VMware Horizon 8 on VMware vSAN and vSAN File Services

Executive Summary

Business Case

Customers wanting to deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure today, require a cost-effective, highly scalable, and easy-to-manage solution. Applications need to be refreshed and published at will and should not require multiple levels of IT administration. Most importantly, the infrastructure itself must be able to scale with the minimal total cost of ownership (TCO) yet still provide enterprise-class performance.

File Services are a common requirement in the virtual desktop environment. Historically, providing file-level services meant using a physical storage array or VMs capable of serving file-level protocols such as NFS and SMB. These approaches introduce additional factors in the design and management of an environment that are not trivial. Native file services for VMware vSAN™ helps ease the burden of management overhead when vSAN environments require file-level services. Instead of using a legacy physical storage array or deploying VMs and additional licensing to provide file services, an administrator can simply enable this cluster-level service on a vSAN cluster.

VMware Horizon® accommodates a number of desktop and application models. One of these models involves assembling disposable virtual machines with attached containerized applications and saved settings to build a nonpersistent desktop service with a persistent user experience, nonpersistent VMs provide significant improvements in speed and efficiency of desktop and application lifecycle management.

Microsoft FSLogix integrates with VMware technologies to complement Horizon desktop models. FSLogix Profile Containers can persist user data and user configuration data between nonpersistent desktop sessions. By capturing user profile and configuration data and persisting this data in. VHD(X) files, user profile, and configuration data are mounted upon user login via the VHD(X) files allowing block I/O access to user profile and configuration data thus reducing the I/O and latency demands on vSAN storage.

In this solution, we provide deployment procedures, design, performance, and best practices for enterprise infrastructure administrators and application owners to run Horizon non-persistent desktops together with Microsoft FSLogix, which leverages vSAN File Services to store user profile and configuration data on vSAN.

Business Values

The top 4 benefits of this solution are:

  • Rapid deployment and configuration: elastic and scalable infrastructure for Horizon workloads deployment, integrated file service enablement in UI as a vSAN cluster service.
  • High performance and scalable hyperconverged storage: consistent performance and predictable scalability for Horizon non-persistent pools and highly efficient zero-copy techniques.
  • VMware vSphere®-integrated performance and health monitoring: vSAN Performance Service provides IO performance metrics for file services and Skyline Health check covering infrastructure health, file server health, and file share health.
  • CAPEX and OPEX savings: no need for external storage and easily accommodating file share growth through the use of additional vSAN resources, consolidating storage usage, eliminating infrastructure silos and reducing OPEX with integrated management, automated processes, and familiar vSphere tools.

Key Results

This solution is a showcase of VMware Horizon nonpersistent desktops with user profiles and data stored using Microsoft FSlogix and redirected to vSAN File Services. To ensure that there was no significant performance degradation, user profile and data were also redirected to a virtual machine configured for Windows SMB file sharing and compared. Key results can be summarized as following:

  • Demonstrate the storage performance of vSAN file shares can support sustainable desktop workloads.
  • Validate Windows 10 instant clones with FSlogix containers work well with vSAN as one unified storage for both desktops and SMB file shares.
  • Performance comparison against a Windows Server 2016 virtual machine with file sharing services enabled,
  • Proven resiliency to guarantee desktop workload continuity and stability under predictable failure scenarios.

Note: The performance results in this solution are validated on the VMware vSAN HCI platform of which is also applied to VMware Cloud Foundation™.


This solution is intended for IT architects, consultants, and administrators involved in the early phases of planning, design, and deployment of VDI solutions using VMware Horizon running on all-flash vSAN. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the concepts and operations of Horizon technologies and VMware vSphere products.

Technology Overview

Solution technology components are listed below:

  • VMware vSphere version 7.0 Update 1 and above
  • VMware vSAN version 7.0 Update 1 and above
  • VMware vSAN File Services
  • VMware Horizon
  • Microsoft FSLogix

VMware vSphere

VMware vSphere is VMware's virtualization platform, which transforms data centers into aggregated computing infrastructures that include CPU, storage, and networking resources. vSphere manages these infrastructures as a unified operating environment and provides operators with the tools to administer the data centers that participate in that environment. The two core components of vSphere are ESXi™ and vCenter Server®. ESXi is the hypervisor platform used to create and run virtualized workloads. vCenter Server is the management plane for the hosts and workloads running on the ESXi hosts.

VMware vSAN

VMware vSAN is the market leader in the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) space, enables low cost and high-performance next-generation HCI solutions, converges traditional IT infrastructure silos onto industry-standard servers and virtualizes physical infrastructure to help customers easily evolve their infrastructure without risk, improve TCO over traditional resource silos, and scale to tomorrow with support for new hardware, applications, and cloud strategies.

VMware vSAN File Services

vSAN File Services is a layer that sits on top of vSAN to provide file sharing services. It currently supports SMB, NFSv3, and NFSv4.1 file shares. vSAN File Service brings in the capability to host the file shares directly on the vSAN cluster. See vSAN File Services.

From vSAN 7 Update 1 and newer, SMB shares created in vSAN can be accessed by both Windows clients (8/2012) and Mac clients (OS 10 and later). The support of SMB, paired with Activity Directory integration makes it an ideal solution for various use cases – including, but not limited to VDI use cases, where VDI instances may prefer user/home directory redirection to a dedicated shared storage location.

See vSAN File Services Tech Note.

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Figure 1. VMware vSAN File Services

VMware Horizon

VMware Horizon is a modern platform for secure delivery of virtual desktops and apps across the hybrid cloud, from the market leader in software-defined data center and digital workspaces. By leveraging the unique integration with the trusted VMware technology, Horizon helps IT efficiently deploy and scale virtual desktops and apps from a single control plane with rapid provisioning, automation, and simplified management to extend the best digital workspace experience to end users. Horizon on vSphere is available anywhere that VMware vSphere is providing the infrastructure, such as on-premises data centers, VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services, Azure VMware Solution, or Google Cloud VMware Engine.

Microsoft FSLogix

FSLogix is a set of solutions that enhance, enable, and simplify non-persistent Windows computing environments. FSLogix solutions are appropriate for virtual environments in both public and private clouds. FSLogix aids in offloading user profile and data from the local physical or virtual machine to SMB file shares. User profiles and data are redirected and stored in VHD(x) files that are mounted for block access during FSLogix runtime. See What is FSLogix for details.

Solution Configuration

This section introduces the resources and configuration:

  • Architecture diagram
  • Hardware resources
  • Software resources
  • Network configuration
  • Virtual machine configuration

Architectural Diagram

Figure 2. Architectural Diagram

Hardware Resources

Table 1. Hardware Configuration



Server model name

Dell PowerEdge R740xd


Gold 6150 @ 2.70 GHz



Network adapter

2 each Mellanox Technologies MT27710 Family [ConnectX-4 Lx]

Storage adapter

Dell HBA330


1 each 1.46TB Dell Express Flash P4600 NVMe (Intel)

2 each 746GB Toshiba SAS SSD

Software Resources

Table 2 shows the software resources used in this solution.

Table 2. Software Resources




VMware vSphere

7.0 U1/7.0U2

vSphere is the industry-leading compute virtualization platform.

VMware vSAN

7.0 U1/7.0U2

vSAN is enterprise-class, storage virtualization software that, when combined with vSphere, allows you to manage compute and storage with a single platform.

Login VSI


An industry standardized Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) benchmark application used to generate virtual desktop workload and test performance.

Microsoft Windows 10 Operating System

Windows 10

Microsoft Windows 10 Operating System.

Horizon Workspace One


Horizon management infrastructure installed to deploy and manage virtual desktops.

Network Configuration

Figure 3. Network Configuration

Table 3. Virtual Distributed Switch Teaming Policy

Port Group

Teaming Policy




Management network

Route based on physical NIC load



VM network

Route based on physical NIC load



vSphere vMotion

Route based on physical NIC load







Virtual Machine Configuration

Template: create a Windows 10 1909 image, following the guidance in Creating Optimized Windows Images for VMware Horizon Virtual Desktops, and then install Login VSI required applications such as office and Adobe.

Table 4. Virtual Machine Configuration


Login VSI Image

Desktop OS

Windows 10 Enterprise 1909 (OS Build 18363.1198)


VMware Virtual Hardware version 17





Memory Reserved

3072 MB

Video RAM


3D graphics




Virtual network adapter 1

VMXNet3 Adapter

Virtual disk--VMDK1


SCSI controller



Microsoft Office 2019 Professional Plus

Internet Explorer 11

Adobe Reader 11

Adobe Flash Player 11

Doro PDF 1.82

VMware Tools

VMware Tools version:11329

VMware View Agent

v8.0.0-16530789 or later

Windows Server 2016 File Sharing Enabled Virtual Machine Configuration

The file sharing enabled server virtual machine was created to observe the differences in performance between the vSAN File Services and the Windows Server 2016 file sharing enabled virtual machine. Testing was performed using Login VSI and FSLogix redirecting user profile and data directly to the file share exported from this virtual machine.

Table 5. Windows Server File Sharing Enabled Virtual Machine Configuration


Windows Server 2016 Image

Windows OS

Windows Server 2016 (OS Build


VMware Virtual Hardware version 17





Memory Reserved


Video RAM




Virtual Network Adapter 1

VMXNet3 Adapter

Virtual Disk – VMDK1


Virtual Disk – VMDK2


SCSI Controller

VMware Paravirtual

VMware Tools

VMware Tools version:11333

Solution Validation

Test Overview

The main goal is to verify and recommend a cost-effective and performance consistent configuration for Horizon instant clone desktops together with Microsoft FSLogix to redirect the local profile to vSAN File Services. It includes the following tests:

  • Performance benchmark testing: to measure VDI performance using Login VSI (Knowledge Worker workload).
  • Resilience testing: to ensure vSAN and its native file service can support sustainable workload under predictable failure scenarios.

Test Tools

The following monitoring and benchmark tools were utilized in this solution testing.

Monitoring Tools

  • vSAN Performance Service

vSAN Performance Service is used to monitor the performance of the vSAN environment, using the vSphere web client. The performance service collects and analyzes performance statistics and displays the data in a graphical format. You can use the performance charts to view and manage your workloads to determine the root cause of problems.

  • vSAN Skyline Health Check

vSAN Skyline Health Check delivers simplified troubleshooting and monitoring experience for all things related to vSAN. Through the vSphere web client, it offers multiple health checks specifically for vSAN including cluster, hardware compatibility, data, limits, physical disks. It is used to check the vSAN health before the mixed-workload environment deployment.

  • Windows Performance Monitor

Windows Performance Monitor is a Windows tool that enables users to capture statistics about CPU, memory, and disk utilization from operating system levels. It also provides counters for monitoring all things Windows from the operating system, application performance and status.

Benchmark Tool

  • Login VSI (

Login Virtual Session Indexer (Login VSI) is the industry standard load-simulation testing tool for measuring the performance and scalability of centralized Windows desktop environments, such as VDI and hosted applications. Login VSI is used for simulating a typical user activity using the virtual desktop. Login VSI is 100% vendor independent and works with standardized user workloads. This standardization makes all conclusions that are based on Login VSI test data objective, verifiable, and repeatable.

Login VSI has several different workload templates depending on the type of user to be simulated. Each workload differs in application operations and the number of operations executed simultaneously. In the tests, the workload type is ‘Knowledge Worker * 2vCPU’. The medium-level Knowledge Worker workload was selected because it provides the closest comparison to the average desktop user in our customer deployments.

The VDI workload in general is very CPU intensive. vSAN can support more desktops per host from the storage perspective. But we found that host CPU could be completely saturated during Login VSI knowledge worker workload when a number of desktops per host reached a certain level. Therefore, we focused our tests on baseline testing desktop number to observe the initial vSAN File Services performance.

Performance Benchmark Testing

Baseline Test

Baseline tests were run to determine the optimal Windows 10 instant clones environment for each host in the configured virtual desktop cluster pod (File Services Cluster).  Login VSI knowledge worker workload configuration was selected to ensure that that we drove the cluster utilization level to no more than 85% during the baseline testing. All Windows 10 instant clone desktops were deployed using the local user profile on the vSAN backend storage. These tests were performed on vSAN storage without any redirection of user profile and data to any file shares.

With the Windows 10 instant-clones deployed, Login VSI was staged and run to benchmark the deployed Windows 10 instant clone desktops on the cluster. Login VSI drove the deployed desktops in the cluster to ~85% CPU utilization. With all desktops actively driving a knowledge-based workload consisting of the most commonly used enterprise applications such as Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Reader, Web Browser, PDF printer as well as other applications and utilities, we were successfully able to mimic a typical user-based workload for each deployed instant clone desktop.

As shown in the baseline test chart below, these results were successful posting only 65.12 percent of VSImax threshold indicating significant headroom to run additional workloads. In all tests, Login VSI passed with the VSImax average consistently posting results well under the VSImax threshold. Any result above the VSImax threshold indicates a failure in the test.

Figure 4. Baseline Test Results

Single File Share Test Results using FSLogix

In the table below are the results of testing with FSLogix and a single SMB file share created on vSAN File Services.

FSLogix is a data redirection application acquired by Microsoft to aid in the offloading of user profiles and data from the local physical or virtual machine to SMB file shares. User profiles and data is redirected and stored in VHD(x) files that are mounted as a block device during FSLogix runtime by mounting the VHD(x) files, the user profile data is accessed as large file access which places lesser of a demand on the file share(s) the data is stored on. FSLogix also includes an option known as "Cloud Cache" which can be enabled and configured to provide resiliency and availability by creating and storing multiple active/active copies of the user and office profile and data. This solution did not utilize the FSLogix “Cloud Cache” option.

FSLogix configuration involves configuring a group policy or modifying the registry directly by adding and configuring keys to redirect user profile and optionally Microsoft Office profile and data. For ease of testing the registry was modified to redirect the user profile and Microsoft Office profile and data. The diagram below displays the registry entries that were configured to facilitate the testing.

In the diagrams above, two registry entries must be added and enabled to redirect the data (Enabled uses a value of 0 or 1 with 1 enabling the function and VHDLocations for the file share location for redirecting the data). Take note of the key path locations listed at the top of each diagram. For more information on configuring user profile and Microsoft Office data refer to the following the Microsoft FSLogix Site.

Table 6 includes IOPs, latency, throughput results for the file shares as well as backend performance of the vSAN storage. These tests were performed under user workloads of the deployed desktops using Horizon 2006 and Login VSI v4.1.40.1, the industry standard for test user workloads on various VDI platforms.

Table 6. FSLogix User and Office Profile and Data Configuration for Single File Share

File Share


Write IOPS

Read Throughput

Write Throughput

Read Latency

Write Latency




933.36 KB/s

18.48 MB/s

1.254 ms

2.309 ms

The test profile consisted of the Login VSI "Knowledge Worker “profile consisting of a 2vCPU configuration where various applications such as Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Java, Photo Viewer Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Freemind as well as DoroPDF used for creating and printing pdf files. This profile is a well-balanced intensive workload that will smoothly stress the cluster resulting in higher CPU, memory, and storage I/O usage.



Figure 5. Single File Share VDIFS01 also with File Explorer Diagram Displaying FSLogix Folders

Under test loads, the VSImax Knowledge Worker posted scores of 1,111 for the VSIbase, 1894 for VSImax average, and 2112 for VSImax threshold using the knowledge worker configuration profile. This represents 89.7 percent of VSImax threshold with all sessions executing, completing their cycles, and logging off successfully.

Figure 6. Single File Share Test Results using FSLogix

Comparing a Windows server 2016 File Sharing enabled VM and FSLogix to the VSAN File Services and FSLogix

To support our testing, a manually created Windows Server 2016 virtual machine with SMB file sharing services enabled was created. We executed multiple tests against the file server virtual machine and the vSAN File Services.

Tests of medium and heavy workloads using the provisioned desktops were executed. All testing resulted in successfully writing all user profiles and data while never meeting or exceeding the Login VSI VsiMax threshold value. Due to the system and data drives performance aggregation, reading from and writing to the Windows Server 2016 file server virtual machine resulted in higher latencies and throughput as expected.

Table 7 displays the raw data points while the chart in Figure 7 displays the graphical data.

Table 7. vSAN File Services and Windows 2016 Server and FSLogix Raw Data Comparison

File Share Enabled VM and vSAN File Services Comparison

Write IOPS


Write Throughput MB/s

Read Throughput MB/s

Write Latency  (ms)

Read Latency  (ms)

File Share Enabled VM







VSAN File Services







With the Windows Server 2016 file server virtual machine powered off, the same tests were once again executed against the vSAN File Services. As previously observed, all user profiles and data were written successfully to the file share. The added benefit was the data was accessible from the vSAN file server virtual machine UNC path and in the case of a host or file service virtual machine failure would have automatically been failed over and access is redirected to one of the other available file service virtual machines in the cluster. To achieve this behavior with the Windows Server 2016 file sharing enabled virtual machine, the Windows file server would need to be clustered and that means managing an additional virtual machine and its licensing. When implementing multiple file shares, using the vSAN File Services, the performance of the file share(s) could be evenly spread across all members of the cluster. We also had no interruption of system restart with the vSAN File Services, which was also an added benefit.

In Figure 7 the results of the comparison testing are displayed. In all tests executed, the vSAN File Services performed better with all read metrics higher and latency metrics below the Windows Server 2016 file server.

Figure 7. vSAN File Services and Windows Server 2016 File Server with FSLogix Comparison

In our validation, a 4-node cluster was utilized for desktop provisioning. To keep the performance of the file service balanced within the cluster, we deployed four file server virtual machines, one on each host of the cluster. The configuration shown below was used to show a large deployment with load distribution of vSAN file shares in Figure 8. Four file shares were created on the vSAN cluster. The object was to spread the user profile and Microsoft Office profile and data across the four shares to evaluate the performance and impact on the vSAN File Services. For these tests, four separate VDI pools were created using four separate templates pointing to each of the four file shares. An equal number of desktop clients were created for each desktop pool and the Login VSI test application was modified to use a comma-separated value (.csv) file to evenly spread the workload and data across the four file service file shares. As each launcher logged into a virtual desktop, the FSLogix filter driver would create a VHD(X) file on the file share designated in the desktop template's registry. At no time during any of our tests were the file shares or backend vSAN storage under stress or overloaded by the active workloads. Figure 8 displays the architectural diagram which depicts a multiple file share deployment while Table 8 displays the latency as well as other performance results from the tests executed.

Figure 8. Multiple File Shares with File Explorer Diagram Displaying FSLogix Folders

Table 8. FSLogix User and Office Profile and Data Configuration for Multiple File Shares

File Share


Write IOPS

Read Throughput

Write Throughput

Read Latency

Write Latency




676.30 KB/s

1.02 MB/s

0.735 ms

0.889 ms




678.33 KB/s

1.01 MB/s

0.941 ms

1.001 ms




719.86 KB/s

1.17 MB/s

0.891 ms

0.919 ms




665.02 KB/s

1.11 MB//s

0.862 ms

0.92 ms

In Figure 9, the VSImax Knowledge Worker v4.1 VSIbase and VSImax average and VSImax threshold scores are displayed. Heavy duty sessions using the knowledge worker profile were executed and all sessions completed their test cycles successfully and logged off without incident.

Figure 9. FSLogix User and Office Profile and Data Configuration for Multiple File Shares

Test Result Analysis

In comparison, the percentage of sessions run at baseline, single share, multiple file shares, and the Windows Server 2016 file server using FSLogix resulted in achieving 99.4 percent of the expected workloads executed. The percentage of sessions with file share redirection using the vSAN File Services and the Windows 2016 Server file server that ran successfully using Login VSI on the cluster was almost the same as the baseline. This is a clear indicator that the vSAN File Services can support VDI with user profile and Microsoft Office data redirection using FSLogix.


 Figure 10. Login VSI Successful Desktop Session Run Count

In Figure 11 it is shown that tests with the single file share, resulted in some overhead associated with all I/O being targeted to a single file share. With a multi-file share, we can observe that the performance was similar to the baseline performance results. This is due to I/O targeted to multiple file shares thus spreading the workload across the cluster hosting the vSAN File Services.


Figure 11. Login VSI Baseline Single, Multiple and File Share Enabled VM Comparison

Resiliency Testing

One Node Failure

A single vSAN node hardware failure was simulated for a vSAN Cluster.

VMware vSphere High Availability and VMware vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) behaved as expected, vSphere HA restarted the desktops on the other nodes. The affected desktops were restarted and all desktops were ready for user login. DRS rebalanced the load across all hosts in the vSAN cluster. For host failures, it does not return an IO error, vSAN has a configurable repair delay time (60 minutes by default) and components are rebuilt across the cluster. The vSAN file shares were accessible during the failover. 

vSAN File Services Failure

In the unlikely event of a file service container failure, the file shares will perform a failover to another file service container ensuring the file share(s) is still accessible.

To simulate a file service failure, commands were entered to stop the container service from running and then checked to ensure that the container was no longer running on the file service. In less than one minute, the access status of the file share was checked and verified that it could still be accessed successfully, and that the data was still accessible. After the failure of the file service, a rebalance was needed to ensure all file shares were healthy and the system load was spread evenly throughout the cluster.

vSphere and vSAN ensured minimal disruption to end-users when there was a host hardware failure. While access to the file share was momentarily disrupted, this did not impact end-user productivity. vSphere and vSAN provide a highly resilient platform for running virtual desktop infrastructure. Figure 12 displays the status of vSAN File Services.

Figure 12. Skyline Health Check

Best Practices

  • vSAN File Services for SMB sharing:
  • Spread workload to different shares if possible. For small VDI deployment, one share performance is adequate; for large deployment, multiple shares are recommended for workload balance and scalability.
  • Merge small file access to large file such as VHDX files if possible. Based on our performance testing, large file access improves the Login VSI VSIMax score.
  • Assign a storage policy with a failure to tolerate setting of failures to tolerate (FTT) of one or more to provide resiliency and data protection.
  • Start you deployment keeping the file services virtual machine deployment in alignment with the number of members of the vSAN cluster.
  • For very large environments consider using a separate vSAN cluster for vSAN File Services.
  • Work with your backup software provider to ensure their software meets your organization’s policies for backup of file shares.
  • Network consideration:
  • Separate physical networks using different network range and VLAN ID for management, vSphere vMotion®, vSAN, VM Network, and VXLAN VTEP network. NOTE: VMware does not recommend the use of Link Aggregation Groups (LAG) for vSAN networks. For our testing, vSAN network was set up in a failover configuration to prevent any storage network disruption.


Extensive workload, operations, and resiliency testing show that Horizon 8 with Microsoft FSLogix on all-flash vSAN File Services delivers enterprise-level performance, a consistent end-user experience, easy manageability using tools that are familiar to IT administrators as well as a resilient architecture.

VMware vSAN is a low-cost and high-performance storage platform for a virtual desktop infrastructure that is rapidly deployed and easy to manage. Moreover, it is fully integrated into the industry-leading VMware Cloud Foundation. VMware vSAN solves the problems of storage cost and complexity by giving you a high-performance, flash-accelerated datastore you can enable and grow affordably without large capital investments.

vSphere and vSAN ensured minimal disruption to end-users when there was a planned and unplanned host hardware failure. While access to the file share was momentarily disrupted, this did not impact end-user productivity. Our tests were uninterrupted and continued to function as normal. vSphere and vSAN provided a highly resilient platform for running the Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure.

Native File Services for vSAN helps to ease the burden of management overhead when vSAN environments require file-level services for VDI, SMB, NFS, and other file service requirements. Instead of using legacy physical storage, or deploying VMs to provide file services, an administrator can easily enable this cluster-level service on a vSAN cluster.

Contact your HCI SE for more information on scaling vSAN File Services, design, and deployment options.

About the Author

Charles Windom, Solutions Architect, in the Solutions Architecture team of the Cloud Platform Business Unit (CPBU), wrote the original version of this paper.

The following reviewers also contributed to the paper contents:

  • Sophie Yin, Senior Solutions Architect in CPBU at VMware
  • Hilko Lantinga, Staff EUC Architect Desktop Technical Marketing
  • Kiran Sreenivasamurthy, Director of Product Management at VMware
  • Albert Guo, Staff 2 Engineer of vSAN at VMware


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