bglasgow
Contributor
Contributor

Workstation player use case to reduce windows patch time and patch breakage

Hi All,

I'm looking to see if Workstation Player (or some other product) is a good use case for the following situation:

  • 120-ish industrial PCs running Windows 10 on various remote sites
  • All industrial PCs are enclosed in water proof containers and a pain in the butt to physically accessed
  • PCs run custom app on a touch screen that is running inventory on a manufacturing line
  • Custom app requires USB and serial port access to peripherals
  • Remote sites have next to no technical expertise available

Patching the systems (SCCM) can take several hours to patch with various reboots and this doesn't work for the manufacturing lines AND the once in a while breakage due to patches causes no end of downtime and administrative work I want to avoid.

I'm wondering if Workstation Player fits the use case and is stable to run a critical production system this way:

Minimal OS install running Workstation Player:

VM #1 - Windows OS 1 with custom mfg app

VM #2 - Windows OS 2 with custom mfg app

Systems will run off VM #1 until patch time comes up.  VM #2 is pushed down from centralized location in the background so no outage yet.  When patch time comes up, shutdown VM #1 and launch VM #2.  After if VM #2 is running fine, we are good until next patch time and would replace VM #1 with updated VM.  If VM #2 isn't working properly, they reboot back into VM #1.

With the above, I believe we've reduced patch time AND patch breakage from hours of downtime to a shutdown and reboot.

What holes can be poked in the above plan?  Licensing cost is the biggest issue I see at this point.

Thanks for the help!  Brent

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3 Replies
scott28tt
VMware Employee
VMware Employee

Workstation Player can only run a single VM unless you run multiple instances of it, whereas Workstation Pro can. Player must also be licensed if used in a commercial content, Pro must always be licensed.

Neither of the Workstation versions offers a simple or native way of achieving the solution for your use case, so you would end up scripting these sorts of tasks through the host OS:

  • Copying VM files
  • Shutting down a VM
  • Powering on a VM
  • Check if the patched VM boots properly, repeating the above tasks if it does not
  • Launching instances of Workstation Player (unless you used Pro)
  • Closing instances of Workstation Player (unless you used Pro)

I am not aware of a product that offers a graceful or native solution.


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bglasgow
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Scott - thanks for the reply!  I'm still searching and thinking...

-Brent

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continuum
Immortal
Immortal

Hi Brent

I have done something similar years ago - using Workstation 7 and XP as minimally installed VM.

From my experience I think that the issues that Scott mentioned already are manageable.

The bigger problems I would anticipate with

> Custom app requires USB and serial port access to peripherals.

Back in the days of Workstation 7 assigning serial ports was more reliable than today - but even then the correct assigning of serial ports was the biggest problem.

How many serial ports do you need ? We needed 4 serial ports and getting them to connect to the VMs in the right order was a nightmare.

So before you look into the other issues first of all check if you can manage the serial ports.

By the way - when I did this I used a very minimal host OS - actually a Windows 2003 running in RAM. It never needed patching and always booted from a static image of about 450MBs.

When the VMs running the machine software needed patching - we completely replaced them with a new image.

That way we needed no special skills on the remote site.

We could upload new patched VMs every now and then and never had to change the minimal host OS.

I would highly recommend to use a Linux host OS to run the VMplayer - a Windows 10 host does not look like a long term stable option to me - next update can break function of VMplayer ...

Ulli


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Do you need support with a VMFS recovery problem ? - send a message via skype "sanbarrow"
I do not support Workstation 16 at this time ...

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