Friday May 10, 2013

Reduce IT Help Desk calls when using Oracle VDI

Enjoying beach life in the Caribbean or hiking in the rolling hills of Tuscany. Blue skies, great temperatures, wine, fine food and spending some quality time with family and friends. All the great things you can do in the upcoming holiday season.

Is this an introduction for a Travel Blog or a serious article about Desktop Virtualization ? It is the latter, but it has to do with the former: the problem of the forgotten password after returning from the holidays.

What is the problem ?

After a relaxing holiday you turn on your Sun Ray or launch your OVDC application to connect to your virtual desktop in the data center. But then it happens, your holiday was so relaxed that you forgot your password and you are forced to pick-up the phone and call the IT Help Desk to ask the SysAdmin to reset your password.

With the introduction of complex password requirements, this is not an unusual scenario. IT staff is often burdened with resolving these calls, resulting in an increased administrative load for the IT department. At the same moment, the end user loses valuable work time because he is locked out of the network temporarily and unable to work.

With an average of 5% of the users who forgot their passwords after the holidays and an average cost of US $25 per help desk call, this can cost an organisation with 10.000 users around US $12.500 per two or three days when the holidays are over.

How can we solve this ?

Password expiration, forgotten passwords or other user access privileges are addressed by Identity Management systems. There are several solutions on the market and also Oracle has a nice solution which is called the Oracle Identity Manager.

Explaining Identity Management is outside the scope of this article, so I skip that. But with a recently added and less known feature of the Oracle VDI broker (the Helper Function for the Desktop Login Screen) I explain how users are able to connect very easily to any web-based Help Desk system to do a Password Reset for example.

How is it implemented ?

You can add an item to the More Options menu in the Oracle VDI Desktop Login screen to run temporarily an alternative kiosk session. In our Forgotten Password example this might be a kiosk web-browser connecting to the Identity Management system. The picture on the left shows the added entry in the More Options menu.

The Helper Function feature is very easy to implement. First you configure the helper application in the Sun Ray kiosk interface. In my Forgotten Password example I use a Firefox web-browser. I provide kiosk scripts at the bottom of this article (helpdesk.sh and helpdesk.conf) which I store in the helpdesk directory. And the second step is to configure the Oracle VDI broker to add the kiosk session as Helper Function in the Desktop Login screen. On all of your Oracle VDI broker servers you should do the following configuration steps:

  • Configure the name of a directory in the /etc/opt/SUNWkio/sessions directory, in my example helpdesk:
     # /opt/SUNWvda/sbin/vda settings-setprops -p client.kiosk.type=helpdesk
  • Configure the label that displays in the More Options menu:
     # /opt/SUNWvda/sbin/vda settings-setprops -p client.kiosk.label="Help Desk"
  • Configure any optional kiosk session arguments and settings that should be used when starting the kiosk session. For my kiosk web-browser it is the URL to the Identity Manager server:
     # /opt/SUNWvda/sbin/vda settings-setprops -p client.kiosk.settings=http://server.url/

In the following video I demonstrate the Forgotten Password use-case scenario. In my demonstration I used the Oracle Identity Manager server (very kindly provided to me by my Oracle colleague Rene Klomp) to reset the password. When the new password is entered in the Identity Manager system, it is automatically synchronized with the Active Directory server that is used by the Oracle VDI broker for user authentication.

Help Desk Kiosk scripts

Here are the kiosk scripts that I used on my Oracle VDI Solaris server. Beware that you have to setup the correct Firefox prototype settings to store in the /etc/opt/SUNWkio/prototypes/default directory. I leave that as exercise for the reader . 

# more /etc/opt/SUNWkio/sessions/helpdesk.conf 
KIOSK_SESSION_EXEC=$KIOSK_SESSION_DIR/helpdesk.sh
KIOSK_SESSION_LABEL="Helpdesk Kiosk Mode"

# more /etc/opt/SUNWkio/sessions/helpdesk/helpdesk.sh #!/bin/sh FF_EXEC=/usr/bin/firefox if [ -z "$1" ] ; then zenity --error --text="No server specified\nConsult your System Administrator" else URL="$1" fi exec /usr/bin/metacity & if [ -x "${FF_EXEC}" ] ; then $FF_EXEC -P Kiosk $URL else zenity --error --text="The Firefox Web-browser is not installed\nConsult your System Administrator" fi

Monday Apr 22, 2013

Connect Oracle VDI with Oracle Enterprise Manager

Oracle is a datacenter company that can provide a complete integrated stack of hardware and software. The integrated stack gives a lot of benefits for Oracle's customers: engineered solutions, pre-tested, faster rollouts, one support contract and one-stop-shop. But due to its open architecture an Oracle solution is also flexible for customers who prefers to integrate with components from other vendors.

Oracle VDI is a perfect example of this strategy, it includes all necessary Oracle software to deploy a secure, server-hosted full VDI desktop over the network. At the same time the Oracle VDI product integrates with Desktop Virtualisation products from other vendors such as VMware or Citrix. It may even run the different vendor solutions in one, combined Oracle VDI deployment. No vendor lock-in !

Since Oracle VDI 3.5 there is another typical Oracle component integrated in the Oracle Desktop Virtualisation stack: Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 12cR2. The main objective of the integration is to make systems monitoring easier for the Administrator. With the Enterprise Manager Plug-in for Oracle VDI, the entire installation can be monitored from a central management console.

For a customer demonstration, to demo the capabilities of the plug-in, I installed and configured my own OEM 12c server and connected it to my Oracle VDI 3.5 demo system. I would like to share my very positive experiences of the installation and configuration.

Basic installation

I installed OEM 12c on a bare-metal Oracle Linux server with 8GB of RAM. For the basic setup I used this excellent article from the Oracle-Base website:

Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 12c Release 2 Installation on Oracle Linux 5.8 and 6.3

This is a how-to guide to install all the components before you can start working with the Oracle VDI plug-in. The installation steps that I used for my server are:

I was impressed by these how-to guides, it made my installation much more simpler and after a few hours I had a running OEM 12c server.

Oracle VDI plug-in Installation

The Oracle VDI plug-in is a software component that you have to import and deploy on the OEM 12c server. There is no need to touch your running Oracle VDI production servers to install additional agents. In the below figure you see the architecture diagram from the Oracle VDI documentation.

Oracle VDI - OEM 12c Plug-in Architecture

The Management Agent in the OEM 12c server establishes a secure connection to the Oracle VDI center agent. This is the component that controls your Oracle VDI hosts to provide a reliable and highly available service. 

I followed the steps in chapter two from the Oracle VDI Plug-in User's Guide (PDF) to import, deploy and configure the connection to my Oracle VDI demo server:

  • Importing and Deploying the Plug-in; this is done through the OEM 12c Management Console (browser GUI);
  • Configuring Oracle VDI Targets; these are the VDI specific targets for monitoring your Oracle VDI servers;
  • Provide Oracle VDI Center properties; here you provide your Oracle VDI server address and credentials for your Oracle VDI Administrator account.

Oracle VDI is using a delegated administration mechanism where you can setup multiple users as Administrator with different privileges. For OEM 12c it is recommended to setup a dedicated Administrator account with only company monitor and provider monitor privileges.

Start Monitoring Oracle VDI Targets

After you have deployed and configured the Oracle VDI plug-in for OEM 12c you need to give the system some time to collect all the data from your Oracle VDI Center. The default collection interval is 15 minutes, but after 24 hours you have a full picture. Future configuration changes in your Oracle VDI Center are picked-up automatically with an default interval of 24 hours.

To use the OEM 12c Management console you connect with the web-browser to the following address: http://<your-OEM12c-server:7803>/em. After you logged on as OEM 12c Administrator, you can navigate to the Oracle VDI Targets as shown in the diagram below.

OEM 12c Management Console for Oracle VDI Targets

OEM 12c is collecting metrics with an interval of 15 minutes for most of the targets and an interval of 5 minutes for critical data. The data is visualized in the Oracle Enterprise Manager Console for recently collected data as well as for historical data. This allows you to identify possible bottlenecks and take pro-active or corrective actions.

OEM 12c is also used to report on critical events that require attention of the Administrator. For all of the metrics thresholds can be defined  which triggers events when the threshold is crossed.

Summary

Enterprise-scale deployments need Enterprise-scale tools, right? This is a phrase from Fatbloke's Blog article "What's new in Oracle VDI 3.5". True!

But at the same time, I had a lot of fun installing, configuring and testing the integration in my tiny demo server installation. So, when you are running a smaller Oracle VDI deployment with just a few servers (for 250 VMs for example) I'm sure you will be very happy with OEM 12c and the Oracle VDI plug-in to monitor your environment.

Thursday Mar 28, 2013

Oracle VDI 3.5 Installation notes for Solaris 11.1

Oracle released Oracle VDI 3.5 last week. You may have seen the announcements on the Oracle website, Blogs or social media. In this article I want to share my installation notes of Oracle VDI 3.5 software on the newly supported Solaris 11.1 platform. 

For me, this was also my first Solaris 11 server installation experience and I was happy to find out that installing Solaris 11.1 and Oracle VDI 3.5 was a rather easy activity. On my lab server I used the Solaris 11.1 text-based installation, this is the image for server deployments and during the initial configuration I configured the server with static IP-address, my lab DNS server and DNS domain.

During installation I created the initial user account with username vdiadmin. As you may know you can't login as the super-user root in Solaris 11 and for all the remaining system commands with root-privileges you can use the sudo command (or just change to the root-role with the su command).

Solaris Package Repository

After the basic Solaris 11.1 installation you need to configure the Solaris Support repository. By default only the Release repository is configured. This is important, because Oracle VDI needs more Solaris packages then installed in the standard configuration, the Oracle VDI installer will download the packages automatically from the repository.

Run the below pkg command in Solaris to check the repository, initially it shows you the Release repository:

    # pkg publisher 
    PUBLISHER   TYPE   STATUS   URI 
    solaris     origin online   http://pkg.oracle.com/solaris/release/ 
    

I used the information from the Solaris documentation to configure the online Solaris Support repository. If your server is not connected to the Internet, then you should configure your own, local repository by using the Solaris 11.1 Repository Image

To configure the Solaris Support repository, obtain key and certificate files from https://pkg-register.oracle.com/. Login with your MOS credentials and follow the steps for Solaris 11 support. After you have finished the steps you can verify the changed repository and run a pkg update to install the latest Oracle Solaris 11 Support Repository Update (SRU) and reboot:

    # pkg publisher
    PUBLISHER   TYPE    STATUS  URI 
    solaris     origin  online  https://pkg.oracle.com/solaris/support
    # sudo pkg update 
    # sudo init 6
    

Oracle VDI Installation Process

If you download the Oracle VDI 3.5 software package, you should pay attention to download the correct installation zip-file. There is now a difference between Solaris 10 and Solaris 11 installation zip-files. 

After unpacking the VDI 3.5 installation zip-files, I decided to run vda-install and vda-config separately:

    # sudo ./vda-install -i

The installer starts to check the required libraries and packages in Solaris 11.1. In my case (text-based Solaris 11.1 installation) it needed to download about 600 MB of data from the Solaris 11 repository. After the download and installation of the packages, the Oracle VDI installer automatically continues with the basic Oracle VDI installation.

Depending on your network connection, downloading 600 MB of Solaris packages takes some time. You may monitor the process by viewing the installation log file (in a separate Terminal window) for information about the progress of downloading and installing the packages.

    # tail -f  /var/sadm/install/logs/vda-install.timestamp.log

I decided to do a reboot when vda-install was finished because of all the newly installed packages. I'm not sure if this is really necessary. After the reboot I continued with the vda-config command to start the configuration of my single-node Oracle VDI server. In the configuration settings I used my initial user vdiadmin as VDI Administrator:

    # sudo /opt/SUNWvda/sbin/vda-config
    ...
    Review the settings for a new Oracle VDI Center:
       Name: VDI Center
       Administrator Password: ********
       VDI Administrator (super-user): vdiadmin
       DNS name of this host: ovdi-host20.ovdi.local
       Maximum number of sessions on this host: 100
       User ID range start: 150000
       Database: Embedded Oracle VDI
    Do you want to create the Oracle VDI Center now?
    Enter 'c' to customize the settings. ([y]/c):

 

Virtual Box Installation Process

Because of the changes in Solaris 11 for the root-role, I decided to configure the Virtual Box processes under non-root privileges: you can use your standard user ('vdiadmin' in my case). 

Because of the non-root priviliges, you are also forced to configure a non-privileged TCP port for the Virtual Box web-service. I used the TCP port that was suggested by the installer:

    # sudo ./vb-install 
    Oracle VM VirtualBox Installation for Solaris
 
    Unpacking Oracle VM VirtualBox package.
 
    Select an existing user for VirtualBox: vdiadmin
    Enter the password for user 'vdiadmin': #########

    Specify the VirtualBox SSL port [18083]: 18083
 
    Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.2.10 Installation
    + Installing Oracle VM VirtualBox Core
    ...etc etc....

 

Connect to the Oracle VDI Manager

If you connect with Firefox to the Oracle VDI Manager for the first time, you got the following error message on the secure port of the VDI Manager:


This error is mentioned in the Oracle VDI 3.5 Release Notes. Oracle Solaris 11 uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) version 1.1, which Firefox does not support yet. The workaround is to connect and authenticate with TLS 1.0 disabled in Firefox preferences:

    Advanced -> Encryption, unchecked Use TLS 1.0.

 

Some Closing Remarks

  • NTP services: works exactly the same as with Solaris 10, just make sure /etc/inet/ntp.conf has the right server settings before you start configuring Oracle VDI.
  • Kerberos: also works the same as Solaris 10. I used copied my /etc/krb/krb5.conf configuration file from Solaris 10 without any changes.
  • I also did another Solaris 11.1 installation where I used the Oracle Solaris 11.1 Live Media for x86, that also worked fine. I only had some difficulties changing IP-address from DHCP to static. Just read the documentation or Google to use the right procedure.

Wednesday Dec 28, 2011

Scott McNealy and Sun Rays

Scott McNealy was one of the four founders of Sun Microsystems and for a long time he served as a CEO.  I always had a very positive feeling about him when I was a Sun employee. I've seen him a couple of times in real life during several events and I liked his charisma and humor.

During the Sun days Scott McNealy was a big promoter of Sun Rays, it was the ultimate example of "The Network is the Computer".

He still is a big fan of Sun Rays. In a recent article on the GIGAOM website (a series of articles called "12 tech leaders’ resolutions for 2012") Scott McNealy said the following about Sun Ray: I’m always pining away for my old Sun Ray. I hate my Mac. I hate my phone. The amount of time our family spends on administrating this stuff is outrageous. The horror of the expenses we pay to keep upgrading the client! I had the same Sun Ray in my home office for seven years. It’s the best computing in the world–absolutely stateless, data-less, super-thin. It is still the right answer, and we’ll get there someday.

If you are a frequent reader of this blog then you know that the Sun Ray technology is embedded in the Oracle Desktop Virtualization Solution (Oracle VDI). And needless to say I fully agree (uuhhh not fully, I like my Mac) with the above statement from Scott McNealy :-)

Tuesday Dec 20, 2011

Oracle Virtual Desktop Client for iPad 1.1 is released

In the iPad App Store you will find a new release of the Oracle Virtual Desktop Client for iPad. This is version 1.1 of the client and when you installed the App already on your iPad it automatically announces itself in the Updates section.

With OVDC for iPad you can connect from the iPad to your hosted virtual desktop in the data-center infrastructure. See my blog article OVDC for iPad in action with an explanation and sample use-cases.

The improvements in the new release (as documented in the OTN documentation website) are focused around user experience:

  • External Keyboard Support: you can use an Apple Wireless Keyboard or Apple iPad Keyboard Dock as an external keyboard.
  • Improved On-Screen Keyboard Language Support: users can now configure international languages for the on-screen keyboard. See the release notes for the supported languages.
  • New on-screen button icons: enable you to quickly display the on-screen keyboard and the Oracle Virtual Desktop Client side bar. The button icons provide an alternative to using gestures.
  • iPad Settings: the iPad Settings app now includes a section called Virtual Desktop. Here you can configure settings for Oracle Virtual Desktop Client, such as the language used for the on-screen keyboard and whether to display button icons for the side bar and keyboard.
  • New Gesture: a new gesture has been introduced that emulates the middle scroll wheel on a mouse. To use the scroll gesture, drag upwards or downwards with two fingers.

After I installed the update and connected to a remote server, the on-screen keyboard immediately displayed automatically. This is a change with the previous version where you first had to use the three finger gesture to display the on-screen keyboard before you could enter the user-credentials.

I also played with changing the keyboard language. You set the primary keyboard country and OVDC will send the keyboard country code to the remote server where the virtual desktops are hosted. This is done in the iPad Settings app, in the Virtual Desktop section.

OVDC for iPad Keyboard Language

Check also that the language you select for the primary keyboard country is present in the list of supported keyboards on the General, International, Keyboards page in iPad Settings. If the keyboard language is not present in this list, add the language.

In the sample screenshot you can see that I added four languages to my list, when you press the Globe key you can select the language that matches your primary keyboard country. I tested the French AZERTY layout and changed it to my preferred US layout.

Wednesday Dec 14, 2011

White Paper: Design Proposal for Hosted Virtual Desktops

Oracle released a white paper for Oracle VDI: A Design Proposal for Hosted Virtual Desktops. The white paper discusses a design proposal for Windows 7 virtual desktops hosted on Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. It proposes infrastructure for 500, 1000 and 1500 users.

Topics discussed in the white paper are the high-level architecture, capacity planning and design decisions. The white paper finishes with performance optimizations.

The infrastructure in the white paper is based on the full Oracle stack of products, from the end-user client to the storage in the data-center. 

For the storage tier it discusses the Oracle Sun ZFS Storage appliance and calculations are  presented for IOPS for the virtual desktops.

The virtualization tier is represented by the Oracle VDI built-in hypervisor Oracle VM VirtualBox running on Sun Fire x86 servers.

The session management layer discusses the Oracle VDI core technology. For a 500 desktop deployment, only a 10 core capacity is required for the client sessions. This may be deployed on bare-metal or virtualized on a server-hosted platform. 

Furthermore, the client tier is used by several hardware clients: Sun Ray ultra-thin clients and the OVDC software application running on Windows PCs, Mac OS X and tablet devices such as the Apple iPad. 

The white paper finishes with the following statement: "A complete VDI solution requires tying together server hardware, storage hardware and networking technology, in addition to deploying VDI software. Oracle is alone as a VDI vendor in being able to deliver the complete stack: software and hardware engineered to work together."

Tuesday Nov 22, 2011

New technical product guide for Sun Ray clients

In the Oracle online documentation system a new Sun Ray clients Technical Product guide has been published. The document provides detailed information about the similarities and differences between the three Sun Ray client hardware models: Sun Ray 3, Sun Ray 3 plus and Sun Ray 3i.

Sun Ray 3iFrom the description of the Technical Product guide I want to quote the following section:

"......Since Sun Ray 3 Series Clients have no local operating system and require no local management, they eliminate the complexity, expenses, and security vulnerabilities associated with other thin client and PC solutions. ......"

This is always one of the great advantages of Sun Ray clients compared to other thin clients (which are actually low-fat PCs where you have to manage thin client OS images).

The guide lists the features and technical specifications of the Sun Ray Client such as number of ports, chassis, graphics, network interfaces, power supply, operating conditions, MTBF, reliability, and other standards.

The guide also contains a separate chapter about environmental data. As you may know, the Sun Ray 3 Series clients are designed specifically to be sensitive to a spectrum of environmental concerns and standards, from materials to manufacturing processes to shipping, operation, and end of life. The Sun Ray 3 Series clients complies to environmental standards and certifications such as Energy Star 5.0, EPEAT, WEEE and RoHS (see the Oracle policy for RoHS and REACH).

Tuesday Jul 19, 2011

Oracle Virtual Desktop Client on iPad in action

You may have seen the product announcements two weeks ago for Oracle Virtual Desktop Client (OVDC) for iPad and the new release of Oracle VDI 3.3.

With OVDC for iPad you can connect from the iPad to your virtual desktop in the data-centre. This could be done from the local LAN (when moving between different office spaces or meeting rooms) or from any place connected to the Internet using the features for security with VPN support.

The key-point in using OVDC on the iPad (when you are on the move) is a quick look to secured and protected data, for example through business applications in your company or accessing patient records in a healthcare organization. Instead of using multiple iPad apps (with or without built-in security features) you only have a single OVDC app to access your desktop or applications infrastructure in the data centre.

The past two weeks I used the iPad in several circumstances to connect to the virtual desktop in the data centre. I used both private and public WiFi networks and also a 3G connection through a mobile phone (tethering). I was very surprised about the network performance of OVDC on the iPad, the efficient ALP protocol enabled me to work on a remote desktop over a 3G connection.

Last week I also installed and configured the VDI 3.3 software on my demo server and I thought about iPad use-cases to demonstrate during my customer presentations. During a demo of the Sun Ray and Oracle VDI technology I always see some great moments of enthusiasm when customers understand how they can use this cool technology to relieve from their daily struggle with IT infrastructures.

With the OVDC for iPad there is another great moment of enthusiasm introduced during the demo and I captured some of the iPad use-case scenario's of my demo in the below video.

This video demonstrates the following scenario's:

  • Launching OVDC on iPad (0:08)
  • Connect to Oracle VDI server (0:26)
  • Firefox in Windows 7 session (0:42)
  • Open Office presentation in Windows 7 (1:16)
  • VoIP (Skype) in Windows 7 (1:59)
  • Using Text editor in Windows XP (3:26)
Some pieces of the video are blurred, my camera had some focus problems.

Friday May 13, 2011

Oracle SGD 4.61 Released

This week, Oracle also released a new 4.61 version of Oracle Secure Global Desktop software. This is positioned as a minor release, but it has some important bug-fixes. Some of  these bug-fixes are important for the connection to Oracle VDI desktops and are fixed in this release:

  • Launching VDI desktops hosted on a Microsoft Remote Desktop provider 
  • SGD VDI Broker does handle multiple companies
  • Launching VDI desktops in a VDI server pool that uses NAT

For a complete list of bug-fixes you can follow this link: http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/E19351-01/E23103-01/z40000161620234.html 

Download the SGD 4.61 software package from the Oracle edelivery website. Select Oracle Desktop Virtualization Products in the Product Pack and the Platform you want to install. You will get a list of products where you can download the Oracle SGD 4.61 media pack (it is 361MB for Oracle Solaris).

The complete Documentation bundle is published in HTML and PDF. You will find here Release Notes, Installation and Administration guides.

 

Wednesday Oct 06, 2010

Writing scripts for the Sun Ray Kiosk interface

I guess most people involved with the administration of Sun Rays and Sun Ray servers do know the Kiosk Mode interface functionality. The Kiosk Mode interface is one of the two modes of operation in the Sun Ray server software (the other one is the regular desktop of the Sun Ray server). Kiosk Mode is used to deliver any kind of virtual desktop (see image) or application to the Sun Ray user. It is highly customizable and for the Sun Ray Administrator one of the fun parts of the Sun Ray technology.

A few weeks ago Thin Guy announced the Sun Ray Kiosk Mode "SDK" in the Sun Ray Users mailing-list. He called this announcement a soft launch, the guide is wiki based and a Work in Progress document. In my view this soft launch was a bit to humble, it is a very nice piece of work that needs more attention.

If you like to write your own kiosk scripts or start to write, but never found the right directions in the official Sun Ray documentation, you will like this document. I copied this introduction from the Sun Ray Kiosk Session Development Kit:

"This site is intended to aid those who interested in creating customized Kiosk Session Types. It is also for those who desire a technical understanding about the design and architecture of Kiosk Mode for Sun Ray Server Software (SRSS) 4.2 and later"

The information is presented in different sections. It describes the support statement, the architecture and components of the Sun Ray Kiosk interface and you can also find examples and tips-and-tricks. The document is useful for new Kiosk script developers as well as for advanced developers. 

You can find the document in the Desktop Virtualization Developer Information Center. I have created a pdf-document (October 6th, 2010) with the complete Sun Ray Kiosk SDK pdf-file. Print it and take it to your home, it is good reading stuff for the weekend.

Tuesday Sep 28, 2010

Summary of recent Oracle VDI updates and announcements

Last week I was on vacation and when I came back in the office last Monday I discovered a lot of updates and announcements related to Oracle VDI and Sun Ray clients. In this article I provide a quick summary of several email, press-announcements and blogs I have seen. The sources I used are the Think Thin blog, Arjan's Dutch Werkplek blog, Remold's Virtual Desktop blog and oracle.com.

Sun Ray Software patches:

It is always good to monitor the wiki with Sun Ray Software Patches. Last week, patches were released for Sun Ray Server Software (SRSS) and the Sun Ray Connector for Windows (SRWC). These patches are mainly fixing bugs related to audio upstream for Windows desktops. They also provide firmware support for the new Sun Ray clients. See the wiki for the actual patch download links for your Sun Ray server platform (e.g. for my x86 servers it is 140994-05 for SRSS and 143215-04 for SRWC)

New Oracle Sun Ray clients:

This was really great news from Oracle Open World where Oracle announced two new Sun Ray client hardware devices. The Sun Ray 3 is the successor of the Sun Ray 2 client and the Sun Ray 3i is the successor of the Sun Ray 270. For both devices Oracle has published datasheets (Sun Ray 3 and Sun Ray 3i).

In the Sun Ray Hardware Information Center you can find the more technical releated documentation such as release notes and the technical specifications.

New Release of Oracle Secure Global Desktop:

It was also a great week for Secure Global Desktop. A completely Oracle rebranded SGD version 4.6 was released. The new release can be downloaded from the old Sun download site or from Oracle's edelivery download site and choose Oracle Desktop Virtualization products.

As you may know SGD provides secure access to centralized, server-hosted  Windows, UNIX, mainframe, and midrange applications or full-screen desktops. This is provided to a wide variety of popular client  devices with a java-enabled browser. SGD is especially interesting for companies using Oracle's business applications and providing secure access from the Internet to these applications. 

The new release has enhancements for Windows applications support, better availability and scalability support and enhancements for AD and LDAP directories.

Flash Demo of Oracle VDI:

Also updated on the Oracle website, a flash animated demo of Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

Monday Sep 20, 2010

New Oracle Sun Ray Clients introduced

At Oracle Open World new Oracle Sun Ray Clients are introduced, you can read the press-announcement, but also additional information on the ThinkThin blog and the Dutch Werkplek blog from my colleague Arjan. In the below picture, you see on the left the new Sun Ray 3 and on the right side the Sun Ray 3i.

Some of the new features are 10/100/1000 Mbit/s ethernet on both models, a power-switch, bigger resolutions and automatic (and configurable) power off feature. Needless to say is that the three models are fully compatible with the current Oracle VDI and Sun Ray server software.

For both Sun Ray 3 models, the technical data is available in the Sun Ray Hardware Information Center. For the Sun Ray 3 model you can find the following information:

Thursday Sep 16, 2010

Working with Fastprep in Oracle VDI

Oracle VDI has a feature to bypass the standard system preparation in Windows virtual desktops during the clone process. This feature is called Fast Preparation (Fastprep) and it reduces the clone time of a virtual desktop. In this article I want to share with you my experiences with Fastprep including some trouble-shooting tips.

For a successful clone operation in the Oracle VDI server, virtual machines for the Windows operating system requires customization. This is done after creation of the virtual machine when the cloned virtual machine starts-up for the first time. Fastprep changes the computer name of each virtual machine, it joins the domain and optionally you can execute your own post-customization script.

Fastprep does not require special preparation in the template before you clone, but before importing your virtual machine template in the Desktop Pool in the Oracle VDI Manager make sure:

  • The template is not a member of the domain, it must be a member of the workgroup.
  • Store your post-customization script in the template if that is required.

To configure Fastprep you have to fill in the following parameters (see the image):

  • Mandatory: windows domain, domain administrator, domain administrator password, desktop administrator (of the template) and desktop administrator password.
  • Optional: custom computer container DN and location of the post-customization script. 

Under the cover, during the clone process the Oracle VDI core mounts a floppy drive image in the virtual machine. The floppy image contains a program fastprep.exe that is executed when the virtual machine is started for the first time. I have seen some errors in this process, they were mainly related to how things in Windows works (and not related to Oracle VDI). A common error message was: Execution of command A:\\FASTPREP.EXE.... Below I will show you some trouble-shooting tips.

1. Increase Log level detail: 

The Oracle VDI Core service runs as a module within the Common Agent Container (Cacao) on the Solaris server. Error messages are stored in a log-file /var/cacao/instances/default/logs/cacao.0 and during your trouble-shooting you may increase the log-level of detail. This is done by the following CLI-commands:

root@vdiserver:~# cacaoadm set-filter -p com.sun.vda.service=ALL
root@vdiserver:~# cacaoadm stop -f
root@vdiserver:~# cacaoadm start

2. Keep the failed Virtual Machine: 

When the clone operation failed, the Oracle VDI Core removes the virtual machine and it tries to clone again by initiating a new clone process. You can configure Oracle VDI to disable clone cleanup after a failure. You do this with the following CLI-command on the Oracle VDI server:

root@vdiserver:~# /opt/SUNWvda/sbin/vda settings-setprops -p cloning.cleanup.failures=false

When you are finished with trouble-shooting you can configure it back to the default by setting the property to true.

3. Inspect Virtual Box VM Logfile:

After the change in step 2 your failed virtual machine keeps running on the Virtual Box server. In the VDI Manager it is registered in a reserved state and it will never be assigned to a user. In the VDI Manager you also see on which Virtual Box server your virtual machine is runing. Now you have time to inspect the Virtual Box virtual machine log file on the Virtual Box server. Go to the Virtual Box server with ssh (or putty from Windows):

root@vdiserver:~# ssh root@vboxserver
root@vboxserver:~# cd /root/.VirtualBox/Machines/VDA/<vmname>/Logs
root@vboxserver:~# more VBox.log

4. Access Virtual Machine through Console

If you want to inspect what is going on in your failed virtual machine, you can access your virtual machine through the console. This could be done in the VDI Manager, Desktop Console. See the below picture as an example:

As an alternative you can also use a rdp-client to access the vRDP server of the virtual machine. In the VDI Manager's Desktop Summary page you will find the IP port-number (on the Virtual Box server) of the virtual machine console. See the below picture:

With the uttsc (or rdesktop if you are not on a Sun Ray) client you can connect to the desktop console:  

root@vdiserver:~# /opt/SUNWuttsc/bin/uttsc -g 800x600 -P 49491 vboxserver

5. Test run Fastprep

When you are logged in your Windows virtual machine you can see that Windows has a mounted floppy drive A: and if you startup Command Prompt you can change directory to the floppy drive and run Fastprep:

C:\\Users\\adminuser> A:
A:\\> FASTPREP.EXE vmname 

On my Lab Oracle VDI server I had a problem in this step of the trouble-shooting process. I discovered the difference with a user with admin rights and an actual administrator in Windows 7. User Access Control (UAC) in Windows 7 prevented me to run the fastprep.exe program. I could change this behavior by changing elevation of user rights, but I took the easy way and decided to enable the actual Administrator in Windows 7.

I went back to my Windows template that I used as a source for the cloned images and I did the following in the Command Prompt of Windows 7:

C:\\Users\\adminuser> net user administrator /active:yes 

I also created a password for Administrator, halted the Windows 7 template, created a new revision in the VDI Manager and used this revision as the master for cloning in my pool. In the Fastprep specification I changed the Desktop Administrator property from adminuser to Administrator. After this change all my new clone operations in the pool did finish without errors.

Monday Aug 23, 2010

Working with RDP settings in Oracle VDI

The display protocol between Sun Ray DTUs (or the software application Oracle Virtual Desktop Client) and the Oracle VDI servers is ALP, the Appliance Link Protocol. ALP is a latency friendly protocol and very efficient in Wide Area Networks. Between the Oracle VDI servers and the Virtual Desktops, hosted on the virtualization infrastructure, the RDP protocol is used and implemented through the Sun Ray Connector for Windows.

The Oracle VDI broker uses standard RDP settings that you may change as an Oracle VDI administrator. This is done per pool configuration and available through the Oracle VDI GUI or via CLI-commands. In the below picture you see how to navigate in the Oracle VDI GUI to the pool settings: select Pools in the left column, select the Pool you want to customize (in my case Windows XP Pool) and select the tab Settings.

If you scroll down on the Pool Settings page you see the section for Sun Ray specific pool settings and the option to customize the settings for RDP. Pay attention to the order of selecting the options:

  1. Select the hyperlink Edit Sun Ray RDP Settings and enable the desired settings in the page that displays, save the changes and go back to the Pool Settings page.
  2. Select the checkbox Use Customized Settings,
  3. Save the changes
I have made multiple times the error to go directly to the Edit Sun Ray RDP Settings after I selected the checkbox. If you don't save the change, and you come back from Edit Sun Ray RDP Settings page, the checkbox is not activated anymore.

In the case you have changed the Sun Ray RDP settings and the result is still different then what you were expecting, you can go to the Oracle VDI server command-line (via SSH or Putty) to do some trouble-shooting. As you may know already, the RDP client for a Sun Ray session is called uttsc in Solaris. The desired RDP settings that you configured in the GUI are passed as arguments through this uttsc process on the server.

A very nice tool in the trouble-shooting process is the Solaris pargs CLI-command, which gives you information about the arguments that are passed to a Solaris process (identified by a Process ID).

In my example (see below) I want to investigate the RDP settings for a Sun Ray user with userid jaapr. I have to find out to which server Jaap's Sun Ray session is connected (press the three audio-keys on a Sun keyboard), I connect to this server with SSH/Putty and with the process ID of the uttsc process (better to use uttsc-bin for this) I investigate the RDP settings:

root@vdiserver:~# ps -ef|grep jaapr|grep uttsc-bin
   utku5 28223 28204   0 17:42:11 ?      0:00 /opt/SUNWuttsc/lib/uttsc-bin -m -u jaapr ...

root@vdiserver:~# pargs 28223
28223:  /opt/SUNWuttsc/lib/uttsc-bin -m -u jaapr -S 5 -d SUNVDI -i -r usb:on -E wallpap
argv[0]: /opt/SUNWuttsc/lib/uttsc-bin
argv[1]: -m
argv[2]: -u
argv[3]: jaapr
argv[4]: -S
argv[5]: 5
argv[6]: -d
argv[7]: SUNVDI
argv[8]: -i
argv[9]: -r
argv[10]: usb
argv[11]: -E
argv[12]: wallpaper
argv[13]: -E
argv[14]: theming
argv[15]: 192.168.4.157
root@vdiserver:~#

And here you have the complete listing of the RDP settings that are used for a specific Desktop session in a selected VDI pool.

Wednesday Aug 11, 2010

Change default Desktop Login Language in Oracle VDI 3.2

One of the new features in the recently released Oracle VDI 3.2 software is the addition of the Dutch language in the Oracle VDI Desktop Login screen. In this article I explain how to change the default Desktop Login language to your preferred language (I use Dutch in the examples, because I live in the Netherlands ;-) 

As soon as you connect with your Sun Ray DTU or Oracle Virtual Desktop Client (OVDC) to the Oracle VDI server you get the standard Desktop Login window. Most of the time, this window defaults to the English language (see the below picture). Through the "More Options, Language" drop-down menu you see a list of supported languages. With a few simple steps you can change the default language of the Desktop Login to your preferred language.

Oracle VDI Desktop Login Window in English Language

The Desktop Login window is launched by the Kiosk interface scripts. This is the glue between the embedded Sun Ray server software and the Oracle VDI broker software. The Kiosk interface scripts determines the language setting for the Desktop Login window through the underlying operating system. In our Solaris 10 Oracle VDI server this is done with the locale parameters.

During the Solaris 10 Operating System installation, the English version of Solaris is installed by default. Most likely you only provided information about the timezone of your server and not the information for your geographic regions and software localizations. On the Sun Developers Network website you can check a list with locale settings in the Solaris Locale Chart. To use the Dutch language in the Oracle VDI Desktop Login we need the nl_NL locale which is part of the Western European Region (WEU) in Solaris 10.

Follow the next four steps to configure your preferred language for the Oracle VDI Desktop Login window:

1. Check the installed locales on your Oracle VDI server with the following CLI-commands:

  # First check the current locales on the server (in this case it is the default)
  root@server:# locale -a
  C
  POSIX
  iso_8859_1
  root@server:#

  # Or check if the Dutch locales are installed on your server
  root@server:# locale -a | grep nl
  nl
  nl.ISO8859-15
  nl_BE
  nl_BE.ISO8859-1
  nl_BE.ISO8859-15
  nl_BE.ISO8859-15@euro
  nl_BE.UTF-8
  nl_NL
  nl_NL.ISO8859-1
  nl_NL.ISO8859-15
  nl_NL.ISO8859-15@euro
  nl_NL.UTF-8
  root@server:#

2. If your locale exists go to step 3, otherwise load your preferred locale from the Solaris 10 installation media (the Solaris 10 installation DVD or the downloaded Solaris 10 iso-file):

  # Insert Solaris 10 DVD in your drive, it will be automounted under /cdrom
  # In my example we install the nl_NL locale
  root@server:# localeadm -a nl_NL -d /cdrom/sol_10_1009_x86/
  ...
  ...
  root@server:#

  # Use the following CLI-commands if you installed from an iso file
  # Find your iso file (in my case /stage) and mount the iso into a directory /mnt
  root@server:# mount -F hsfs -o ro `lofiadm -a /stage/sol-10-u8-ga-x86-dvd.iso` /mnt
  root@server:# localeadm -a nl_NL -d /mnt
  ...
  ...
  root@server:# umount /mnt; lofiadm -d /dev/lofi/1
  root@server:#

3. Configure the locale in the Sun Ray Kiosk general properties settings:

  • Go to the Sun Ray sever Admin GUI (https://server:1661/) and login with root/passwd
  • Select Tab Advanced, sub-Tab Kiosk Mode and select Edit to change the properties for the Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure session type. 
  • In the Locale property configure your preferred locale as shown in the below picture and save the properties

SRSS Admin GUI, Kiosk Mode properties


4. Restart your DTU session to show the new Desktop Login Language setting:

  • You can do this by selecting Quit in the Desktop Login window, or
  • You can do this with the key sequence CTRL-ALT-BS-BS.
If all went well you will see the Oracle VDI Desktop Login window in your preferred language. The below picture shows the Desktop Login window for the Dutch language.

Oracle VDI Dutch Desktop Login window

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I post here hands-on examples which I have used in my Oracle VDI Desktop Virtualization projects at customers and partners.

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