit, most of the content was taken from Steve Poitras’s “Nutanix Bible” blog as his content is the most accurate and then I put a Hyper-V lean to it.

Cluster Components

The Nutanix platform is composed of the following high-level components:

NDFS_Cluster Components

Cassandra

  • Key Role: Distributed metadata store
  • Description: Cassandra stores and manages all of the cluster metadata in a distributed ring like manner based upon a heavily modified Apache Cassandra.  The Paxos algorithm is utilized to enforce strict consistency.  This service runs on every node in the cluster.  Cassandra is accessed via an interface called Medusa.

Medusa

  • Key Role: Abstraction layer
  • Description: Medusa is the Nutanix abstraction layer that sits in front of the cluster’s distributed metadata database, which is managed by Cassandra..

Zookeeper

  • Key Role: Cluster configuration manager
  • Description: Zeus stores all of the cluster configuration including hosts, IPs, state, etc. and is based upon Apache Zookeeper.  This service runs on three nodes in the cluster, one of which is elected as a leader.  The leader receives all requests and forwards them to the peers.  If the leader fails to respond a new leader is automatically elected.   Zookeeper is accessed via an interface called Zeus.

Zeus

  • Key Role:  Library interface
  • Description: Zeus is the Nutanix library interface that all other components use to access the cluster configuration, such as IP addresses. Currently implemented using Zookeeper, Zeus is responsible for critical, cluster-wide data such as cluster configuration and leadership locks.

Stargate

  • Key Role: Data I/O manager
  • Description: Stargate is responsible for all data management and I/O operations and is the main interface from Hyper-V (via SMB 3.0).  This service runs on every node in the cluster in order to serve localized I/O.

Curator

  • Key Role: Map reduce cluster management and cleanup
  • Description: Curator is responsible for managing and distributing tasks throughout the cluster including disk balancing, proactive scrubbing, and many more items.  Curator runs on every node and is controlled by an elected Curator Master who is responsible for the task and job delegation.  There are two scan types for Curator, a full scan which occurs around every 6 hours and a partial scan which occurs every hour.

Prism

  • Key Role: UI and API
  • Description: Prism is the management gateway for component and administrators to configure and monitor the Nutanix cluster.  This includes Ncli, the HTML5 UI and REST API.  Prism runs on every node in the cluster and uses an elected leader like all components in the cluster.

prism1 Cluster Components prism2 Cluster Components

Genesis

  • Key Role: Cluster component & service manager
  • Description:  Genesis is a process which runs on each node and is responsible for any services interactions (start/stop/etc.) as well as for the initial configuration. Genesis is a process which runs independently of the cluster and does not require the cluster to be configured/running.  The only requirement for genesis to be running is that Zookeeper is up and running.  The cluster_init and cluster_status pages are displayed by the genesis process.

Chronos

  • Key Role: Job and Task scheduler
  • Description: Chronos is responsible for taking the jobs and tasks resulting from a Curator scan and scheduling/throttling tasks among nodes.  Chronos runs on every node and is controlled by an elected Chronos Master who is responsible for the task and job delegation and runs on the same node as the Curator Master.

Cerebro

  • Key Role: Replication/DR manager
  • Description: Cerebro is responsible for the replication and DR capabilities of DFS(Distributed Storage Fabric).  This includes the scheduling of snapshots, the replication to remote sites, and the site migration/failover.  Cerebro runs on every node in the Nutanix cluster and all nodes participate in replication to remote clusters/sites.

Pithos

  • Key Role: vDisk configuration manager
  • Description: Pithos is responsible for vDisk (DFS file) configuration data.  Pithos runs on every node and is built on top of Cassandra.

Next up, Data Structures which comprises high level structs for Nutanix Distributed Filesystem

Until next time, Rob….

VHD vs. VHDX: Hmm….What’s the Difference

I get asked this all the time….and here is my answer. Microsoft’s virtual hard disk format, VHDX, has some important advantages over the legacy VHD format, as this VHD vs. VHDX comparison shows.

The release of Windows Server 2012 brought many new virtualization improvements, but one that caught the eye of many IT pros was the introduction of the VHDX file format. Windows Server 2012 supports the new format but also lets Hyper-V administrators use the legacy VHD format. With two virtual hard disk formats to choose from, let’s take a minute to talk about VHD vs. VHDX.

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