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Guide to VMware Horizon View

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Reclaiming disk space in VMware View with the SE Sparse disk format

VMware introduced the space-efficient disk feature with vSphere 5.1. When View 5.2 virtual desktop software debuted, it added SE Sparse disk support.

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Guide to VMware Horizon View

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The SE Sparse disk feature allows VMware virtualization administrators to reclaim wasted disk space. Introduced in vSphere 5.1 for server virtualization, SE Sparse disks can be used in combination with VMware Horizon View 5.2 for virtual desktops.

When should I use SE Sparse disks with VMware View desktops?

In VMware View environments that deploy linked clones, virtual desktops often refresh on a regular basis -- sometimes even every day. This refresh cycle keeps the file system from filling up with growing OS disks. Space-efficient Sparse (SE Sparse) disks reclaim wasted disk space, which then slows the frequency of OS refreshes.

Be mindful of the caveats before using VMware's SE Sparse virtual disk feature. SE Sparse disk shrinking comes with an I/O cost, enough so that VMware advises administrators schedule it during off-peak hours. Your virtual desktop infrastructure's OS disk growth may not warrant deploying SE Sparse disks. Furthermore, SE Sparse doesn't work with full clones of virtual machines, even when their disks are thin provisioned to allow growth from the starting allocation amount. VMware designed the feature to enhance environments that share parent disk images among multiple virtual machines via linked clones.

This was first published in June 2013

Essential Guide

Guide to VMware Horizon View

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