Provisioning Services (PVS)–Notes from the Field

A lot of content out there on PVS has become somewhat “stale” but it is still good info. I figured I would rehash some notes from the field that are relevant after brushing up on PVS for a recent project.  In no particular order below, here are some handy tips.

  • You can use the built-in PXE (bnpxe) and the built-in TFTP or a standalone offering.
  • The built in PXE control panel applet does not work on 2012 R2 and support has stated they have no intent of fixing it.
  • You can use DHCP options instead of PXE to offer the boot file (TFTP) server and the boot file name.
  • Be sure to load balance TFTP
  • The built in PXE server points to TFTP on itself.
  • The XenDesktop Setup Wizard in PVS 7 discards all disks attached to a template.
  • The XenDesktop Setup Wizard can create a boot device manager (BDM) disk (8MB VHD or VMDK) for you, avoiding the need for PXE/TFTP and eliminating the scalability/migration problems of attaching a central ISO
  • The Boot Device Manager utility can create ISOs.  Be wary with this utility that you do not overwrite your partitions on your PVS server.  I’ve seen it done too many times to mention. (Avoided it myself so far Winking smile)
  • The imaging wizard is not your only option.  You can use BNImage or P2PVS (especially helpful when capturing multi-partition/disk servers)
  • When booting to “hard disk” using PVS for capture with P2Pvs (be it via the boot file delivered by TFTP, BDM partition, or BDM ISO), when multiple local drives are attached, set the one with the bootable partition to the highest SCSI ID or PVS will not find the boot loader.
  • Set your cache type to “Cache in RAM with spillover to disk”.  Going forward, all other modes will be considered legacy. Check out the tech deep dive here.
  • It is not necessary to disable intermediate buffering with Cache in RAM with spillover to disk.
  • You must have at least (7.1 SP3) server and target device for the Cache in RAM portion of Cache in RAM with spillover to disk to work.
  • PVS 6.x is E-O-L 6/17/2015.  Time to upgrade.
  • Threads and ports are important.  Up the number of threads if you’ll have a large number of servers potentially connecting to PVS (more than 160 by default).  Remember to consider your HA/failover balancing with this!
  • If you’re using 2008R2, you must have KB2550978 installed. Note: In 7.6 the error reported is no longer 0x000007b but rather 0x000007e.  Refer to this thread for additional troubleshooting tips. In short, check hotfix, Ethernet pciSlotNumber (or deviceID in XenServer) and for ghost NICs.
  • If you’re using a file share, try to use an SMB2.1 or higher server.  2012 R2 is recommended (for both file server and PVS) so everything can speak SMB3.  Note: Some NAS devices may not properly “speak” SMB 3 despite being advertised.  As always, test.
  • DFS-R Replication of vDisk store requires proper configuration of the staging area.  You can avoid a whole lot of pain by using a robocopy script to manually replicate your disks around.  Should you choose DFS-R, be sure to size your staging area and exclude the .lok files.
  • DisableTaskOffload is still best practice for PVS server and Target Device
  • If you’re using KMS, you can’t use Network service as the service account.  Use a domain account that is local administrator.
  • Register your SPN for your service account

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