Are you using SCCM, WDS or other deployment tools or have been asked to when deploying your virtual desktops or virtual application servers? If so, there can be some serious issues with this. I am often asked about by folks wanting to deploy Citrix or VMware Horizon images using the same image that is used for physical endpoints. Not only is this a bad idea, it can present performance ramifications and also make it so that best practices are not followed.
I always have been a believer that hand building the operating systems for virtual desktops and application delivery servers is the best approach because it ensures we know what went into the image. I understand the grips of manually installing the applications and the extra work but the extra work now can save a lot of headaches later and the reason of "this is how we build out images" is not a good enough reason to justify using the same image in the virtual environment. Often and in most cases the deployment person and the virtual desktop environment are not the same person. They build images on physical endpoints or on a completely different hypervisor, they never optimize the image and just let things fly. Since these are physical endpoints they have dedicated hardware and rarely if ever do they experience any issues from being unoptimized. In the datacenter, on a virtual desktop or an application delivery server which share host resources with other virtual machines we need to optimize things as much as possible.
Here are two examples of recent environments where there were issues with using SCCM to deploy the same image as physical endpoints:
- First was in the medical field and the customer wanted to move from persistent Windows 10 desktops to pooled non-persistent virtual desktops as the administrative overhead of having a persistent desktop and having to administer the desktops with deployment tools was not feasible. Also, when presented with justifying the need of having a persistent desktop pool and having the response be “that is how we have deployed it before” there really was no reason to have it. When it came time to build the Windows 10 non-persistent image, the customer completely disregarded my suggestion on building the Windows 10 base image by hand and used WDS to deploy the “standard” image that is deployed on physical endpoints. The end result was that a known bug in the image in which the start menu stopped responding to left clicks. This bug also existed on physical endpoints but was hacked around by copying profiles over the default profile but when this was done on the non-persistent desktop image, it caused Citrix Profile Management to create temp profiles on each login. After countless days of the customer trying to remediate this, the only successful way to do so was to break out the iso and install the operating system by hand and manually installing the applications and everything is functioning correctly.
- A second example of this was a large law firm migrating from an on-prem Citrix environment to VMware Workspace ONE. When it came time to build their images for the RDS Linked Clone pool they stressed a need to use an existing task sequence that was built for Windows 10 and force it to target a Window Server 2016 operating system. The issue here is that applications were installed before the RDS Session Host role was installed afterwards. It has commonly been a known and best practice for RDS Session Hosts servers that the RDS Session Host role to be installed prior to installing applications due to the need to potentially capture applications settings into the RDS shadow key. In this environment, there are small abnormalities in application behavior even today due to the incorrect installation sequence.
Long story short, when building the images for your virtual desktops and application delivery servers be careful how you approach this. As the common adage is "you can’t build a house on a bad foundation" and doing things incorrectly could lead to a bad user experience.