VMware Horizon

Experimenting with Windows 8 Desktops in View

By Robert Baesman, Director of Product Management, End-User Computing

With all the news these days about Microsoft Windows 8 Release Dates, it's natural for those working on a with VDI technology to be curious about the latest from Redmond and how Windows 8 might work as a virtualized desktop workload.  Of course with it not RTMed yet, nobody has a VDI solution out there that officially supports it, but that should never stop a good science experiment…


What you see above is a COMPLETELY UNSUPPORTED deployment of a Windows 8 desktop VM running in an off-the-shelf VMware vSphere 5.0 U1 / VMware View 5.1 deployment.  Windows 8 will of course run best and be fully supported in future releases of VMware View and vSphere.  But if you're the type that just can't wait, here's a cookbook on how to to get it up and running with chewing gum and bailing wire.

What You'll Need:

  • VMware vSphere 5.0 U1 Deployment (I'm using ESXi build 623860)
  • VMware View 5.1 Connection Server
  • Windows 8 Release Preview Installer & License Keys (I used the 32-bit version)
  • Philips Screwdriver, Duct Tape, 5mm Allen Wrench (ok, maybe not the Allen Wrench)

Step 1: Setup a Windows 8 Virtual Machine

There are a lot of blogs out there already on how to do this, so I won't go into every detail.  Here's the basic necessities for use in View.

  1. Ensure you are running the latest and greatest ESXi 5.0 Update Release – build 623860.  (If you run too old an ESXi 5 version, you'll likely see HAL_INITIALIZATION_FAILED errors when attempting to install Windows 8).
  2. Create a standard virtual hardware version 8 VM with Windows 7 as the guest type.
  3. Edit the settings on the VM and under Video card, select the Enable 3D support checkbox, (you won't have to do this in future versions of vSphere, but in vSphere 5.0, it's still necessary to get some of the driver capabilities that Windows 8 requires).
  4. Upload your Windows 8 ISO installation media to an accessible datastore, and install Window 8 in the normal fashion.  You can use use all the sensible defaults it presents you with.
  5. Note that since KMS support is not yet available for Windows 8, you'll need to manually enter and manage any Windows license keys you have.
  6. Install VMware tools in the VM
  7. Shutdown and Snapshot the VM to save your work (Tools Installed)
  8. Restart the VM & Install a VMware View 5.1 agent in the VM
  9. Shutdown and Snapshot the VM to save your work (Agent Installed)

At this point you should now have a fully functional Windows 8 VM in vSphere.  Now we just need to wire it up to View…

Step 2: Create a Windows 8 Pool in View

These steps assume you've already got a VMware View 5.1 Connection Server up and running against the vSphere instance your Windows 8 VM is installed in.  We'll be creating a VM using View Composer.

  1. Fire up the Pool creation wizard
  2. Select Automated Pool type (and either Dedicated or Floating — I used Floating in my experiment)
  3. Choose a View Composer linked clone based pool
  4. Navigate through the rest of the wizard accepting all defaults, and choosing the snapshot of your Windows 8 VM with the View Agent installed. 
  5. Use QuickPrep for instance customization. 
  6. Note that there are some quirks with the networking settings of each VM being reset as part of the QuickPrep process in this unsupported configuration.  You'll be fine as long as you use DHCP for everything.
  7. Allow provisioning to proceed.
  8. (IMPORTANT) Turn 3D back on for the VMs.  There's an issue where this setting gets reset as part of the cloning process, so once your instances are created in this experiment, you'll need to power down each VM in vSphere, edit the settings to re-enable 3D, then power the VMs back on.  If you forget this step and 3D isn't enabled, you won't be able to bring up a console on the VM or connect to it successfully with PCoIP.

Once these steps are complete, you should have a set of viable Windows 8 desktop instances, and their inventory status should be "Available".  Now for the fun part…

Step 3: Try out the Windows 8 Desktops!

You can now take a current, View 5.1 compatible client, select your Windows 8 pool, and connect to Windows 8 desktop instance via PCoIP.  This is, of course, still a bleeding edge experiment, and you'll likely notice some performance headaches like CPU utiliation spikes, a little weirdness with responsiveness in the metro start screen, etc.  Rest assured those issues are well understood in our labs and you can look forward to great Windows 8 performance in VMware View in the future.   Right now, it's just fun to get it working.

Happy tech-previewing!