View 5 Parent VM's

Been working on a VMware View 5 pilot for the past couple months and I wanted to share with you a gotcha we discovered.

First off, I should stress that how you build the Parent VM's is extremely important. I would suggest that you use MDT or SCCM OSD in creation of your image (as always) and that you carefully design your image with the idea that you're running within a shared resource environment.

A short description on Parent VM's. A Parent VM is a virtual machine that is the basis for other virtual machines in a Linked Clone desktop pool. The idea is similar to differential disks in virtualization 101. You have a parent disk and then create/link a second disk to the first. Any additional writes to the VM are written to this second differential disk. The hypervisor then determines which disk to pull from when a read IO occurs. When talking about Parent VM's and Linked-Clones, when a new VM needs to be created, the template it uses is the Parent VM.

Our problem started when we took the snapshot of our parent VM for View to use as our template. Whenever we started provisioning the pool, the VM's would hang at the customization phase. I won't bore you with the details, but first we thought it was hardware we used within the Parent VM. It was built on hardware version 8 (the newest for View 5.0) and that we were using an incorrect storage controller driver with the OS. Whenever we turned on those VM's, it wasn't joined to the domain and we received the "New Hardware Detected" Windows dialog box wanting us to restart the computer.

Easy! Just update the driver and then take another snapshot.

Turns out this wasn't the case.

Several more troubleshooting steps later we finally determine what the problem was: Microsoft App-V. The App-V agent was baked into the Parent VM. When QuickPrep does it's thing, it enumerates all of the drives registered with Windows. App-V creates a logical drive (Default is Q: I believe...) and when the VMware View Agent grabs those registrations and discovers the App-V drive, it handles it incorrectly. When we stop/disable the App-V agent service and started it back up post load it works like a charm.

Whether it was the fault of VMware or Microsoft/SoftGrid (this was using App-V 4.5, no SP so it was pretty old) is unknown. But hopefully this can help someone else who doesn't have to pull their hair out as much as we did.

Yes, I'm still here.

Sadly, I have neglected this blog for far too long. I am constantly reminded that I have this site due to the amount of spam comments I get. The Internet is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Suffice to say, since my last update I have a few new things going on. I've switched jobs twice but I still love what I do. I'm excited as ever and looking forward to some new experiences. But if there is anything that I've learned in my industry it's that change is constant.

At the beginning of 2011 I moved away from ACS/Xerox and moved to Dell Services. I was part of a team named GICS, or Global Infrastructure Consulting Services. We did exactly that: consulted with companies regarding their IT infrastructure and gave advice and guidance on their current and future projects they're considering. Naturally, I specialized in OS Migrations: Windows 7 stuff. It was awesome...for the first couple weeks...

See, my team was a "national" team. That is code for travel! Awesome, right? To a certain extent. I do enjoy travel...especially when you have a company card. ;) But there was a significant toll on the family. I was traveling every week from February until the middle of July. My first stint was New York/Jersey, then Atlanta and topping it off in Dallas/Ft. Worth. From April through July I was in Texas and let me tell you...that Texas heat is something of a shocker for someone who has lived in the Pacific Northwest his entire life. And if you know me personally, you understand that my favorite seasons are Fall and Winter...not those "other two". More importantly though, it was grueling on my kids and wife. I was given some advice from someone who I trust to be mindful of travel and I'm glad he gave it to me. I didn't like the way we were heading so a change was needed.

July came and I got headhunted away to a smaller but up and coming IT consultancy. Slalom Consulting is based in Seattle, but we have a national presence. This company is AMAZING! Voted by Glassdoor.com as the 7th best company to work for! Great people, amazing relationships and opportunities and a great culture. Our next company retreat is in Whistler. I better get that snowboard out.

Hurray for awesome job???

As of December we're fully in Seattle (Issaquah really...). We're prepping our house down in Portland for rental on the weekends. Probably do this SEA to PDX thing for a couple more weekends so if anyone is interested in getting together, hit us up and let's get coffee.

Oh...that sounds good right about now.

Deployment Resources

I've been asked to share the resources I use regarding operating system deployment (MDT/SCCM OSD) and the people I follow. Something that i've been trying to push myself lately is to give back to the community. Been a long time practitioner of leveraging community support for questions and problems I have had but really haven't been active in blog comments and forums until now...
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Tricky USMT, tricky…

The User State Migration Tool is part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and it’s purpose is exactly that: transfer “user state” from one operating system to another. Although editing the XML can get complex, I found the Technet library reference on it very helpful and complete, or almost.

Our client had space limitations just like everyone else and to help mitigate some of these issues, we set a configuration parameter on scanstate.exe so that any Windows profiles that hadn’t been logged into in 60 days would not get captured. That flag is /UEL:60.

At the same time, we didn’t want certain profiles to be captured either…say for instance the local Administrator account. So for this we specified /UE:%COMPUTERNAME%\Administrator on the scanstate.exe command line as well.

I won’t go into extreme detail, but in short this does not work. USMT has specific rules of precedence depending on the switches and they don’t always merge. If you use the UEL and you specify an UE exclusion, if that UE exclusion has logged in within 60 days that profile will get captured. UEL will take precedence. You can get around this in your deployment by creating a task sequence step to run a tool to remove unwanted profiles before you perform a USMT capture. Check the references section for a blog entry describing this in more detail and a reference on USMT ScanState tool.

This caused my team headaches and I hope this helps other engineers so they don’t have to self medicate as much as I did in their deployments.

What Happened EBS

I know a lot of time has past since they announced that Essential Business Server has been discontinued. I thought now would be a good time since the dust has settled to air some of my thoughts on this decision.

For some context, I've been following this product since it's first beta, code name "Centro". I've been doing SBS deployments for years beforehand and I noticed a discrepancy in "packaged" solutions going beyond 50-75 users into a standard Windows environment, and it was rough. When I had first caught wind this product would help bridge the gap between small business and mid-sized company I felt pretty excited. Maybe this will finally round out Microsoft's server solutions portfolio.

When they announced that they had discontinued the product, like most people in the EBS community I was shocked. EBS version 2 was just about to be released (no joke...it was pretty close to RTM) and the first version had done pretty well from what I heard. So I was surprised that they would stop selling it in June. There was definitely a group of people in the forums and community groups wondering what was the true cause.

The end result is the same either way I look at it though, so I took a different approach. I follow Microsoft technologies pretty closely and at the last PDC when Windows Azure was announced I asked myself a question: What does this mean for solutions I deal with? I thought about it awhile and I've come up with at least a rough forecast. Although I'm more focused on enterprise technology I'll give it a try.

Small Business Server is going to be solid for quite some time. Although I do think that the Exchange component might be ported to the cloud via Windows Azure, the simplistic packaging and value to small business is obvious. EBS...it makes sense that they discontinue. Move those people to Azure and lock in recurring revenue. Although I thought that the 3 server solution wasn't too complicated other people felt differently. And it apparently showed in the "surveys" that the EBS team took.

There will always be servers in the mid-sized company. The variable will be to what extent will they play and that will determine what will be kept.

SQL Reporting Services SP3 Installation Woes

While I was supporting a client I came across an issue where one of the updates failed on the Management server in an EBS installation. Maybe failed is the wrong term to use as the update reported that it would install successfully, but the next day or so (or if you manually kick of the detection logic) that update would reappear. Strange...
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Excited about DirectAccess

I'm pretty excited. You may not be able to tell just yet through the blog (which by the way I figure I'd dust off and post a new one) but over the next couple blog posts I think you'll get the idea. Love applying new technology that helps businesses do more with less...especially now! That's just one of many reasons why I'm excited about Microsoft DirectAccess.

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Application Layer Filtering

I know I’ve been off the blogging wagon a bit but hopefully we can turn this ship around. Today I will be talking about some industry frustrations I’ve had for the past couple of years. As one might imagine with the title, this is about firewalls and network security vendors hype and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt).

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