Tuesday, March 27, 2012

VMware VIEW PCoIP optimization

I recently attended VMware Partner Exchange, which is an event that's geared towards partners obviously. We get a lot of great information out of the event and get to interact with a lot of the guys that work on the development teams of a variety of VMware products. I had the pleasure of attending a discussion with the VMware End User Computing (EUC). This was one of the more informative sessions I attended while out there. One of the Senior Consultants, by the name of Chuck Hirstius, from that group in particular did a great job at presenting a bunch of information on PCoIP. If you don't already follow Chuck's blog which can be found at the link below;


Chuck has developed a few tools that are worth checking out for troubleshooting and managing PCoIP. They are not officially endorsed by VMware, but from my experience with the tools they work great.

First up is the PCoIP Log Viewer - http://mindfluxinc.net/?p=195

Basically this is a Java based tool that you can download to your PC or a Server in the environment.

Note that when you use this tool to monitor a PCoIP session you are pointing the tool at the machine running the PCoIP Server process, which is typically the device you are connecting to, not the thin client or end user device. 

The tool will ultimately allow you to watch a PCoIP session and see what is consuming bandwidth on that session, how much latency the session sees, etc. This gives you clues on what might need to be changed, if anything, to optimize PCoIP. Now as Chuck calls out in his blog, most people's first reaction is to say "well isn't PCoIP adaptive" the answer is yes, however by setting some of the defaults we can help the protocol adapt more fluidly. From a consultants perspective this tool has come in handy in trying to fit a bunch of PCoIP sessions down a small pipe, in the most efficient way possible.

 So to be completely honest here I haven't used the log parser yet, which Chuck lists in the post above. The concept of the log parser is to be able to take PCoIP logs and collect them so they can be read by the log viewer. The live session capabilities are fantastic, and I can't wait to dig into the parser, because I'm sure it'll provide excellent longer term troubleshooting, or trying to identify root cause of something that's already happened.

Check out Chuck's video regarding usage of the tool;

Just to give a real world example, by default audio in a PCoIP session is allowed to spike to 500kbps. To give a frame of reference a phone call over IP is typically 64k - 80k in size. Now obviously we may not want mono-voice quality, however it certainly doesn't need 500k for audio, in most use cases. In a project I recently worked on we had deployed PCoIP over a WAN link that was relativity small. we had the log viewer up and running watching a test user session with PCoIP defaults selected. We noticed that when a user erroneously picked something in an application the windows error sound played and promptly spiked consuming 350k of bandwidth to shove that audio down the link as soon as possible. One of Chucks first recommendations, which I agree with, is to drop the Max Audio Settings to 100k.

Enter Chuck's second tool, the PCoIP configuration tool (beta) - http://mindfluxinc.net/?p=338

This tool allows you to change PCoIP settings to a particular device using a graphical interface. This is incredibly handy for testing out new settings, prior to deployment. It also allows you to tweak them before rolling them out to end users very easily. Chuck has even included some defaults, so you can use his "WAN" profile as a starting point for testing.

Note: You do have to disconnect and reconnect for these settings to take effect, however a reboot of the VM is not required.

After reading the information above you're probably wondering what settings to change. There is definitely an art to getting this right. There is no chart that says if you see this happen do this and change this setting. A lot of what we deal with in VIEW, or any virtual desktop technology, is related to end user experience. There are things we can change to solve bandwidth or latency constraints but it does have an effect on the end user experience. Our goal as Engineers/Consultants is to make the setting changes not have as minimal an impact as possible. Below is a link to the VMware KB that describes what each PCoIP setting is and what it does;

VMware KB for PCoIP

Lastly we need to know how to change these settings. From an administrative perspective it is possible to set these settings in the registry or with Chucks tool, however that is not the recommended approach. This is something that can be done through Active Directory GPO's. If you don't know this already there are ADM templates available that can be imported into your AD Group Policy Management console for use in deploying PCoIP through a GPO. They are part of the default installation of a VIEW Connection Server and can be found in the C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware View\Server\extras\GroupPolicyFiles. You'll notice other ADM templates here, and all are useful, the one we want is "pcoip.adm". After you've imported the ADM template you can create a GPO and change the settings for any of the objects listed in the VMware KB article above. This will allow you to change the PCoIP settings per desktop pool if you'd like, as long as you put each desktop pool in it's own AD OU.

As discussed above there are a great many settings we can change in PCoIP. The challenge is to figure out which ones are appropriate to change. I believe that the tools discussed above will help us to make informed decisions regarding modification of these settings, and hopefully provide our users with a better end user experience.



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