In the test: NexentaVSA for View

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Today I was asked to give NexentaVSA for View a good test-drive in my lab. I use Nexenta CE for my home lab and since I start using it I am a big fan! More because of ZFS and the speed it gives me with minimal number of SATA and some SSD’s. Nexenta VSA for View is a good combination of automated deployment of the NexentaStor appliance and a layer above View to manage it all.

Let’s start with some pictures. A normal Nexenta VSA for View environment consist of 2 or more ESX5i hosts to run your desktops on and one esx5i host to run your management VM’s on.
image

NexentaVSA for View Management Appliance

The NexentaVSA for View Management Appliance has a web interface with management
wizards that allow administrators to simplify DVM deployments and optimize VDI workloads.
It uses standard inter-process communication (IPC) mechanisms to communicate with the
VMware VDI environment.

  • The Deployment Wizard reduces approximately 150 configuration steps down to four
    steps. Create NFS and/or ZFS storage from local ESXi storage, including all clustered ESXi
    servers. Then create DVMs based on this automatically configured storage.
  • The Configuration Wizard helps administrators tune VDI deployments with rapid
    reconfiguration, during which NexentaVSA for View automatically rebalances DVM and
    associate storage resources. Based on performance data, calibration settings define the
    expected ranges for DVMs. The manager identifies the number of DVMs created and
    added to the pool with each successful iteration. Collected data iteratively improves the
    threshold knowledge.
  • The Benchmark tools provide unprecedented performance testing through NexentaStor
    VSA, allowing administrators to continually monitor the performance for the deployed
    pool.
  • The Calibration capabilities allow administrators to use the benchmark results to fine-tune
    the resource allocations in order to continually meet performance goals.

The Prerequisites

  • one or more newly installed VMware View Connection Server(s) v5.0 (5.1 is not supported! tested it, but it failed)
    (install NexentaVSA for View Server Agent on the VMware View Connection Server. NexentaVSA agent for View requires View PowerCLI installed on View Connection Server to automate its work with View. (this is default already installed with View)
  • vCenter server (v5.0) with Composer installed (if you want linked clones)
  • Windows 7 Desktop with VMware Tools, View Agent AND NexentaVSA for View Desktop Agent (The NexentaVSA for View Desktop Agent requires Microsoft .NET 3.5+ or later)

Installation

  1. Download the tar.gz file from Nexenta: NV4V.tar.gz (File Size: 2.9 GB, file includes all documentation, agents and OVF’s)
  2. Extract the tar.gz with an application like WinRAR or another one capable of unpacking tar.gz files.
  3. Import \NV4V\NV4V\NexentaVSAforView\NexentaVSAforView.ovf into your ESX host and power it on.
  4. Import \NV4V\NV4V\NexentaStor_Template\VNT-NS312RC3\VNT-NS312RC3.ovf and convert the VM into a template.
  5. Give the powered-on Nexenta VSA for View Appliance a fixed IP and a new hostname in the console menu. (register the new hostname in your local DNS)
        1. Open View PowerCLI on the connection server(s). In the View PowerCLI window, type:  “Set-ExecutionPolicy AllSigned”
  6. Install NexentaVSA for View Server Agent on all your View Connection Servers. Make sure that port 8889/TCP is allowed on your firewall to communicate with the VSA.
  7. Use Firefox 9 or Google chrome 12 to login to the VSA (for example: http://ip-address:3000)
  8. Add your connection server and vCenter server to the VSA in the Initial Configuration wizard.
    it took me a while to get this done. my environment was installed with View 5.1 and the new ESX5.?i beta. I downgraded the View version to 5.0. It started working after the downgrade.
    image
    after this downgrade I could add both the connection server and my vCenter.
  9. Finished

Configuration with Physical Nexenta

Click on the Deploy VDI button on your screen. Walk thru the steps you find appropriate for your own environment. As there are too many possibility’s and I am only describing some of the situations.

In this case I have use my hardware Nexenta CE box and use this storage to provision the Desktops to one of my ESX5i hosts (thru NFS).image

The VSA uses the connection server to provision the desktop the way we configured it. The process creates two resource pools, new folders and cloning the virtual machine I selected to create the linked-clones.image

Using the Activity icon you can see the progress from NexentaVSAimage

Some things I found later on when I found the “Advanced Options” in the wizard Smile

    • Configuration option to select to Active Directory OU to place the Desktop VM’s.
    • Configuration of custom desktop names like “wks{n:fixed=2″}”

Some things I would like to see in future releases:

  • Configuration option to use or not to use resource pools. The resource pools are used to reserve the CPU and Memory dedicated for the desktops provisioned. I would like ESXi to handle that… or at least have the choice.
  • My first Desktop pool created ended with errors. The ability to cancel the process or recreate the pool with the same settings after failure would be nice.
  • Ability to provision more than one pool at the time
    image
  • Ability to set the friendly desktop name in the settings of the pool.

 

Configuration with NexentaVSA

When you don’t have a physical Nexenta machine like me, you can off course use the  NexentaStor VSA (Virtual Storage Appliance) Which is preferred for the normal setup where you don’t need shared expensive storage to setup a successful VDI environment

image

In my lab I am unable to test this setup at the moment as this requires me to have 2 more ESX hosts with local disks and SSD’s. I will try to do that later on when I have more hardware in my lab.

General Desktop Deployment Recommendations

Each NexentaVSA for View ESXi host must have enough resources to deploy the required
number of desktops on that host. The actual resource requirements depend on the type of
Desktop Virtual Machine (floating or dedicated) and the expected level of use (normal user or power user). In addition, there are several default NexentaVSA for View settings and recommendations that can affect how you deploy NexentaVSA for View in a VDI environment. The following recommendations are used in the formulas and examples in this section.

  • The default NexentaStor VSA setting for floating desktops uses RAID10 (mirrored
    stripes). All formulas for estimating disk size in this document include the extra space
    required for RAID10.
  • Use 15K RPM disks. A normal floating desktop requires 7-20 IOPS with an average read
    and write latency under 20 ms.
  • Install NexentaStor VSA on SSD.
  • It is recommended to mirror the cache.
  • For physical resources, always round up the result to the next available commercial size.
  • In general, increasing memory, disk, and cache size improves performance.
  • When estimating physical resources, you can generally overbook the allocation based on
    the typical number of concurrent users. If you overbook, you can use fewer resources
    than calculated.
  • When estimating core requirements for DVM usage, you can lower the calculated
    estimate by up to 50% if hyper-threading is enabled on the ESXi host.
  • If you are using shared pools, divide the number of DVMs by the number of ESXi hosts
    sharing the pool to obtain the number of DVMs per host used in the calculations. For
    example, if two ESXi hosts share a pool of 100 DVMs, each ESXi host has 50 DVMs.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a cheap way to build fast and steady VDI, you have to give NexentaVSA a good test drive. Read the installation manual (RTFM) carefully and make sure you have the right hardware for the job. A normal VDI assessment is of course still necessary. Calculate what you need for the job!!! Make a design!!!

With NexentaVSA you can build an affordable VDI infrastructure

About Marco Broeken

Marco Broeken is Author of this blog and owner of vSpecialist Consulting and co-owner of XtraDesktop where he currently works as a Senior Virtualization Consultant. Marco has over 15 years experience in IT.

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