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VMware releases its integrated EUC offering, the VMware Horizon Suite

February 20th, 2013

VMwareHorizonSuiteVMware has today released the VMware Horizon Suite which they are calling “The platform for workforce mobility.”

The Horizon Suite was initially announced at VMworld 2012 in San Francisco and is VMware’s integrated product suite for End User Computing which comprises three main components:

This is a big step for VMware by providing a far more integrated End User Computing suite for customers rather than perpetuating the old tiring battle of VDI brokers between VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. VDI is important but only a part of the overall “delivering applications to users” so VMware is providing  a lot more in this suite by bringing together traditional VDI with applications and data. This is the initial release with some things that don’t integrate yet or as well as they should so hopefully the Suite will become more tightly knit down the road. It will be interesting to see how customers respond.

VMware Horizon Workspace
imageVMware envisions VMware Horizon Workspace as a “Multi-device workspace for IT services” and sees three trends that are changing IT. New device platforms with less reliance on Windows, new apps with more SaaS and mobile apps and new user expectations including better collaboration and productivity.

VMware don’t talk about a world without Windows but rather a world where PCs are not the only device with a massive proliferation in shipments of smartphones and tablets while PC shipments are pretty much flat. Add to that people using multiple devices for productivity and often using  personal devices for work purposes means users are expecting so much more from IT to enable them to work more efficiently while mobile. VMware sees Horizon Workplace as the answer to these needs.

Horizon Workspace can be thought of as a web portal aggregator, acting as a broker providing centralised access with Single Sign On to three main sources:

imageApplications – providing centralised access to SaaS Apps from a web client or mobile with a 1-click download/request feature.

Currently SaaS applications often need separate user names and passwords and have different ways to connect so Horizon Workspace brings this all together. The app catalogue is easily extendible giving users access to both to internal and external apps such as Salesforce, Google Apps, Office 365, Socialcast and many others as well as ThinApp packaged applications.

For applications that do require an install this can be requested and delivered directly from within Horizon Workspace.

You will at some point be able to get  Horizon Workspace to even display your Citrix XenApp delivered applications. Not sure whey this wasn’t released as it was mentioned during VMworld 2012 and other apps are able to present XenApp delivered applications today.

Computers – providing access to VMware Horizon View (the new name for VMware View) desktops either from a native View Client or via HTML5.

Files – providing everywhere data access using Horizon Data (the new name for Octopus, think Enterprise Dropbox), with sharing and collaboration, policy based data controls with flexible and secure storage options.

imageThe proliferation of file data that users need access to outside the corporate LAN on multiple devices is a challenge for any enterprise. Currently many users email themselves data to personal addresses or remove data on USB sticks which is obviously insecure and not very flexible. Horizon Data has been built to address this by providing a secure file syncing system internally and externally. VMware calls this “anytime, anywhere access” including offline with high fidelity document previews and versioning, commenting and auditing allowing everyone to share documents in an IT friendly way and still be productive.

Horizon Workspace itself is a vApp containing 5 VMs which run on your vSphere infrastructure which provide secure access to all the components, present the web page and hold the Horizon Data information. It has a unified identity and policy management component which uses the concept of entitlements to give access to users to apps, files and desktops.

Security is obviously extremely important and this is handled by using passcodes in apps, 2-factor authentication, allowing IT to wipe endpoints, putting files in a secure sandbox and encryption on mobile devices making enterprise governance people a little happier.

VMware Horizon View
VMware Horizon View is the changed name from plan old VMware View and has been updated to version 5.2. Horizon View provides secure access to Windows Desktops running in a datacenter and accessed remotely either internally or externally via a number of devices, not only Windows ones.

Horizon View 5.2 has been updated in three main ways:

User Experience
imageHardware Accelerated 3D Graphics
uses a new vSphere 5.1 capability which allows shared access to physical GPU hardware if a host has one for 3D and high performance graphics. Desktops will see a vSVGA device and can still be vMotioned to hosts without a physical GPU which will then not be able to provide the accelerated 3D features. The hosts require a PCIEx16 slot to be able to host one of the 6 compatible NVIDIA GPU cards along with a powerful enough PSU and the NVIDIA VIBs installed on ESXi. ESXi needs to be 5.1 or later, VMs need to be hardware version 9 and only Windows 7 and 8 are supported (No XP/Vista)

Support for Microsoft Lync 2013 with Rich Media Services for better audio and video chat supported with PCoIP initially with only windows thin and thick clients.

Support for Windows 8 based desktops & clients which uses the vSphere 5.1 Windows 8 enablement. A full Windows 8 optimisation guide is coming out soon which will include a few simple changes which will show big savings on CPU and bandwidth utilisation.

Streamlined access to View Desktops from Horizon Workspace using the SSO capability.

imageEasily connect to desktops from any device with HTML Access. AppBlast was the technology VMware first previewed at VMworld 2011 which allowed remote access to desktops without using the VMware View client, using only HTML5.

This has now been renamed to just the Blast protocol and provides a remote display protocol using HTML5 native to many browsers. This can be accessed either through the View Portal or Horizon Workspace. This is not initially available in the 5.2 functionality but will be delivered as a Feature Pack.

imageEnhanced Experience for Touch Based Mobile Devices makes Windows much easier to use on iOS and Android devices focusing on the applications, not the desktops. Apps are easier to launch and switch between, its easier to open and find files and easier to minimize and quit apps.

Easy of Management
Large Pool creation with elimination of 8 host limits, and multiple vLAN support
is something people have been asking for for years. You can now have pools of up to 32 hosts which will really increases the manageability and scale of Horizon View.

Multiple vLAN support will allow these bigger pools to now be split across multiple network labels using PowerShell.

View Administrator performance improvements with large numbers of desktops now allows pods of up to 10k desktops to be managed with a single vCenter although its debatably whether this is advisable as vCenter then becomes a rather large single point of failure.

The Horizon View Admin has some data caching now enabled which should make some of the UI screens more responsive.

Accelerated provisioning, recompose and rebalance operations allows you to improve availability by running a rolling-refit which keeps the min number of desktops available during recompose, refresh & rebalance operations. There are faster management operations including a 2x improvement in end to end provisioning, recompose and rebalance times and recomposes for up to 2000 desktops can now complete in under 8 hours which is a dramatic improvement.

Support for VC Virtual Appliance based deployments which eliminates vCenter dependencies on Windows (never mind that you may have 1000s of Windows Desktops!) but does provide a way to have a simpler pod architecture without having to maintain multiple Windows and SQL Servers.

Enhanced vCenter Operations for View Scale allows you to manage multiple View instances even across data centers from one central location giving you the same scalability as Horizon View itself.

imageTech Preview of a new Integrated Service Console in the VC Web Client shows what is possible with the new Web Client with a View plugin into the vSphere Web Client making it “aware” of View objects like Users, Desktops & Pools. You will be able to search for a View User in the Web Client and find their VM(s)

Total Cost of Ownership
Efficient Use of Storage Capacity w/Space Efficient Disks
leverages the enhancements with vSPhere 5.1 by reclaiming unused space in View desktops making View Composer desktops stay small. This will be particularly useful for persistent desktops which can now be created from View Composer and never recomposed yet still stay small. This requires VM hardware version 9, is for linked clone pools only and only the OS disk and is not supported for Windows 8 yet.

VMware Horizon Mirage
VMware Horizon Mirage is the product VMware bought from Wanova and provides centrally managed Windows images deployed locally on physical devices. VMware is calling this “A Better Physical Desktop”

imageMirage sees Windows as a stack of separate layers comprising the OS, drivers, applications, and user generated profile and data. These layers are then combined to create a Windows desktop which can be delivered to clients from a central store in the data center.

Some of the layers can be managed by IT such as the OS and drivers but some layers can be managed by the users themselves such as the user personalisation data which is their profile, user data and their own installed apps.

The idea is that these layers can be delivered to users workstations over the network and are synced back to the master copy. There has been a lot of work done in network and storage optimisation so updates to the client desktops are as efficient as possible and the same de-duped bit never has to be sent more than once over the network or stored more than once on the back end and is compressed where possible. This is certainly not intended as a LAN only solution but should allow updates and syncing across any connection (although it obviously may take some time).

imageAs each component is a separate layer you could pull out the XP OS layer and insert a new Windows 7 OS layer. Users can then reboot and will be delivered a new Windows 7 Desktop with all their applications and user settings (you need to use the User State Migration Tool,USMT, by Microsoft). All user data and profile stored as other layers are maintained.

Mirage clients can run on workstations, laptops and as VMs themselves in for example Mac Fusion Pro.

Horizon Mirage has been updated in this release to version 4.0.

This has added further app layers including ThinApps and shell extensions. There is now a streamlined process to capture the app layers which also now have versions.

You can assign groups of applications to different desktop collections so a Finance layer could contain all finance apps and be easily delivered to only finance users.

Having a continuously centrally synchronised desktop provides an interesting recovery solution. When a user “loses” their device you can easily deploy a new workstation or laptop to them (it could even be their personal device) and have everything delivered as it was when they last synced. This could even be delivered to a VM which could be handy for DR. You can also roll back to a point in time before a virus hit and the desktop will roll itself back.

VMware Horizon Mirage is a new entry into VMware’s EUC space so it will be interesting to see how it works. VMware can in a way be commended for seeing that physical desktops are still very much a reality in enterprises and assuming all workstations will be VDI just wasn’t going to cut it. Unfortunately though Horizon Mirage ONLY works with physical desktops and you can’t use it to layer up your VDI Horizon View desktops. VMware says this is because View and Mirage started off with very different use cases and currently their agent is CPU and network resource hungry so it is happy to sit on an underutilised physical desktop but not ideal in a shared VDI environment. This is a pity as you now need to manage your VDI and physical deployments completely separately rather than using layering technology within View which would be great. Hopefully they’re working on this to further integrate the products.

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