Citrix XenDesktop on VMware vSphere: Important considerations

Deploying Citrix XenDesktop on VMware vSphere is a common practice. It’s not necessarily more difficult to configure than a single-vendor setup, but expect to encounter some hurdles.

If you run Citrix Systems Inc.’s XenDesktop on VMware vSphere, you’re not alone. There are many features exclusive

to vSphere that make it an attractive, back-end option for a XenDesktop virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Running Citrix XenDesktop on VMware vSphere isn’t more complex than using the same vendor for both server and desktop virtualization. Just be aware of the following considerations when setting up XenDesktop on VMware vSphere.

Citrix XenDesktop on VMware vSphere: licensing considerations
First, select the proper edition of vSphere to meet your infrastructure’s needs. Some infrastructures may simply need vMotion and High Availability, so the Standard edition will suffice. Others believe Storage I/O Control and the vNetwork Distributed Switch justify the additional cost of Enterprise Plus.

Another licensing alternative is the VMware View Enterprise bundle, which includes a special vSphere version, called vSphere for Desktops. This edition runs only VDI-related virtual machines, and they don’t have to be View-based virtual desktops. Additionally, vSphere for Desktops includes the Enterprise Plus features at a much lower cost. Also note that, regardless of the edition, XenDesktop 5 supports only vSphere 4 Update 1 or vSphere 4.1.

Separate clusters for Citrix XenDesktop on VMware vSphere?
When designing VDI, you must decide whether the virtual desktops will share a cluster with the virtual servers.  In general, if you use different hypervisor editions for the virtual servers and virtual desktops, you should create a new cluster to properly maintain the different features of each edition. A single cluster, on the other hand, reduces the amount of excess capacity needed to support redundancy for both infrastructures.

Hurdles running Citrix XenDesktop on VMware vSphere
For XenDesktop to create and manipulate virtual machines, you must create a domain service account, and provide it with the proper permissions. 

When creating the master virtual machine, use the E1000 virtual network adaptor, which prevents failures when booting the virtual desktops with Provisioning Server. (View Citrix’s Knowledge Center for more details.)

Also, installing and maintaining VMTools and the Virtual Desktop Agent (VDA) improves the performance of the virtual desktops. You should enable the VDA option, for example, that disables services and removes features within Windows to streamlines the operating system for use in a virtual desktop environment.

This was first published in March 2011

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