As I discussed in part 1 of this blog series, a number of competitors is pushing really hard to make customers and partners believe image management with XenDesktop is rocket science.

Within the last blog I focused on debunking the myth of Provisioning Services being overly complex. This time I’d like to focus on Machine Creation Services (MCS), which is –according to VMware1– “..too hard for most lean IT staffs to use..”.

Funnily enough we actually come across one challenge right away when talking about MCS: How to actually show it?

The reason is MCS is so tightly integrated into XenDesktop Studio that it is hard to see. Well there are a few services running on each XenDesktop Controller and you may see some tasks initiated by MCS in your hypervisor management console once XenDesktop has been integrated with your environment successfully.

Since integrating XenDesktop with the hypervisor platforms is a mandatory step before you’re able to use MCS, I’ll spend a word on this.

The integration of XenDesktop into the existing IT environment is fairly simple and typically done during the installation procedure of the first XenDesktop Controller. In case you skipped this configuration step initially or you would like to integrate XenDesktop with additional hypervisor platforms, you just need to run the “Add new connection and resources” wizard from within the XenDesktop Studio (as outlined in eDocs – Connections and Resources). The video below outlines the integration of an existing XenDesktop environment with XenServer, but the procedure would be the same for Hyper-V or vSphere/vCenter.



Now back to showcasing Machine Creation Services. Earlier I mentioned that it is hard to actually show MCS because of its seamless integration into XenDesktop Studio. Below you can find a screenshot where I’ve tried to point it out:



When you click “Create Machine Catalog”, which is the first step you’d do after XenDesktop has been installed, a wizard guiding you trough a 6 step process will be started. The wizard can be completed in about one minute or two. I’ve created a video showing you the wizard and the creation of ten desktops using local storage on a HP BL280c G6.



The cool thing about Machine Creation Services is that I could have opted for creating 100 desktops and the time required to complete the process would be only marginally longer. This is because MCS spins up a temporary VM during the image rollout process, which performs all customizations required centrally, instead of on each VM separately. After the prep work has been completed by the temp VM, the production VMs are created as empty shells with an ID disk (contains information about hostname and Active Directory machine account of the VM) and a difference disk (receives all writes performed by the VM) attached. In a final step all VMs will be linked to the “ready to run” base image.  No more reboots or personalization tasks required.

So that means the rollout is pretty fast and straightforward. How about the image update then? Is this where it gets overly complex?

I’d say no, but let’s have a look at what it means to update an image. The video below shows you the procedure required to update the 10 desktops we created earlier.



As you can see the procedure is not that different from the initial creation process. Just the wizard got a little simpler. Sorry for that… :-)

Now how about rolling back an image in case something went wrong and I need to revert to the last good known configuration? I did not create a video for that since the wizard for this use case is very similar to the machine update wizard we saw earlier. The only difference is that you don’t have to pick a specific snapshot manually. Instead MCS is aware of the last configuration and just rolls back to it. In order to roll back to an older image you just need to select the respective machine catalog and then click on “Rollback Machine Update” (as shown below):



I hope you agree with me that image management with XenDesktop regardless if it’s PVS (as discussed in part one of this series) or MCS is not overly complex so that most IT staff can’t cope with it. I know there is still room for improvement on our side and I can assure you that we’re working hard on simplifying the management aspects in XenDesktop even further. So stay tuned.

In the next blog of this series I’ll take a look at VMware View’s Composer, in order to see how that compares with our solutions.