Horizon Cloud Service on Microsoft Azure –Technical Walkthrough (Part 4) Creating an Image for Use with RDSH Servers (or VDI Desktops)

Apr 6, 2018

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Based in Palo Alto, Peter Brown is a director of R&D for VMware EUC and leads development for VMware Horizon Cloud Service.

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In part 3 of this blog series, I walked through the steps to get your first Horizon Cloud Service Node deployed into Microsoft Azure, along with domain joining it. In part 4 of the blog series, I will walk you through the steps to create a published image that can be used to deliver desktop and application sessions (and in the future VDI desktops too) to your end users with Horizon Cloud Service on Microsoft Azure.

The process is simple;

  • Create a desktop that you wish to use for your image
  • Convert that desktop to a published image
  • Done!

Let’s dive right in!

Create a Desktop that You Wish to Use for Your Image

There are two ways that this can be done.

  • Manually (takes time)
  • Automatically (super easy!)

The manual method requires the following steps to be done;

  • Creating the virtual machine (VM) with your chosen OS and place it in the correct resource group and connect it to the desktop network
  • Domain Join the VM
  • Enable the RDS role
  • Download and install the Horizon Cloud agents
  • Pair the VM with the Horizon Cloud Service node.

This process is explained in detail in the User Guide, and so I won’t spend time going through those steps in detail. I personally much prefer the easy Automatic Image Import feature in Horizon Cloud; however, we understand that this might not be suitable for everyone – and so the manual option is still viable! The automatic import takes a few clicks, and you are done! Let’s take a look;

Automated Image Import

To get started click Inventory -> Imported VMs and click Import:

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This will present the following screen:

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Select ‘From Marketplace,’ and the Import Desktop – Marketplace screen is displayed.

First select the node onto which you want to import the desktop.

Select the OS – currently Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016 are supported. (Once we support VDI, Windows 10 will be available here too).

Horizon Cloud Service on Microsoft Azure-3

From here, choose if you want the desktop to be backed by NVIDIA GPU hardware. If you don’t need GPU support, then leave this as ‘No’ to save cost. Note also that if you are in a region where GPU hardware is not supported then this toggle option is disabled, meaning you won’t be able to change it.

Decide if you want the imported VM to have a public IP. This is useful if you do not have network connectivity from your local machine into the Microsoft Azure environment – however, some organizations won’t allow a public IP to be used. If you are unable to use a public IP and don’t have network connectivity from your local machine, you would need to remote into another machine that you do have access to, and then on-bound into this imported VM.

Next provide some local administrator credentials; in the example above, I just provide a username of ‘Azure.’ Select whether you are entitled to the Azure hybrid benefits for your licensing, and finally give the imported VM a name.

By default, Horizon Cloud creates an imported VM with all features enabled. If you wish to disable any features (for example, you require USB or Client Drive Redirection to be disabled for your security policy) then you can do so by extending the Advanced Options and changing the values;

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Once you click Import, after a few moments you will see the VM being created in the UI:

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In the example above, you can see it is Installing Agents – you will however see your import going through a number of stages (Creating VM, Installing Roles, Downloading Agents, Installing Agents, Bootstrapping and Ready). This automated process downloads and installs the correct latest versions of the agents. It installs both the Desktop as a Service (DaaS) Agents along with the UEM agents too. Note that UEM is deployed currently into a Group Policy Object (GPO) configured mode. (See the UEM documentation for more details)

Once the setup of the desktop VM is complete, you will see the image go to the ‘Active’ state. It also reports the version of the Agent installed (in this example 18.2.0);

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Great! The desktop VM has now been created and configured ready for use with Horizon Cloud Service.

Customise Your Desktop

At this stage, you may want to customise the desktop. For Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for example, you will want to install your RDS applications into the desktop. You may also want to perform any additional configuration (e.g. security hardening or corporate branding) of the desktop.

The screen shows either the public IP address if you selected that option, or the local IP address. Either way, you can RDP to the VM using that IP address and authenticate to the VM using the local administrator credentials provided when creating the VM.

It is also at this stage that if you want to use GPU backed hardware, that you should download and install the NVIDIA drivers since these are not automatically installed. Horizon Cloud Service currently uses NV family of VM’s, so make sure you download the correct NV family drivers for the OS you are using. You can download the drivers from here. Please ensure you trigger any and all restarts as necessary

Once you have completed any customizations, you are ready to convert the desktop to an image so that it can be used with RDS Farms, or for VDI desktops (future).

Converting the Desktop to an Image

 You can do this in one of 2 ways;

  1. Via Inventory -> Imported VM’s
  2. Via Inventory -> Images

If using Inventory -> Imported VM’s, select the Imported VM using its checkbox, click ‘More’, and ‘Convert to Image.’ Going this route, will automatically select the image for conversion.

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If using Inventory Images, click ‘New’, and select the specific Desktop you wish to convert.

Regardless of which method you used to start the conversion, the next part of the process is the same; Enter a company name, select the time zone for the image, and then re-enter the local administrator credentials that we used when the image was created (see above section). The password needs entering twice to verify it has been entered without typo errors. Then click ‘Publish.’

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The publish process takes around 10 to 15 minutes. The desktop will be removed from the Imported VM’s page and will appear on the Images page. You will see the image reporting as being ‘In Transition:’

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And eventually ‘Published:’

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And that’s it! Easy wasn’t it!

The Published image can now be used for RDS Farm creation, or, if you created a Windows 10 VDI Image (coming soon!) for VDI desktop assignments. Note that you can’t mix images – i.e. a RDS Server image can’t be used for VDI desktops. It is possible to have a mix of images allowing Farms to be used for different purposes; Desktops or Applications with a Farm running Server 2012r2 or 2016 Operating systems, with or without GPU!

In the next blog in this series, I will walk through the RDSH Farm Creation and management workflows. If you have any questions and comments, do please visit our community site, as we’d love to hear from you.

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