Using a CD/DVD drive in VMware View

I’ve had several people ask me about using CD/DVD drives on VMware View virtual desktops.  Specifically,

  • Can I use a CD or DVD drive with VMware View Desktops?
  • Why doesn’t the CD or DVD drive on my re-purposed PC with the VMware View Client pass through to the View desktop?
  • How can I make a CD or DVD drive work on my View Desktop?
  • Are there specific CD/DVD drives that are supported on VMware View?
  • How can I present a CD image (.ISO) to all View Desktops?

CD/DVD Devices in a View Environment – What works, what doesn’t?

First, the bad news.  When using PC over IP (PCoIP) as the connection protocol, IDE, SCSI, or SATA attached CD or DVD (or BluRay, HD-DVD, LaserDisc) drives local to the VMware View Client are not passed through to the VMware View virtual desktop.  This quite simply means that the internal CD drive of your re-purposed desktop will not be mapped to the View desktop when using PCoIP.  That said, mapping local CD or DVD drives to a View virtual desktop is supported when using Microsoft Remote Display Protocol (RDP).  Unfortunately, user experience (video performance, audio quality) declines and low/latent bandwidth  can increase if you switch from PCoIP to RDP.

The better approach to presenting a local CD/DVD drive to a View Desktop is to use a USB-connected drive.  This approach will work with both re-purposed PC’s acting as your View client as well as with Thin Clients and Zero Clients.  USB-connected devices can be passed through from a View Client to a VMware View virtual desktop while using PCoIP.  Teradici (the creators of PCoIP and maker of most of the Tera chips in industry leading Thin and Zero clients) has published a list of tested USB CD/DVD drives on their KB here http://techsupport.teradici.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=15164&task=knowledge&questionID=566.  Note that if you use some of these drives with a Windows XP View desktop, you may experience a View disconnect when ejecting a disc from the drive.  Other USB CD and DVD drives may also work – I grabbed this drive (OWC SuperSlim USB 2.0 Enclosure) from a colleague and was able to pass it through to my Clearpath Cloud hosted Windows 7 View desktop with no problems.

CD/DVD Drive Performance in a View Environment

While a USB connection will get your CD or DVD drive connected to your View desktop, performance may not be amazing.  For many tasks like software installs, reading images, or copying files performance will be acceptable.  A Teradici client can support up to 15Mbps for USB connected devices.  On a low bandwidth connection, or a connection with high latency, a local USB connected CD/DVD may not work well, if at all.  On a fast LAN connection, I would expect that redirected CD/DVD performance would be acceptable for many tasks, including reading medical images (PACS, DICOM viewer, RIS, HIS).  Do not expect to stream media or watch movies from a USB connected CD/DVD drive – but because View is typically a business solution, and watching the latest Hollywood hit at work is not often a business requirement, this should present few problems in all but the smallest niche cases (so get back to work!).  Disc burning would work with this configuration too – better for burning small images than a mass disc duplication effort.

Alternative Methods and Niche Cases

I’ve run into a few situations over the past decade or so of IT work where a desktop needed to have a CD/DVD perpetually connected to support some crummy application (FoxPro comes to mind here).  If you are supporting an environment like this, you can configure your parent VM with a persistently connected ISO on a VMFS or NFS vSphere datastore. Using this method, you could present the same CD image (.ISO) to all the VM’s based on the parent VM.  The connected ISO setting carries over to View Composer replicas and linked clones.  If you wanted to target this configuration to just a specific pool of View desktops, create a new snapshot of the parent image with the virtual CD/DVD drive set to ‘Connect at power on’ and an ISO file selected in the ‘Datastore ISO File’ field, as pictured below:

View Parent VM ISO Connected

Note that in the VMware View Optimization Guide for Windows 7, and many other View tuning guides, it is recommended to remove the virtual CD/DVD drive from the parent VM.  If you follow this recommendation, you could still leverage a virtual CD/DVD drive, such as Microsoft Virtual CD Control Tool or UltraISO can also be used inside the View guest operating system, with an ISO library established on a low cost shared storage tier network share to give users a self-service way to mount a CD or DVD image.

Restricting Access to CD/DVD Devices in a VMware View Environment

While VMware-empowered IT is all about giving users freedom and control, there may be times where you want to restrict access to USB CD/DVD devices (or any other USB devices) in your VMware View environment.  You can do this in several ways – a complete solution will likely use a combination of the following methods based on user requirements, administrative overhead, and security posture:

  • Use VMware View Group Policy administrative templates (.adm) applied to the View Client to control either ‘Connect all USB devices to the desktop on launch’ or ‘Connect USB devices to the desktop when they are plugged in’.
  • If using RDP, use the same View Client (vdm_client.adm) administrative template to disable the ‘Redirect supported plug-and-play devices’
  • Use built-in Active Directory Group Policy Objects (GPO), applied to your View Desktops OU’s, such as
  • Administrative Templates | System | Removable Storage Access
  • Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Remote Desktop Services | Device and Resource Redirection
  • Administrative Templates | System | Device Installation | Device Installation Restrictions
  • Use your Thin Client or Zero Client vendor’s management software to restrict access to, or disable, USB devices on Thin Clients.

Serial port devices in a VMware View environment

I’ve also had a couple questions about serial device (DB9 COM port) connections to View desktops.  Most of the above applies to serial devices too.  If serial devices are required in your environment, pick up a USB to Serial adapter (something like this will do Cables To Go 26886 USB To DB9 Male Serial Adapter, Blue (0.45 Meters/1.5 Feet)) and use GPO’s to control access and redirection of the USB device.

Wrap-up

Hopefully this answers your questions on using CD and DVD drives in a VMware View virtual desktop environment.  A combination of VMware View settings, vSphere VM configuration settings, and Microsoft Group Policy Objects (GPO’s) give you the ability to use and control removable media devices in your View environment.

Have you struggled with any other devices in your VMware View environment – leave a comment with your questions or suggested work-arounds!

Note: This article is cross-posted at the Clearpath Solutions Group blog at http://clearpathsg.com/weblog.

VMware View + Clearpath Solutions Group = Love

Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. So why have they not figured out how to support IDE or SATA CD drive redirection with PCoIP yet? Is this coming soon?

    My next question is, is there any software out there that will emulate a USB cd drive and redirect that to the physical drive?

    • Thanks for the comment, KP. I don’t have much information on future plans from VMware or Teradici. That said, I assume that it is possible to support IDE or SATA CD drives over PCoIP (other protocols support it), but may negatively impact the user experience (performance). Because VMware & Teradici (the creators of PCoIP) are very concerned with the user experience as we move towards stateless desktops, support may not be added. The use case for connecting internal CD drives is also diminishing as thin clients, mobile devices, and hardened desktops become the norm for end-user access. If support is needed allow your users to connect to their desktop via RDP for internal CD use.

      I have not seen a software package that will emulate an internal IDE or SATA drive as a USB. However, I have seen IDE-to-USB and SATA-to-USB converters. Many mother boards have internal USB pin-outs. I’m sure you could get an adapter installed internally for users who need this on their desktop to support these drives.

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