VMware’s App Volumes provisioning with Server 2008 R2 and VMDK’s

In last week’s post, we built out an App Volumes home lab deployment using VHD’s for provisioning. VHD’s do a great job when you’re assigning AppStacks to physical systems or VM’s running on other hypervisors, but VMDK’s are just so slick!

First of all, VHD’s require a user login or reboot to attach AppStacks. Whereas VMDK’s can attach themselves immediately and applications appear out of thin air! You’ll be a magician… No. A help desk hero when you give your users instant gratification when they request a new application on their virtual desktop. They’ll probably name that fancy new office building they’re erecting after you.

Statues and fanfare aside, I do have one bit of bad news for you. That App Volumes manager that we built to provision VHD’s isn’t going to work for us any longer. You see, once we configure a hypervisor you’re stuck with that hypervisor; there is no changing it. But don’t fret, we’re pros at this now!

It’s worth mentioning again that Server 2012 is not supported at this time despite the example screenshots below.

Since the installation is slightly different we’ll start at the beginning of the install again.

For you scroll wheel lovers looking for the condensed version, here’s the real got-ya that’s not well documented… If you’re going to use Server 2008 R2 for provisioning, you must install remote desktop services before installing the App Volumes agent. The same goes for any 2008 R2 servers that will receive AppStack assignments. You will get a “No mounting possible due to license. Virtualization is disabled” error if you don’t. App_Volumes_License_ErrorDon’t worry that the eval license says it’s licensed for attaching user volumes to desktops only, the full license will show the same.

Create a vCenter account for AppVolumes with the following permissions:

Adding the AppVolumes account to the administrators role is fine for a home lab, but for production environments the account should only have the following:

  • Datastore Allocate space
  • Browse datastore
  • Low level file operations
  • Remove file
  • Update virtual machine files
  • Folder Create folder
  • Delete folder
  • Global Cancel task
  • Host Local operations Create virtual machine
  • Delete virtual machine
  • Reconfigure virtual machine
  • Resource Assign virtual machine to resource pool
  • Sessions View and stop sessions
  • Tasks Create task
  • Virtual machine Configuration Add existing disk
  • Add new disk
  • Add or remove device
  • Change resource
  • Remove disk
  • Settings
  • Interaction Power Off
  • Power On
  • Suspend
  • Inventory Create from exising
  • Create new
  • Move
  • Register
  • Remove
  • Unregister
  • Provisioning Clone template
  • Clone virtual machine
  • Create template from virtual machine
  • Customize
  • Deploy template
  • Mark as template
  • Mark as virtual machine
  • Modify customization specification
  • Promote disks
  • Read customization specifications

Install App Volumes Manager

  1. Join the server to the domain
  2. Install the Application Server role and .NET 3.5 framework.AppServRoleNET35Features
  3. Install the App Volumes ManagerInstallAppVolMgr
  4. Select SQL Server Express installation for testingSQLExpressInstall
  5. The default SQL Express Instance settings are fine for testingSQLExpressConfig
  6. The default ports are OKAppVolumesPorts
  7. Install App Volumes ManagerAppVolumesInstallSelection
  8. Once the installation has completed click on the App Volumes Manager icon on the desktop. Or open a web browser to https://localhost/start-config AppVolumesMgrIcon
  9. Click Get StartedConfig_Get_Started
  10. I installed a POC license from my VMware rep because I ran into some licensing issues with the Server 2008 agents. There is a workaround which will be discussed in the next section, so the default license should be OK.AppVolumesLicenseInfo
  11. Configure your Active Directory settingsAD Configuration
  12. Add your administrators for the App Volumes Manager. I chose to use Domain AdminsAD Configuration 2
  13. Configure your hypervisor. Here we’ll select vCenter Server. Notice on the bottom of the window that VMware was nice enough to include the permissions required for the App Volumes account. Hypervisor
  14. Configure your storage. Select the datastores you would like to use for your templates and App StacksStorage_Configuration
  15. Select your default storage settingsSet_Default_Storage_Settings
  16. Upload the templates to the datastore you choseUpload_Prepackaged_Volumes
  17. Confirm uploadConfirm_Upload
  18. Verify the configuration summary and click NextVerify_Summary

Install App Volumes Agent on Server 2008 R2

  1. Join the server to the domain
  2. Install Remote Desktop ServicesInstall_RDSRemote_Session_HostDont_Require_NLAConfigure_LaterRDS_UsersClient_ExperienceConfirm_RDS_Settings
  3. Install the App Volumes AgentInstall_App_Volumes_Agent
  4. Enter the App Volumes Manager informationApp_Vol_Agent_Config
  5. Restart

Repeat these steps for the AppStack assignment server.

Create an AppStack

Now that we’ve got everything installed and configured it’s time to get to the real fun stuff! I’m rather fond of PowerCLI and would like to be able to use it on all my 2008 R2 hosts. Let’s make that happen with the magic of Virtual Volumes.

  1. In the App Volumes manager click Volumes and click on AppStacks. Click Create AppStackCreate_AppStack
  2. Enter the information as follows and click Create.Create_AppStack
  3. Perform in the background and click CreateConfirm_Create_AppStack
  4. Take a snapshot of your provisioning VM
  5. Expand the newly created AppStack and click ProvisionProvision_AppStack
  6. Select the provisioning VM by clicking on the radio button to the right of the Computer’s nameProvision_AppStack2
  7. Confirm by clicking Start ProvisioningStart_Provisioning
  8. Log in to the Provisioning VM where you will be greeted with a provisioning mode dialog box. DO NOT CLICK OK.Provision_Mode
  9. Install PowerCLIInstall_PowerCLI
  10. Once installation is complete click OK on the provisioning dialog.Provision_Mode_OK
  11. Click yes to confirm the install is complete and restart the VMInstall_Complete
  12. Click OK to reboot the provisioning VMReboot
  13. Log in to the VM and click OK on the successful provisioning dialogProvisioning_Complete
  14. Go back to the App Volumes manager console and click complete on our PowerCLI App Volume
  15. Remove the snapshot from the provisioning server

Assign our PowerCLI AppStack to another Server 2008 R2 host

  1. Expand our PowerCLI AppStack and click AssignAssign_AppStack
  2. Select the assignment server by clicking the check box to the right of the system nameAssign_AppStack_Find_Computer
  3. Confirm the assignment and attach the AppStack immediatelyAssign_AppStack_Immediately
  4. Here we see the desktop before the assignment is completeBefore
  5. After a few seconds PowerCLI magically appears!After
  6. Launch PowerCLI and have some fun!!PowerCLI_Running


The VMDK experience is the clear winner when it comes to App Volumes but it’s nice to have the VHD option available. Next we’ll put Virtual Volumes through its paces and see how it will fare in a production environment.

Matt Bradford

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