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Art of BI: Remote Desktop Connect to a VM Image

Christian Screen | | May 24, 2009

After we put together our Hyperion 11x VM Image I started thinking about how I wanted to use the new server environment for testing, etc.  Who doesn’t like VMware? But I am not amazed by the resolution or boxy resizing functionality of the VMware console.  When I want to take screenshots of the MS Excel Hyperion Essbase add-in retrieves against the VM Image I don’t want to open the VM console each time to do so.
What I really want to be able to do, especially with this VM Image being a Hyperion Essbase & Planning image, is to use the MS Office and Open Office add-ins (smart view, etc.) to access the server.  I also want to be able to demo all of the above nicely.  I do not want to load MS Office onto the VM Image since I already have it on my host machine (laptop).  Doing so would just unnecessarily increase the VM Image size. Therefore, the simple solution is to remote desktop into the VM Image from the laptop as if it were truly on a different system. Of course, that is the point of VM after all, isn’t it?  Using this approach, one may simply start the VM Image, minimize the VM Console and remote into the server when needed. Also when using any of the Oracle Hyperion add-ins, we simply use the IP address to point to our Essbase Server instance with our databases, etc. when we are ready to run a retrieve or other function.

In this tutorial we will:
1.) Ensure we can connect the VM Image to the network adapter
2.) Find the IP Address of our VM Image
3.) Create a remote desktop user account to access the server using the RDC
4.) Set up remote desktop connectivity
5.) Connect via RDC to the VM Image server.

Here’s how to get rolling with creating a remote desktop connection into a Windows Server 2003 VMware Image:

1.) Check your Network Adapter Connectivity.
I have only tried to run this while connected to my home network or office network which will assign a new IP address to the VM Image as if it were a completely separate machine.  I have not tried this while my host machine is disconnected from the network.  (I will follow and test this later).
Since your host machine is connected to the network make sure that your VM Image has connectivity.  The easiest way to do this is to start your VM Image then run the IPConfig command from the Start > Run > cmd prompt.

If you get a result of some network settings with an IP address then you are good to go.  Otherwise check your VM Image network settings.  If you are like me I usually use my wireless card in my laptop to connect to the network.  Just make sure that the your correct Network Adapter Bridge settings are configured.  In the screenshot my LAN adapter is VMnet0 and my wireless is VMnet2.  So clearly, if I am not hardwired to the network but rather using my wireless card I need to set this to VMnet2 to have the VM Image connected to the network.

2.) What’s the VM Image’s IP Address so that we can RDC?
Well if you’ve followed my logic so far you should have a VM Image that is operating and hopefully have a connection to the network for that image established.  To get the IP address of the image simply do a Start > Run > Cmd > IpConfig within the VM Image to see what IP Address was assigned.

3.) Create a Remote Desktop User
In order for a Remote Desktop Connection to be used on a Windows Server 2003 box the user must a have a username and a password.  In my VM Image, I only have the Administrator user account with no password. In this example I want to provide my remote desktop user with Power User rights and not administrator rights so I’ll create a new user called “hyperion” with the password “hyperion”.  I will also give the user Power User and Remote Desktop User group privileges.  That’s it I’m done with this step.

4.) Ensure that your server has “Allow Remote Desktop Connection” enabled.
By default a new instance of Windows Server 2003 does not allow RDC connections.  Open a Windows Explorer window.  Right-click on “My Computer” and select “Properties” from the menu. Select the “Remote” tab and check “Enable Remote Desktop Connections”.

5.) Set Up the RDC On Your Host Machine.
Now that we know our IP Address of our VM Image from step 3 let’s create a new RDC file on our host machine (not the VM Image) so that we can remote into the image.  Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection.  Input the IP address we obtained from Step 2 for the “Computer Name” and enter “hyperion” for the “User Name” field.  Click on “SaveAs…” to save this RDC file to your desktop for future access.  Click the “Connect” button and you should be golden.

vmware_image_rdc_connection_from_host_21

Now you can minimize your VM Console Window and use the full-screen intuition of the RDC.

6.) Use the Host Name of the VM Image Server Instead of the IP Address.
Often it is easier to use a server name for your RDC instead of the IP Address. That works great for larger networks with DNS A-Name settings, etc. but for a quick “one-two” VM Image that we run on our laptops that is really not necessary. Especially since the IP address may change each time we boot our VM Image due to DHCP Automatic Assignment of IPs. But just in case we want to use a server name in our RDC, here is how you would do it (Remember, I am using Windows XP):

a.) Open the following folder, C:WINDOWSsystem32driversetc and open the file called “hosts” in notepad.

b.) Add a new line below the existing IP Addresses and host information. In the screenshot I have added the IP address acquired from the previous step and the name that I want to be associated with that IP Address. The name does not have to be identical to the true name of your VM Image server. Please note that modifying this file creates a psuedo-DNS resolution that will only work on your host machine.

host_file_changes

Save the file.

c.) Finally, open up the RDC that we created earlier and swap out the IP address with the server name you created in your host file. Save it and you are done. Click connect to see that everything works.
rdc_with_server_name
 

Additional Conversation:
By no means is this a full-blow tutorial on VMware.  That software is very robust and is a very complicated system.  However, working with VMWare’s Workstation on your local machine in the manner as we discussed above will allow you to get your hands dirty and be more familiar with the tool than most BI professionals.  I think this is  very important especially now since a lot of clients are buying bigger boxes for implementations and throwing 3 or more virtual servers on the one box for their smaller dev and test environments.  And, of course for a demoing your latest BI goodies using the approach abovelooks a lot cleaner than pulling out a mobile server, an extra laptop, or external hard-drive when showing a demo of something that doesn’t take up a lot of processor resources, etc.

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