Using an F5 iApp to Install and Configure VMware Horizon with View on Nutanix

Welcome to the second post in my series about realizing the benefits of using F5 technology with hyper-converged infrastructure such as the Nutanix hyper-converged platform.

Last month, I walked you through the simple process of installing BIG-IP Virtual Editions on Nutanix using the VMware ESXi hypervisor. Today, I’m going to talk about using Nutanix best practices to set up VMware Horizon with View and then configuring the BIG-IP VEs we installed earlier to proxy the PCoIP traffic — all using an easy F5 iApp. So if you’re ready, let’s get going.

This is a bit of a long post, so I’ll break it up into a few sections. In the first section, I’ll discuss the components that make up the solution, then we will move on to the steps required to prep the BIG-IP device for this solution. I’ll then tackle how to download the View iApp, and how to import it to the BIG-IP.

The next section takes us through the View-specific configuration steps required to use View with F5 BIG-IPs. Since SSL certificate management is an important and required part of any View environment, I’ll show you how to import the necessary SSL certificate and key. And finally, I’ll walk you through filling out the iApp wizard, showing how easy it is to configure the BIG-IPs for View.

Solution Components

In this screenshot of the vSphere Web Client inventory pane, you can see the environment as it exists for this solution.

We also have a pair of View Connection Servers and a Composer Server, all tied to an already existing database server. A few templates have been created for the three example desktop pools: one full clone, one linked clone dedicated pool, and one linked clone floating pool. In addition, we have the Nutanix Controller Virtual Machines (CVMs) running on each of the three Nutanix hosts in this environment. We also have the vCenter 6 Server for this environment running on one of the Nutanix hosts.

You might notice that there are no View Security Servers, nor are there any View Access Point servers being deployed in this scenario. Instead, we are going to be using the F5 BIG-IP VEs to handle secure access via the PCoIP and HTML5 protocols.

We have an HA pair of BIG-IP VEs, version 11.6 HF6. This is the version of BIG-IP that was recently released to support Horizon with View 6.2.

You can see here that the Nutanix-supplied datastores being used in this environment are

VAAI (vStorage APIs for Array Integration)-enabled, and set up according to Nutanix best practices.

Here is the setting in the View Admin UI, which allows for the use of the Nutanix VAAI and View Composer Array Integration features to enable fast cloning.

Now this is where I was really impressed. For this pool, I chose to have five desktops cloned at the same time from an existing replica… and bang, 15 seconds later, all five desktops are cloned and ready to be powered on.

Configuring the BIG-IP

Before we can allow the F5 devices to proxy the PCoIP traffic for View on the Nutanix platform, we have to do a bit of BIG-IP configuration. First, I went through the initial setup process for the BIG-IPs, setting the management IP address, the hostname, DNS resolvers, NTP servers, passwords and the like. I licensed these BIG-IPs with a VE BEST set of licenses, and I also deployed an HA Active/Standby pair of BIG-IPs, configuring them with Traffic Management Interface Self and “Floating” IPs to enable them to be in a Device Service Cluster.

These are standard procedures that are required anytime you configure an HA pair of BIG-IPs. It’s very well documented on our F5 Support site, which, by the way, is a great resource.

· Here’s how to deploy BIG-IP VEs on ESXi.

· Here’s a guide that discusses the initial setup of the BIG-IPs.

· And finally, a guide that discusses the Device Service Clustering process.

Now, let’s get back to it. One step that is required for this specific implementation with View is to provision the BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) module, which integrates with Active Directory (AD) and the PCoIP protocol, enabling the BIG-IPs to provide secure remote access to the View desktops.

You can see here that we need to put a check mark next to APM and set the provisioning to Nominal.


Downloading and Installing the F5 iApp

Let’s take a second and talk about F5 iApps, a user-customizable framework for deploying applications. iApps give you a powerful, flexible way to automate tasks and templatize sets of functionality on your F5 gear. Using APL (Application Presentation Language), you define a question-driven interface with which users will interact with their application and enter data. Using that data, you can then automate nearly any task on the device. 

For example, you can use iApps to automate the way you add virtual servers so that you don’t have to go through the same manual steps every time you add a new application. And guess what? There’s a great iApp already written for View. You can get all the iApps right here; the one we’ll be using for this solution is f5.vmware.view.v1.3.0.tmpl.

Once you have logged in to the F5 Downloads site, choose the BIG-IP v12.x / Virtual Edition link to see the latest set of iApp templates.

Then select the iApp-Templates download, read and accept the EULA, and download both the .zip and the .md5 files. You can use the tool of your choice to check the MD5 hash of the download to verify it has not been monkeyed with.

Extracting this .zip file will create a folder with all of the latest iApp templates. We are interested in the vmware.view one in the above screenshot. Make note of this location, because we’ll reference it when we import the iApp into the BIG-IP. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check the MD5 hash against the .tmpl file and to read the README.txt file while you’re at it.

The next major step is to import the iApp into the BIG-IP so we can utilize it with the View infrastructure we have installed.

Navigate to the iApps > Templates section of the BIG-IP UI, and click Import. On the next screen, click Browse and head over to the location where you unzipped the iApp templates earlier.

Choose the file. This will upload the template to the BIG-IP device, which will be synchronized with the other BIG-IP device in the cluster at the next synchronization event, whether that’s a manual sync event or an automatic sync event.


Configuring the View Environment

After the iApp is on the BIG-IP device, we can configure View for use with the BIG-IP PCoIP proxy — and to configure the BIG-IP via the iApp to provide PCoIP and HTML5 remote access services. Let’s start with the configuration of the View environment.

From the View Administrator GUI, expand the View Configuration twisty and choose Servers, and then the Connection Servers tab. Highlight one of the Connection Servers and click the Edit button.

Make sure that all three checkboxes on the General tab are unchecked, since the BIG-IPs are going to be handling the Secure Tunnel, PCoIP Secure Gateway, and Blast Secure Gateway services.

Repeat these steps for all remaining Connection Servers in your environment.


Uploading the SSL Certificate

Since View uses SSL certificates to assist in the encryption of the View traffic, we must have the SSL certificates used by View on the BIG-IP.

Navigate to System > File Management > SSL Certificate List and choose Import.

Provide the type, name, source, and password for the certificate (assuming a PKCS 12) and click Import. We will reference this certificate and key via the iApp wizard.

Using the iApp to Configure the BIG-IP for View

The final step in the whole process is to configure the BIG-IPs via the iApp.

Navigate to the iApp > Application Services section, and click on the Create button. Enter a name for the service you are creating and choose f5.vmware.view.v1.3.0 from the dropdown list of available templates.

Those blue bands to the left of certain field names indicate that the field is required.

Notice that in this section, I chose to change from the default to support HTML5 Clientless browser connections. This allows the BIG-IP to proxy both PCoIP and HTML5 browser–delivered virtual desktops in a secure manner.

In this section, I specified the NetBIOS domain name, location of my Active directory, the DNS suffix of my AD domain, and the credentials used for accessing AD. (I’d suggest that you create a unique AD user with administrative rights so that you can easily audit these connections.)

Here I chose to decrypt and re-encrypt the SSL traffic associated with View and specified the cert and key imported earlier. While it would be technically possible to only do SSL decryption and communicate between the BIG-IP and the View Connection Servers via port 80, this would require additional configuration steps to be completed on the View Connection Servers; it’s also less secure than re-encrypting.

Notice that I specified BOTH an internal and an external virtual server. The external virtual server securely proxies the PCoIP and HTML5 View traffic to clients on external untrusted networks, while the internal virtual server load balances the Connection Servers and allows for direct connections to clients on trusted internal networks.

This section is optional, but I created an advanced health monitor that allows for the BIG-IP to validate that not only are the Connection Servers pingable, but that they are actually able to authenticate a user and present back the list of available desktop pools to this particular user. This provides a higher level of assurance that the entirety of the View infrastructure is functioning as designed.

Finally, it is time to click Finished. And to watch as the hundreds of configuration objects are created on the BIG-IP device.

One of the major benefits of an iApp (beyond the speed of deployment) is that all of the configuration objects used to provide the service are grouped together in one screen where you can see their interrelatedness and notice the health of each of the components — all in one place.

And that’s how easy it is. You’re ready to go. If you’re interested in the business benefits of the F5 and Nutanix partnership, check out the following posts from my colleague, Frank Strobel:

· Boost Business Mobility and Application Security with Nutanix and F5

· F5 and Nutanix: Together, Powering Business Mobility

Published Dec 10, 2015
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