I recently had the opportunity to begin supporting multiple VMware Horizon 8 virtual desktop environments. Knowing that I wasn’t familiar with the products, I set out to deploy a complete environment in my home lab. This blog post is the first of hopefully several that will walk through the deployment and configuration of the various VMware Horizon and Workspace ONE components.
Within this post, I walk through deploying my first Horizon 8 Connection Server and a Connection Server Replica. Surprisingly, this process is relatively easy and fast.
VMware Horizon Connection Servers are the primary component supporting a VMware Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment. At a high level, the VMware Horizon Connection Server is responsible for the following:
VMware Horizon Connection Servers can be deployed as a clustered configuration where all of the nodes share configuration information via LDAP replication using a built-in instance of Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS) (formerly Microsoft Active Directory Application Mode or ADAM) that is deployed as part of the VMware Horizon Connection Server installation. Through the use of AD LDS, the VMware Horizon Connection Server software can easily be uninstalled/reinstalled without losing your entire configuration.
Before deploying a VMware Horizon 8 Connection Server, you must complete several steps to ensure a smooth installation.
The first step is to verify that the server you intend to deploy the software to meets the minimum system requirements. In the case of VMware Horizon version 2306, the Connection Server must have four vCPUs of at least 2.0 GHz and 4GB of RAM. To support more than 50 desktops, you must have at least 10GB of RAM. Additionally, you must verify that your server is running a supported operating system. Supported operating systems can be found in the following VMware KB article KB78652.
If you plan to deploy replica Connection Server instances, you must ensure that all instances are deployed on a high-speed network within the same layer 2 (L2) network and the same broadcast domain.
The server must not be a domain controller and must not have the Windows Terminal Server role installed. Do not install the Connection Server onto a server that performs any other function. The server must have an IP address that does not change.
The user installing the VMware Horizon Connection Server software must be a server’s Administrator security group member.
VMware Horizon 8 supports user authentication and management using your Active Directory infrastructure. Specific tasks should be completed to ensure a smooth deployment of VMware Horizon 8. First, each server you plan to deploy VMware Horizon 8 onto must be a member of your Active Directory domain. If users or desktops belong to a different domain than the domain in which the Connection Server is installed, you must verify that the proper domain trusts are in place to support this. More information regarding supported configurations can be found in the Horizon 8 documentation titled Configuring Domains and Trust Relationships for Microsoft Active Directory.
The installation process can begin now that all prerequisites have been met (arguably the most challenging part of this process). The installation will take approximately 5-10 minutes for software installation and all services to start.
The first screen of the installation process is a simple welcome screen that tells you the software version and copyright information. Click the Next button to continue.
The next screen is the software license agreement screen. Review the license agreement, select I accept the terms in the license agreement and click the Next button to continue.
The next step in the installation process is to select the destination folder for the installation. Leave this path as is, or click the Change button to specify a new location. Click the Next button to continue.
The next screen in the installation process allows us to specify the Horizon Connection Server installation options. If this is your first Connection Server, I suggest you accept the default settings. Depending on your server’s network configuration, these settings should be Horizon Standard Server, Install HTML Access, and IPv4 or IPv6. HTML Access refers to installing the VMware Horizon HTML web client software. Click the Next button to continue.
The next screen in the process is the Data Recovery screen. This is where we will specify a password that will be used to protect your VMware Horizon Connection Server backups. This password will be required when recovering via a backup. Make sure that you keep this password in a safe location. Enter your values and a password reminder if desired, then click the Next button to continue.
Our next step in the installation process is the Firewall Configuration screen. This screen provides an overview of all firewall rules required for the installation and the default option to allow the installer to create these rules for you within the Windows Firewall. Select Configure Windows Firewall Automatically to have these rules created for you, then click the Next button to continue.
Next up in the installation wizard is configuring the initial VMware Horizon Connection Server administrators. You are provided two options here. You can specify that the local server’s Administrators group should be granted access to the VMware Horizon Administrator interface or specify a domain user or security group. In my example, I specify a specific user account. Select the option that works for you, then click the Next button to continue.
Our next step is to specify whether or not we wish to include our deployment within the VMware User Experience Improvement Program. The default setting will include your deployment in this program. In my example, I elected not to participate. Make your choice, then click the Next button to continue.
The next screen provides information regarding VMware’s data collection policies and practices. Review the information provided, then click the Next button to continue.
The next step is to specify where this Connection Server is being installed. This allows for public cloud-specific installation settings to be configured. If you are installing the Connection Server on-premise, leave it at the default setting of General and click the Install button to continue. This will start the installation of the software.
When the software installation completes and all services have started, you are presented with an Installer Completed window. An option to launch the documentation is enabled by default. Click the Finished button to close the installer.
Upon completion of the installation wizard, a new Horizon Administrator Console icon will be located on your server’s desktop.
Double-clicking on this icon will launch your default web browser and direct you to the VMware Horizon Administrator web interface. You will likely receive a warning that your connection is not secure. This warning is because your installation has a self-signed certificate, and the desktop shortcut is routing you to http://localhost/admin, which is not included in the certificate’s Subject Alternate Names. Click the Advanced button, and select the Continue to localhost link.
You should now be presented with the VMware Horizon login screen. The screen should include a list of all available domain names, allowing you to log in with an account assigned administrator privileges during the installation. Enter your user credentials and click the Sign in button.
If your authentication was successful, you are presented with the VMware Horizon 8 administrator interface. From here, you can begin configuring your environment.
Congratulations on installing your first instance of the VMware Horizon 8 Connection Server. Next, I walk you through installing a Horizon 8 Connection Server Replica.
Installing a VMware Horizon Replica Connection Server follows an almost identical process to the regular Connection Server installation. The first three screens of the installation wizard follow the same flow as a standard installation. Whenever you reach the Installation Options screen of the installation wizard, you instead select the Horizon Replica Server option as the type of Horizon Connection Server instance you want to install. You can leave the Install HTML Access and IP protocol fields the same as your first VMware Horizon Connection Server installation. Click the Next button to continue.
Next, the installer will provide you with the Source Server screen of the installation wizard. On this screen, you provide the hostname or IP address of an existing VMware Horizon Connection Server that you wish for this instance to be a replica of.
When you click Next , the installation will skip the Data Recovery screen of the installation wizard and take you to the Firewall Configuration screen instead. Complete you selections and click the Next button again. The installer will skip the Initial Horizon Administrators , User Experience Improvement Program , and Operational Data Collection screens. You are presented with the wizard’s Ready to Install Program screen. Click the Install button to begin the installation.
Now that we have a set of redundant VMware Horizon Connection Servers, it is time to begin tasks such as replacing the self-signed certificates with trusted certificate authority signed certificates, adding Active Directory domain accounts used for joining virtual desktops to the domain, as well as configuring our desktop pools. I will walk through these topics in future blog posts. Stay tuned!
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