VMware VDI uses View 4.5 to deploy Microsoft Windows 7 virtual desktop systems. By reducing storage, processor and network overhead on data center infrastructure, IT managers can reduce TCO while improving ROI for virtual desktop infrastructure. VM performance can also be improved by removing services and task scheduler events that slow down virtual desktop operations.
One of the best ways to reduce costs in a virtual desktop infrastructure
deployment is to optimize the guest operating system. I slimmed down a virtual
machine guest running Windows 7 Enterprise edition to reduce the growth of the
cloned desktops in my tests of VMware View 4.5. Besides reducing the amount of
storage and CPU consumed by my test VDI systems, my guest VMs got a little
performance boost along the way.
My tests showed that there are some limits IT managers should keep in mind when
stripping down Windows 7 for use in a VDI deployment. Among other factors, it
is easy to be too enthusiastic in removing services and applications that may
be "little used" as opposed to "unneeded." There is no
substitute for fine-tuning in your environment, but here are some milestones
that I discovered on my way to creating a leaner, meaner Windows 7 reference
I used the guidelines provided by the VMware View 4.5 Administrator's Guide to tune my Windows 7 systems for VDI. The
first step in my optimization journey was to start with a version of Windows 7
that Microsoft provides that has already been slimmed down. I chose Windows 7
Enterprise on the assumption that only a volume license version of Windows
makes sense in a VDI deployment. Specifically, I used Windows 7 Enterprise N
x86, the European Union version of Windows 7, which has the unique advantage of
not having Windows Media Player embedded in the code.
I also created a parallel reference system using Windows 7 Enterprise x86-the "regular"
version. This system had no services or features fine-tuned for VDI but also
had nothing added that wasn't part of the normal installation process.
Optimizing Windows 7 or any guest operating system can be viewed in terms of a
series of modules: settings that are controlled when VMware creates the
reference VM, settings you control in the guest VM that favor performance over
prettiness, components and services that you disable, and finally services that
you remove from the guest VM and perform instead in the virtual environment,
such as antivirus protection.
In my optimized Windows 7 VM, I used VMware View 4.5 to reduce the virtual hardware
footprint. I removed the floppy drive, USB
controller and sound card but left the CD/DVD
drive. The optimized .vmdk file was 5.87GB while the .vmdk for the regular
installation was 6.2GB, making the optimized image 5.6 percent smaller.
To favor performance over prettiness, I set the sound scheme to "no
sounds," set the screen saver to "none" and used a basic theme
with a solid color background. Using system configuration I set my optimized VM
to boot with no GUI and using only base video. I also disabled the file system
utility that tracks the last time a file was accessed and set power usage to "performance."
Finally, I disabled a number of services and scheduled tasks in the optimized
Windows 7 VM. I agree with the assumption that updates and patching will happen
in the gold master and not in the virtual desktop systems. Therefore, I
disabled Windows Application Experience (the service that generates the Windows
Experience Score), and every diagnostic and customer experience reporting
service I could find. I also axed Windows themes, indexing, event logs, Windows
Defender, search and Windows Update.
Cameron Sturdevant is the executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Prior to ENP, Cameron was technical analyst at PCWeek Labs, starting in 1997. Cameron finished up as the eWEEK Labs Technical Director in 2012. Before his extensive labs tenure Cameron paid his IT dues working in technical support and sales engineering at a software publishing firm . Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his analysis is grounded in real-world concern. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at email@example.com.