Recently, three new articles related to planning and deploying Citrix XenDesktop have come out to help you with getting a XenDesktop environment up and running with VMware vSphere. Two come from Citrix Consulting services; a Planning Guide incorporating Citrix Consulting best practices from the field and the lab, and a Deployment Guide with step-by-step instructions to help you get your base configuration up and running. The third document is a Knowledge Center article from Technical Support that outlines how to resolve an issue with Provisioning Server 5.6 and 6.0 when hosting target devices on vSphere 5. These documents provide you with lots of good information for design and deployment, but are only a subset of the documentation available through the XenDesktop Design Handbook, and I encourage you to look there. I also encourage you to check out the Desktop Transformation Accelerator which is a great tool to help you through everything from the desktop transformation assessment and the design and implement phases of a XenDesktop project.
The XenDesktop Planning Guide for integration with vSphere, CTX132166, outlines considerations and best practices for the design and implementation of a XenDesktop environment on vSphere hypervisors. It covers topics such as hardware specifications, guidelines around vCenter and cluster configurations, networking and storage, as well as outlining some specific considerations based on our experiences building XenDesktop on vSphere in the Consulting Services lab. One area to have a look at in the documentation deals with the use of memory management functions within vSphere. There has been some discussion about whether to keep VMware’s memory management functions, especially memory ballooning enabled, or to disable it for virtual desktops. Memory ballooning in vSphere incorporates a balloon driver in the virtual machine which is used to artificially induce swapping within the guest operating system if there is an issue with available memory on the ESXi server. While this can decrease performance of individual virtual machines, it’s a preferable mechanism than ESXi host level compression or swapping, which will have a far larger performance impact. The best approach is to design your environment so that memory overcommit is not an issue in steady-state operations, and let the vSphere memory management functions do their magic if there is an outage and memory overcommit is needed to deal with the exceptions. See also Dan Feller’s blog post about the issue in general. For more detail on this topic as well as the others mentioned above, I encourage you to have a look at the whitepaper.
For the build phase, you will find the XenDesktop Deployment Guide, CTX131969, to be a useful tool to help you with your deployment activities. Assuming you have setup your ESXi/vSphere environment, the deployment guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to setup a complete XenDesktop environment, including setting up Citrix Receiver and Machine Creation services infrastructure, as well as guidance on policies and tuning, and configuration validation. The guide also provides instructions on the setup and configuration of Citrix Access Gateway Enterprise Edition and Merchandising Server to support your XenDesktop configuration.
Using XenDesktop with Citrix Provisioning Services? There is a new technote out which outlines a workaround for implementing Provisioning Services 5.6 0r 6.0 on VMware vSphere 5. This technote, CTX131993, addresses an issue where Windows based target machines, including virtual desktops, could become unresponsive after an operating system restart. The resolution to the issue is to enable “interrupt safe mode” in the bootstrap file for the target. Check the note out, it contains instructions for both PXE boot from the provisioning server as well as when using a boot device manager (BDM) ISO image.
A lot to cover in a blog post, but I’m excited to see all of this information become available to assist you with XenDesktop deployments on vSphere. I look forward to your feedback.