VMware View 6.2 issues running on ESXi 5.x: Blackscreens and Disconnects Part 1

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There have been some interesting bugs in a plethora of VMware’s products this year. One that bit me pretty hard recently came out of a feature addition to the Horizon View platform. After updating View to the latest version 6.2 we were met with some interesting user complaints. Slow or laggy workstations, disconnections, and black screens after a supposed successful connection to a desktop. After researching the issue quite a bit I determined that this VMware blog had part of the answer, but can be a bit misleading for those of us that cannot upgrade vSphere to the latest (or do not want to) at the drop of a hat. It seems that VMware snuck another major application change into a dot release of their View software (the last one I ran into was the JMS2 secure communications port change between connection brokers and security servers which they added in 6.1 which caused quite an issue with next-gen firewall app definitions, but I will have to blog about that later). This time the change was in the video driver included in the View 6.2 Agent package, this new code has hooks which are exclusive to ESXi 6.0 Update 1a and above. These new features allow for a faster and smoother virtual desktop experience, but the unintended consequence is that if you are running a previous version of ESXi then these new features do not exist and when the Agent driver looks for them it causes the deviant behaviors listed above.

(If you are following the VMware best practices upgrade guide found here you will not run into this issue as View server components are steps 5 and 6, ESXi is step 10, and View Agent is step 12.)

Understanding these issues there are three paths forward for those of us who are not ready to move to the latest vSphere:

  1. Don’t upgrade to Horizon View 6.2, staying on 6.1 or earlier until you can upgrade vSphere to 6.0 U1a.
  2. Upgrade Horizon View to version 6.2 but leave the View Agents at version 6.1.1. It is still compatible and doesn’t install the new video features onto your View desktops.
  3. Use the instructions from the VMware blog sited above, but instead of taking the video drivers FROM the 6.2 Agent, you will be taking them from the 6.1.1 Agent and installing them over the video driver that gets installed with the 6.2 Agent. I will detail how to do that in part 2 of this blog post.
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