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EVO:RAIL 101 for SMBs

By: Ivan Talley, Systems Engineer at VMware

What’s the difference between an “enterprise” product and an “SMB” product? Answer: there really is no such difference – it’s about the right solution for the right application. Case in point, let’s talk about EVO. EVO you say? Isn’t that used by huge corporations who are laying out new data centers from scratch? Not always…

EVO RAIL Blog

I have one customer that deals with ocean going vessels who only gets to board typically once a year. His primary concern is not cost, it’s physical size and heat production. The conversation originally started with VSAN but he expressed tremendous interest in EVO when exposed to it since he needs redundancy due to limited access, as well as robustness, since they’re hoping to deploy VDI into the same environment in the future.

I have another customer in nation mill producing flour that is splitting off from their previous parent company and needs significant infrastructure across 44 locations, since they’re essentially having to build everything from scratch under significant time constraints. And I have a third customer who’s considering EVO for a newly acquired second site with limited or no IT support, who needs something rapidly deployable and easily manageable since it may also become their DR site. So as you can see, EVO could be relevant to your business regardless of its size.

I was recently asked by a customer if they could purchase EVO Rail Appliances from multiple vendors for use within the same datacenter. An interesting question.

If you’re not familiar with the EVO Rail it is, at a high level, a single 2U appliance containing 4 ESXi hosts, a Virtual SAN (VSAN) storage array, the vCenter Server, Enterprise Plus VMware software, and 3 years of support on the hardware and software. This allows a rapid deployment of a Software Defined Data Center ready for virtual machines in as little 8 minutes after connection and power on.

Since the EVO Rail is an appliance, and not customizable, customers are interested in what the growth path is for this solution. Currently the growth path is to add additional EVO Rail appliances into a single stack. This allows you to have a 16 node High Availability (HA) vSphere cluster with a large single VSAN datastore managed by a single vCenter server.

Now to the customer’s question. You can purchase for example two devices from two different Qualified EVO Partners (QEPs) and they can coexist within the same environment. However, these will necessarily be two individual 4 host clusters each with their own vCenter Server. To truly integrate or stack the EVO Rail appliance would require that you stick with a single vendor.

So remember, don’t always confine yourself to thinking about your company size and what products that are supposed to be best for your ’type’ of customer. Instead, really look at what your business needs, and look up and down our entire portfolio. You may be pleasantly surprised.

For more information, visit the EVO product page or try EVO:RAIL for yourself as part of VMware’s Hands-on Labs.

Follow VMware SMB on FacebookTwitterSpiceworks and Google+ for more blog posts, conversation with your peers, and additional insights on IT issues facing small to midmarket businesses.

Ivan

 

Ivan Talley has over 20 years of experience as a Network Engineer in medium size business data centers. His expertise also includes multiple verticals such as consulting engineering, contract electronics manufacturing, waste management, and legal services.

No, Disaster Recovery isn’t Only for Large Enterprises and 8 Other Myths

Disaster recovery, even for small to medium sized businesses, is a necessity, not a luxury. But for a long time, many SMBs were under the impression that disaster recovery was just too expensive and resource intensive to adopt – despite the drastic cost of downtime.

The idea that disaster recovery costs too much, in both time and resources, for SMBs is a myth. There are a lot of myths when it comes to disaster recovery, especially for organizations already facing a lot of risks. We’re here to bust those rumors and with our white paper, “8 Myths on Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery...Busted!” you can discover why having disaster recovery the right decision for every organization. Here are two myths now:

Myth #1:  Downtime Doesn’t Cost THAT Much

This is one of the most alarming misconceptions about disasters. Some business owners are unaware of the financial dangers a disaster can cost them. Downtime can cost businesses an average of $1,400 to $8,000 per minute! And on average, downtime can cost up to $84,000 an hour. Could your company bear this type of financial burden? If you answered, “No,” you’re not alone – the financial consequences following a disaster have caused other companies to go bankrupt.

Myth #2: Once I Set Up a Disaster Recovery Option, I’m Locked Into a Lengthy Contract

A contract between your business and a provider is common for any disaster recovery option. However, that does not mean you are bound to a contract forever. With VMware vCloud® Air™ Disaster Recovery, you can set the length of your commitment. Contracts and SLAs are not to be feared and can range depending on desired length.

To see how we destroy other myths around disaster recovery, and to find out how you can establish a secure plan, check out our full fact sheet and the vCloud Air blog  “8 Myths on Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery...Busted!”

For future updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @VMwareSMB and Facebook.com/VMwareSMB.

How Do You Expand Your Virtual Infrastructure?

Post by vExpert Vladan Seget

Many small businesses that have reached peak utilization of their existing virtual infrastructure and need more storage, memory and CPU resources, are facing a dilemma: How can they expand their infrastructure?

VMware virtualized infrastructures are present in many organizations, both small and large, because of the technology’s reliability, stability and easy-to-use interface. I have never seen an admin wishing they could go back to managing physical servers once they’ve virtualized their environment with VMware.

Consolidating physical hosts was a good argument over the last 10-15 years, but when it comes to virtualizing everything - 100% virtual - there are few areas where you just can’t do it.

Usually SMBs aren’t fully virtualized yet because of several reasons:

  1. Physical Hardware Reliability – Over the last decade, hardware manufacturers have managed to provide hardware that’s more efficient, more silent and more resilient with less failures. Because the physical hardware installed years ago still works fine, it makes the decision to virtualize your server and applications sometimes problematic.
  2. Legacy Applications – There is still AS400 hardware that cannot be virtualized. There are applications not suitable for virtualization, like servers that use hardware USB dongles.
  3. Application Support – There are some vendors that still do not support applications in a virtual environment.
  4. Specific Hardware – Applications using modems, fax cards, etc. aren’t supported in vSphere or ESXi, so they must stay physical.
  5. Licensing Issues – Some vendors license in strange ways. They want to charge you for your whole VMware cluster even if the app is running on a single host.
  6. Performance – SMBs are almost always short on resources, making it difficult to invest in the best SAN device. Let’s say that you consolidate a workflow that has been running just fine on a physical host (1:1 ratio) to a host that now runs 10 VMs. Unfortunately, the recommended hardware wasn’t budgeted and instead, lower-performing hardware was acquired. You might see an I/O bottleneck – a bottleneck that did not exist when the app was running on single physical host.

When a virtual infrastructure has peak utilization and you start to lack resources like memory, storage, and CPU - what’s next? There are several areas worth exploring, and first of them is private cloud.

On-premises or Off-premises expansion?

The existing data center can always be expanded. Almost always. Even the smallest one. The topic of expansion is always a challenge for very small data centers, or data center rooms where there isn’t much physical room left with aging hardware, or where the existing hardware generates so much heat that the first question is, “Will our air conditioning manage to cool down the room?” However, there are always areas that can be leveraged to consolidate servers. P2V process for remaining physical hosts, for example, would be the first path to explore.

But a traditional approach for data center expansion would be to add more hosts to existing clusters or to create a new cluster with the same kind of hardware. Or adding a few more LUNs to spin up more VMs, etc.

So the on-premises expansion would involve adding more hardware to existing virtual infrastructure that would allow you to virtualize more applications and satisfy the growing needs for more storage, memory and CPU power.

Where SMBs might hit a wall is with budget. This is where it might make sense to run workloads in a public cloud off premises, like VMware vCloud Air. vCloud Air is an infrastructure as a service offering built on the foundation of VMware vSphere. You can migrate existing onsite virtual machines (VMs) or start up new application VMs directly in the cloud. You can also easily port VMs and other business-critical workloads back and forth to the location of your choice, all with the secure and capable foundation of vSphere.

Vladan

 

Where cloud adoptions almost always start is with development and testing or non-critical apps. It’s always easy to start with a non-critical app, see how it goes, and then, once validated and tested, move on with more critical or enterprise-class apps.

One example can seen through dev-ops. Let’s say a developer needs to test workloads, new builds, and new versions of an app quite often. If the IT admin does not have capacity in the local data center, he can offer to move those workloads off-premises. The simplest way would be to create few instances in a public   cloud and provide those instances to your developers so they can do their job. At the same time, the IT admin would have time to familiarize himself with the offering, the UI and management tools. In the case of vCloud Air, the transition would be seamless, as you don’t need special training or monitoring, and you can extend your data center to vCloud Air leveraging the same infrastructure, network, and management you use today. The offer is fully compatible with your on premises vSphere data center.

Wrap Up

The expansion of virtual infrastructures requires those involved to decide what they need for the long term. There are numerous costs, constraints and options, vCloud Air provides SMBs with a cost-effective option with the reliability, security, and performance you expect, plus the same trusted VMware support you already use.

Ready to get started with vCloud Air ? Check out vCloud Air OnDemand and get instant, pay-as-you-go access to new infrastructure in minutes. Receive $300 in Service Credits when you sign up today.

Follow VMware SMB on FacebookTwitterSpiceworks and Google+ for more blog posts, conversation with your peers, and additional insights on IT issues facing small to midmarket businesses.

Vladan Headshot

 

Vladan SEGET is as an Independent consultant, professional blogger, vExpert 2009 - 2014, VCAP5-DCA/DCD, VCP 4/5. Vladan’s blog, ESX Virtualization, started as a simple bookmarking site, but quickly found a large following of readers and subscribers.

vSphere Replication and Bandwidth Requirements

By: Ivan Talley, Systems Engineer at VMware

Customers often ask me how much bandwidth they’ll need for VMware vSphere Replication. It’s a pretty typical question, especially when they’re using vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM) for disaster recovery.

In general, I’m not a fan of ambiguous answers from vendors. Unfortunately, this is a case where the ambiguous answer is correct — we just don’t know what you’ll need. It depends on how many virtual machines (VMs) you intend to replicate, how frequently you intend to do so, and how much their data changes. Each variable impacts the actual amount of data that needs to be moved. This calculation must be performed before you can determine your bandwidth needs.

You’ll need to do some math to determine the optimal connection speed because replication likely isn’t the only traffic on your connection.

Replication

You can find a free tool, one I often suggest to customers, at a lesser-known VMware site. It’s a “fling,” an unsupported software project that our engineers delve into on occasion, but it always fills a need for someone, somewhere. Sometimes flings even become product features.

Anyways, the fling you’ll need is available at https://labs.vmware.com/about. Search this page for “replication” to find the replication tool. You should find the following summary:

The vSphere Replication Capacity Planning Appliance allows administrators to model the network impact of a virtual machine replication without producing actual replication traffic. The appliance provides command-line tools to configure replication for any VM in a vSphere Virtual Center. The replication is established in preview mode and thus requires no storage space. Networking traffic, required for the replication, is measured and displayed in an easy-to-understand graphical format that allows you to estimate the network bandwidth required.

Use this tool to get an accurate calculation on how virtual machine replication will impact your network. Once you do this, you should get a better estimate on how much bandwidth you’ll need as well. I hope this was helpful, and if you find yourself needing additional estimates or tweaks, I’d suggest checking the fling site out.

Of course, if you’re ever in need of something, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

For future updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @VMwareSMB and Facebook.com/VMwareSMB.

Ivan

 

Ivan Talley has over 20 years of experience as a Network Engineer in medium size business data centers. His expertise also includes multiple verticals such as consulting engineering, contract electronics manufacturing, waste management, and legal services.

Four Ways Implementing a BC/DR Solution Can Help Your Small/Midsized Business - Part 4: Virtual Machine Migration

By: Gregg Robertson

A Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) plan is something every business, no matter how big or small, should be thinking about and implementing. Whilst preparing for my VCAP-DCD and even for my VCDX attempt, BC/DR was a very important topic, as two of the infrastructure qualities of AMPRS (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security) are availability and recoverability.

In my daily role as a consultant, BC/DR is a core component for every virtualization design, no matter if it is data center virtualization, end-user computing or hybrid cloud. In this four-part blog series, I am going to cover four ways implementing a BC/DR solution can help your small/midsized business (SMB). The last blog in this four-part series is certainly not the least important and personally is one that still makes VMware a brilliant technology and was one of the solutions that made me want to learn more about VMware when I first saw it and its ability to do lossless migrations of virtual machines.

Virtual Machine Live Migration

A technology that has been part of vSphere for a long time, but is continually being enhanced, is vSphere® vMotion® and Storage vMotion®.

At one point in time, vMotion amazed people.   Even though it is now taken for granted that you can migrate a machine from one host to another without having to power down the machine, and possibly only losing a single packet of data in the process, it is still an amazing feature. vMotion is perfect for BC/DR as it allows you to migrate your virtual machines during maintenance windows, and with vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler, you can now put a host into maintenance mode and the virtual machines on the host will be migrated off without any downtime to the virtual machines (fully automated setting and shared storage configuration applicable).

With the release of vSphere 5.1, came the ability for enhanced vMotion, which allows you to combine a vMotion and Storage vMotion into a single operation – effectively enabling a “shared nothing” vMotion. Cross host and datastore vMotion allows simpler setup and use of local disk. By removing the shared storage requirement, it lowers the barrier to entry for use of non-disruptive migrations and is very useful for the SMB market.

vSphere 6

With the recent release of vSphere® 6, there is now the ability to use vMotion across vCenter servers, which allows you to simultaneously change the compute, network, storage and management as shown in the diagram below.

 

Gregg Robertson blog

 

You do all of this without having shared storage between the source and destination vCenter’s thereby enabling a “shared nothing” migration. Note: There is a requirement for the source and destination vCenter Servers to belong to the same SSO domain.

vMotion Requirements

The following are vMotion requirement for vSphere 5.x as my previous postings were based on vSphere 5.0 so I don’t want to cause confusion.

  • Hosts have access to shared storage
  • Hosts have supported CPUs
    • Same vendor and similar instruction sets
    • Optional Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC) for newer hosts
  • Gigabit VMkernel network between hosts
  • Virtual machine not tied to host
    • Not connected to host device
    • Not connected to host internal-only vSwitch
    • Not using VMDirectPath for network or storage device

 

Gregg Robertson2

 

vMotion Best Practices

There are a number of best practices for vMotion, although for each of these you need to determine if they are best practice for your environment as best practices don’t apply to every business and every situation. If you are unsure, you can ask VMware Professional Services to come in and help you with the design of your environment

  • 10GbE – This is a recommendation if it is possible, understandably for most SMB customers 10GbE may not be a possibility as yet, although with 10GbE slowly becoming the de facto standard for servers, this is something you should keep in mind if you are looking at purchasing new servers. Using a 10GbE network in place of a 1GbE network will result in significant improvements in vMotion performance. Additionally using 10GbE allows you to do 8 concurrent vMotion’s where if it was 1GbE, the limit is 4.
  • Swap File Placement – vSphere enables you to specify a local datastore for the placement of the virtual machine swap files, allowing you to save space on your shared storage. In vSphere 5.1 onwards, you can also enable host swapping to solid-state disks by configuring swap cache on an SSD. Both of these features can save on space and improve performance, but can have a negative impact on performance as with the swap files on local storage, it will take longer to migrate the swap files of the specific virtual machines being migrated from one host local datastore to the new host’s datastore. Ideally you should keep your swap files on shared storage if you want faster virtual machine migration, or in the event of putting a host into maintenance mode as described earlier, the speed to evacuate a machine.
  • Multi-NIC vMotion – vSphere allows you to configure multi-NIC vMotion to allow increased throughput for vMotion, meaning faster vMotion, and thereby allowing faster evacuation of a host. If you configure this, ensure you configure all the vMotion vmnic’s under a single vSwitch and create one vMotion vmknic for each vmnic. Then for each vmknic properties, configure each vmknic to utilize a different vmnic as its active vmnic, the others set as standby. This means in the event of a vMotion vmnic becoming disconnected, vMotion will switch over transparently to one of the standby vmnic’s.

vMotion Additional Content

There are multiple resources available to learn more about vMotion and how it works. One of the best places to see it in action is on VMware’s official YouTube channel with the VMware vSphere: Migration – vMotion video showing how vMotion live migrates machines between hosts with minimal to no lost packets during the process. vMotion is also covered in numerous official and unofficial books on VMware vSphere and in the VMware vSphere: Install, Configure and Manage course.

Storage vMotion Requirements

The following are Storage vMotion requirements for vSphere 5.x. They are fairly straight forward and for most SMB’s shouldn’t have difficulty meeting.

  • Host containing the applicable virtual machines has access to both datastores (source and destination datastores)
  • Host must be configured for vMotion
  • Virtual machine has no virtual machine snapshots
  • Virtual machine hard disks must be in persistent mode

 

Gregg Robertson3

 

Storage vMotion Best Practices

As stated for vMotion best practices, for each of these you need to determine if these are best practices for your environment as best practices don’t apply to every business and every situation. If you are unsure, you can ask VMware Professional Services to come in and help you with the design of your environment

  • VAAI - If the storage being used is VAAI (vStorage API’s for Array Integration) capable, and if both the source and destination datastore are part of the same VAAI-capable array, vSphere vMotion will offload the task of copying the disk content between the LUNs/datastore’s to the array, thereby freeing up resources on the hosts that would normally be consumed doing the migration.
  • VMFS-5 - As of vSphere 5.0, and more specifically VMFS-5, the block size has been standardized to 1MB, but for previous version of VMFS you had the option of choosing different block sizes. If you have an environment that still contains these pre VMFS-5 datastores, then it is recommended to vacate the datastores and recreate the datastores as VMFS-5 datastores so that the new 1MB block size is applied. If you do an upgrade, the block size will not be altered.  Use will force VMFS-5 to use double-indirect addressing to cater for large files (up to a size of 2 TB - 512 B) .If the VMDK goes beyond 512 GB, it will switch to using double-indirect addressing, which will allow for VMDKs up to 2 TB - 512 B. Creating, or in the case of having, VMFS-3 datastores recreating them as VMFS-5 allows a number of performance optimizations in vSphere 5.1 onwards that are dependent on the unified 1MB file system block size.

Storage vMotion Additional Content

Alike to vMotion, Storage vMotion is covered in numerous places due to it being part of VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 release and it has been upgraded and optimized in all the subsequent releases of vSphere. A great resource and deep dive, albeit it is around vSphere 5.0, is VMworld 2011 session VSP3255 - VMware Storage vMotion Deep Dive and Best Practices.  Storage vMotion is also covered in numerous official and unofficial books on VMware vSphere and in the VMware vSphere: Install, Configure and Manage course.

If you missed the first three parts of the series they are listed below:

 

Gregg HeadshotGregg Robertson is a senior consultant, professional blogger, vExpert 2011 – 2015, VCAP5-DCA/DCD, VCP-Cloud, VCP 3/4/5, VMware communities moderator and co-host of the EMEA vBrownbag weekly webinars/podcasts. Gregg’s blog, TheSaffaGeek , started as a place to write down fixes plus VMware certification links and resources, but has quickly found a large following of readers and subscribers.

Follow VMware SMB on FacebookTwitterSpiceworks and Google+ for more blog posts, conversation with your peers, and additional insights on IT issues facing small to midmarket businesses.

Then and Now: The Evolution of IT in 15 years

Way back in the days of 2000, we’d each have our own television, DVD player, MP3 player, VHS Deck, desktop computer, and, maybe, a broadband Internet connection (the rest of us had dial-up).

Today, 15 years later, we have all of those things condensed into the smartphone (minus the VHS deck, of course). But the smartphone (and tablets and laptops) wouldn’t be the convenience powerhouse it is today without today’s cloud computing infrastructure.

Cloud computing, which was in its infancy in 2000, has rapidly evolved, often for the better. That’s why we joined with Spiceworks and sponsored “Tech Flashback! Evolution of IT: 2000 vs. 2015,” an e-book trip down memory lane And we’ve come a long way since 2000!

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 4.47.10 PM

For example, the cost for storage has drastically dropped in the past 15 years. In 2000, you could buy a 30-gigabyte hard drive for about $125. Today, you can get a three-terabyte hard drive for less.

The cost of RAM, too, saw a massive cut: in 2000, companies paid $1,107 a gigabyte, while today they pay $5.50 a gig. That’s a 201x price drop!

But price wasn’t the only problem way back then: Connecting to the Internet was a hassle, too, thanks to dial-up connections. If you wanted to use the Internet, you had to suffer the 30-second beep-and-screech battle cry of modems just to connect. Then you had to wait for the page to load while paying your ISP by the minute.

Today, we can move, process and store massive amounts of data at instantaneous speeds from almost any device at any time. And, thanks to cloud virtualization, we can store, organize and back up devices faster and easier than ever before.

In the past 15 years, we’ve seen technology and IT transform at lightening pace. We can’t see to what the next 15 years will bring. Download the e-book and see what seasoned IT administrators had to endure in the past, and to see what innovations they may enjoy in the future.

For future updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @VMwareSMB and Facebook.com/VMwareSMB.

VMware Horizon Webcast: Transforming Desktop and Application Delivery and Management

By Sachin Sharma, Product Marketing, End-User Computing, VMware

Delivering and managing applications and users across any environment is difficult. IT has to go through a complicated process, use legacy solutions (and many of them at that), and is expected to deliver against an SLA that requires zero or near zero downtime. To begin this process, a tremendous amount of time and many resources are usually spent packaging applications. Then IT has to worry about delivering applications without them failing so their end users can get to what they need to as soon as they log in.

And what if that application doesn’t work with your other applications? After spending time figuring that out, you still have to deal with app updates and maintenance to stay in compliance. And what if your end users are using different virtualized environments to access their apps? At this point, you have to rely on even more solutions to manage your environments. All of this can be very tricky, time consuming, and costly.

This is where VMware can help! VMware has an approach that allows you to manage users and deliver apps in minutes. We call this Workspace Environment Management, and it leverages the best of VMware’s portfolio to ensure that you can streamline the tools used to manage users, apps and polices and have one place for all of your users to go to get all of their desktops and apps every time they log in. This helps you deliver apps in seconds, eliminates app conflicts and ensures that you get a native app install experience every single time. It also helps you get to zero downtime, maintain 100% compliance and also makes it easier to convert unused licenses into dollars you can use for other things.

To help you understand how you can do this—we are holding a webcast with Harry Labana and some great demos on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 11:00 AM PDT. During the webinar, we’ll be sharing what’s new with Horizon 6 as well as some brand new offerings that will help you better deliver and manage apps and end users across physical, virtual and cloud-hosted environments. Whether you are using Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, VMware Horizon or haven’t virtualized your desktops and apps at all — you’ll want to take part.

Register to attend this webcast and learn how to:

  • Enjoy faster app delivery and simplify user and app management
  • Improve your ability to monitor your environment
  • Help your end users enjoy personalized, conflict-free access to all of their applications

We hope you’ll join us — register today!

For future updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @VMwareSMB and Facebook.com/VMwareSMB.

Find Out How to Build Development and Testing Environments on VMware vCloud Air During Technical Webcast on 4/21

It happens all too frequently: inconsistencies between development, testing, and production environments that cause application errors, disruptions, delayed projects and loss of revenue.

But with VMware vCloud® Air™ Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand, you don’t have to lose out when you test and develop applications in the cloud.

vCloud Air OnDemand is a public cloud service providing your organization with instant access to compute resources. Compatible with your existing VMware vSphere® environment, you can create a development environment in minutes. It’s a complete, compatible representation of your current data center — right down to the common security operations, networking constructs and topologies, and compliance policies you use today.

Best of all: it’s a cinch to set up. All you need to get started is a browser and a credit card. To show you just how easy it is to get started with Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand, we’re hosting a technical webcast on April 21st. (maybe include on more sentence here that related back to development and testing- since that is the main focus of the webcast?)

Join us during this webcast to learn how to:

  • Use our compatible, pay-as-you-go, self-service cloud to meet your on-demand capacity needs
  • Easily create a sandbox environment as an extension of your existing data center
  • Create consistent network topologies that mirror your production workloads.

Presiding over this webcast will be Todd Zambrovitz, Sr. Product Marketing Manager on the vCloud Air team, and Michael Roy, Sr. Technical Marketing Manager at vCloud Air.

Sign up for this webcast today!

For future updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @VMwareSMB and Facebook.com/VMwareSMB.

Location Based Printing – A Cool Feature of VMware Horizon 6

Nigel HeadshotGuest blog by Nigel Hickey, Infrastructure Administrator, National Specialty Alloys -- 2015 vExpert

There are a lot of exciting features in VMware Horizon 6. One of the coolest in my opinion is Location-Based Printing. It allows IT organizations to map VMware Horizon 6 desktops to the printer that is closest to the endpoint client device. For example, as a doctor moves from room to room in a hospital, each time the doctor prints a document, the print job is sent to the nearest printer.

This blog will go over the basics of creating and managing your group policy for Location-Based Printing, and enabling VMware's ThinPrint technology, as well as keeping best practices in mind during the process.

Why do I need Location-Based Printing?

This is a great question. One of the first things that you should be asking yourself is, do I really need Location-Based Printing? Within my VMware Horizon 6 deployment we began without using Location-Based Printing. All of the features that ThinPrint brought to the table along with users that had login scripts for mapping printers happened to be working just fine for most of our environment. We ended up implementing Location-Based Printing for a remote office that was having trouble with login scripts and printer mappings playing nice with each other. Location-Based Printing worked out so well for us that we now use this great feature for our Horizon 6 kiosk desktops that employees utilize for HR Enrollment & Wellness programs within the company.

Using Location-Based Printing Group Policies have helped cut down on user created errors with mapping printers as well as default printer's switching automatically for the user. If there is one more thing I can automate within my environment I'm all about learning how to do it and then using that process to my advantage.

Getting started

Best Practice: This is where I will point out an important limitation to be aware of when using GPOs in AD. Active Directory, like most systems, has its limitations that we tend to forget about or may never run into depending on your organization size. AD limits the Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to 999 that you can apply to a user or computer account. This is not your total maximum GPOs allowed in your domain, but the max that a single user or computer would be able to process without having adverse performance effects on your domain. Keep this in mind when working in large environments where you could be building GPOs to manage thousands of printers for thousands of users. Review these limitations here: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/active-directory-maximum-limits-scalability

To begin using VMware Horizon 6 Location-Based Printing features you have to first be familiar with Active Directory Group Policies, and I assume if you're reading this post, you more than likely are. We will be working with the ADM template from VMware, importing that into your Active Directory and then making the needed edits or changes to fit your needs. We will also be registering the Location-Based Printing Group Policy DLL files required for allowing these features to function as expected.

Here is a brief listing of the items we will be touching during this process:

1.The VMware Horizon 6 ThinPrint DLL

2. An ADM template from the VMware Horizon 6 extras folder

3. Configuring the Active Directory GPO

All of these changes of course should happen on one of your Active Directory Domain Controllers.

Getting It To Work

Registering the VMware ThinPrint DLL should be 1st on the task list. The DLL called "TPVMGPoACmap.dll" is the file we are after. In Horizon 6.0.1 or later, both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of TPVMGPoACmap.dll are available in a bundled .zip file called ‘VMware-Horizon-View-Extras-Bundle-x.x.x-yyyyyyy.zip’, where x.x.x is the version and yyyyyyy is the build number. You can find this file on the VMware Horizon 6 download site located here: http://www.vmware.com/go/downloadview. If you are running a Horizon version that is lower than 6.0.1 (5.0, 5.3, etc) then the file is included within the installation directory of your Horizon 6 Connection server in the following default location: install_directory\VMware\VMware View\Server\extras\GroupPolicyFiles\ThinPrint. Both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the file are located here. Please be sure to use the correct version as required by your environment.

To register the DLL complete the following steps that can also be found within the VMware Horizon 6 Documentation.

  1. Copy the "TPVMGPoACmap.dll" file to your Active Directory server.
  2. Use regsvr32 to register the DLL. (An example would be: regsvr32 "C:\TPVMGPoACmap.dll")

LocationBased1

Next you will create a new Active Directory GPO or use a GPO that you feel is okay to make changes to.

Best Practice: It’s again important to be sure you are not over using GPOs within your domain as we need to mindful of the 999 GPO limitations I mentioned above. Another thing to keep in mind is that each GPO can add a few MB to your SYSVOL directory in AD and having a bloated SYSVOL directory can also cause replication performance issues within AD. If you have implemented DFS Replication within AD (DFS-R SYSVOL) with a Group Policy Central Store, this is not as big a deal as DFS Replication allows for a larger SYSVOL quota.

For the purpose of this post I made a new GPO specifically for Horizon 6 printing but this might not be best for your environment. This makes it easier for me to understand what that GPO’s job may be just by seeing its title. Once your GPO is created and saved, and the Horizon 6 DLL file TPVMGPoACmap.dll is registered you can move on to the next steps.

Configuring TP Auto Connect

Open the GPO and browse to Computer Configuration, then Policies, and then Software Settings to see the ThinPrint Auto Connect settings, also referred to as the Auto Connect Map. This is where you can begin to customize Location-Based printing options.

LocationBased2

Select the Auto Connect Map by double clicking on it to open a table that is waiting to be Enabled and filled out. The table is very easy to work with, adding and removing columns with the included buttons on the interface. Add your first row then begin to fill out each field that you require. Devices can be redirected a few ways here. You can provide an IP address range, Client Name, Client MAC Address, or by an Active Directory User/Group name. In my example I am using an Active Directory Group (\\domain\group) of the team that will be getting their printer redirected via this policy.

Best Practice: Note that although you can use other great options like, Client Name, MAC Address, it is a Best Practice to stay away from those 1-to-1 mappings. Once again that can lead you into trouble with AD & GPO counts. As a Best Practice you should try to use AD Groups or IP Ranges when configuring TP Auto Connect entries.

Once you have found the AD Group to use, continue to fill out the table as needed. Be sure to leave in asterisk or star in the fields that allow for the variable of ‘any’ where you will not be placing specific detail. You will need to know the exact name of the printer as well as its printer driver name and IP Address. These names should be typed exactly as seen within the printer properties of each printer.

LocationBased3

When you have filled out the Auto Connect Map table to the completion level of your liking, you may now click Apply & OK to close out the windows bringing you back to your Group Policy Management Editor window. Exit this window also so you can complete your last step. Click on the Organizational Unit (OU) that you want to link this new GPO to and choose “Link an Existing GPO…” and select your Location-Based Printing GPO we just edited, then click OK to save.

LocationBased4

And there you have it; your GPO is configured and linked to your virtual desktop OU in Active Directory. Now when users login to a virtual desktop that resides within that OU, the policy for Location-Based Printing will apply and map the required printer(s) based on the settings you chose with the Auto Connect Map table. Good Luck and Happy Printing!

Reference Guides

Nigel has worked in IT just shy of 17 years, starting in the trenches of Helpdesk & Desktop Support for firms like Suburban Propane & Intel. From there, he worked as an Active Directory Support Analyst for Pfizer, then as a Windows System Admin, and currently as Systems Engineer where he has designed & implemented a VMware View infrastructure as well as manages the Desktop Support team at National Specialty Alloys in Houston, TX. Nigel is a Leader of the Houston VMUG and an active member of both the VMware & Spiceworks communities. Be sure to visit him online at his blog; www.nigelhickey.com and follow him on Twitter where he goes by, @vCenterNerd. 

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