Home > Citrix, View, VMware, XenDesktop > VMware announces Horizon View 6 taking on Citrix XenApp with RDS Hosted Apps

VMware announces Horizon View 6 taking on Citrix XenApp with RDS Hosted Apps

April 9th, 2014

VMware has announced the latest version of their End User Computing product Horizon View.

There have been 5 major changes to Horizon View:

  • RDS Hosted Apps
  • Application Catalog Enhancements
  • Cloud Pod Architecture
  • Virtual SAN Support
  • vCOPS for View 6

RDS Hosted Apps

RDS Hosted apps will allow Horizon View clients to access applications and full desktops running on Windows Remote Desktop Services Hosts. This is big news as it gives VMware a competing product to Citrix XenApp.


For people who know about VDI, what is the difference? Well, VDI delivers an entire desktop to a particular user. This desktop is a whole virtual machine with an OS and applications. RDS (Remote Desktop Services) means using the capabilities of Microsoft RDS (previously Terminal Services) to allow multiple users to connect to a single OS but have separate private desktop instances and applications (the server doesn’t even have to be virtual but you’d be daft not to). With RDS you can display a full desktop but can also display just an application seamlessly without all the desktop stuff around it. You don’t need as many OS instances which means better resource utilisation as well as fewer Microsoft licenses.

Citrix has been doing this for ever with products that have evolved from Citrix WinFrame Server (1995) , Citrix Metaframe Server (1998), Citrix Presentation Server (2003) to what is now called Citrix XenApp (2008). Citrix wrote WinFrame as the original Terminal Server version of Windows NT 3.51. Other companies have tried to muscle in on their turf but no-one has really had much impact. VMware is now trying hard as the remote desktop/application market has grown exponentially over the past few years.

imageSo, what’s VMware doing with RDS? They will allow seamless access to Windows Apps and Desktops from many clients, basically whatever can run the Horizon View Client (Windows, Mac, IOS, Android, Max OSX coming soon). Applications will be installed on Microsoft Remote Desktop Servers just like they are now done with Citrix XenApp. VMware will use the same PCoIP protocol which is being used to deliver VDI desktops and will now be selling the benefits of seamless applications after previously denying the need, previously saying just run a VDI instance.

I’m sure initially RDS Hosted Apps from VMware won’t tick all the boxes that Citrix XenApp has but VMware now has at least a credible application story when selling against Citrix.

The Horizon View Client will now be able to display both Full VDI Desktops, RDSH Desktops and RDSH Applications


Previously there was a hotly contested debate about which protocol to use for VDI, Citrix had ICA/HDX, VMware had PCoIP and Microsoft had RDP. ICA/HDX was the jewel in Citrix’s crown, highly optimised to run applications remotely over slow connections, even modems in the original days. When PCoIP was launched it didn’t work well over a WAN environment. I worked on a large VDI deployment that chose Citrix XenDesktop over VMware View primarily for the performance of ICA/HDX over PCoIP over a WAN. Nowadays PCoIP has been enhanced for WAN usage and Microsoft have dramatically enhanced RDP. VMware is also developing the Blast protocol to allow access with only a HTML5 browser, no additional client required. There are different ways to develop protocols for use with RDS, the best way is to become an official protocol provider. Only Microsoft and Citrix were previously providers, VMware has now been added to the list. The protocol wars are not nearly as hotly contested as they once were.

What Citrix XenApp is also good at is load balancing which allows you to intelligently place users on particular servers to balance load. This can be done very basically with Microsoft RDSH but we’ll need to see if VMware plans to enhance this as well.

Currently Citrix has a major selling point in XenApp that it can sell to customers and then can extend the relationship to VDI and other products. There has been an architectural change from XenApp 6 to 7 that means enterprises need to rebuild their Citrix infrastructure pretty much from scratch. The upgrade is also creating some headaches for high availability when Citrix historically had great availability built into the product. Citrix has also tried to bundle VDI and application delivery into the same product and has since backtracked and split them again, all confusing for customers.

This is going to create a very interesting dynamic in Enterprises who both currently likely run both VMware for OS virtualisation and Citrix for remote application delivery and maybe VDI as well. If VMware can do remote application delivery as well, how will enterprises choose if they need to rebuild their Citrix environment anyway, Citrix or VMware? If you are starting out with VDI and need remote application delivery as well you no longer have only Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop to consider. XenDesktop does have the benefit that it can run on multiple hypervisors though.

What this will do is strengthen the longstanding relationship between Citrix and Microsoft. Citrix wrote Terminal Services for Microsoft initially and Microsoft has been happily supporting Citrix in what it needs to ensure Windows applications can run anywhere which means more licensing revenue for Microsoft. Citrix tried to compete with VMware with the hypervisor in its pretty much dead in the water XenServer. I see Citrix putting XenServer out to pasture and fully embracing Hyper-V as the preferred hypervisor. Microsoft will again be giving Citrix everything it needs to ensure Citrix VDI deployments run by default on Hyper-V. Once you have your VDI running on Hyper-V you may consider it for servers as well.

Interesting times.

Application Catalog Enhancements

VMware’s next shot across Citrix’s bow is enhancements to the application Catalog to create what they call a Unified Workspace. This allows you to present VDI Desktops, RDSH Desktops/Apps as well as all your SaaS apps, Citrix XenApp published applications, locally ThinApps, Office 365 and other apps all within a single workspace. This can be tailored to a client device so you get a tablet experience on a tablet.


VMware announced Citrix XenApp integration into Horizon Workspace at VMworld 2012 and is finally delivering. You can logon to Horizon Workspace once which will in turn connect to your Citrix XenApp infrastructure and display published desktops and applications you are entitled to. When you set this up you point Horizon to XenApp. You can install Horizon on the same XenApp server and get Workspace to pull in a list of all available applications and you can choose which ones would be made available in Workspace. You can then launch them directly from Horizon which will use the local Citrix Receiver to display the application. Once you have Horizon as your application catalogue and it can display both Citrix XenApp as well as VMware RDS applications your migration path from one to the other may be much easier. Upgrade Horizon View to enable app publishing and pull in the same RDS hosts that are running XenApp and choose whether the apps are delivered via XenApp or Horizon View, all from the same console. Remember the complicated part about hosted application delivery is not the protocol or the broker that delivers the right application to the right user but the server GPO policies and server configuration which has nothing to do with Citrix or VMware but is a Microsoft thing.image

XenApp integration isn’t the only update to the Application Catalog.

You can also now more easily deliver ThinApps to more Windows endpoints including non-domain member devices using HTTP.

Microsoft Office 365 integration has been added which allows you to sign in once to Horizon and access any Office 365, Sharepoint and Outlook 365 Web Applications for seamless authentication.

Multi-Forest Active Directory support has also been added which is great news. You can now support directories from a single forest to multiple forests with multiple domains which simplifies deployments in large enterprises. The integration is done via domain joined connector virtual appliances which is interesting. I haven’t been able to ascertain yet whether you would need an appliance per forest/domain. I would hope you could use the Active Directory trust model to enable cross domain authentication from a single appliance.

Branding has also been enhanced so you can customise all windows for your company.

You can also now add Web Application Links for apps which do not need initial user authentication such as an intranet.

Cloud Pod Architecture

imageOne of the previous limitations with Horizon View was you could not easily span data centers with a common deployment. This changes with Horizon 6 where you can now create deployments across multiple View pods and data centers.

A new Global LDAP Replication layer is created so pods can now talk to each other for common management as well as understanding existing sessions and being able to more easily connect to existing sessions. This uses brokering so you authenticate against your local pod and then your local pod finds out about your desktops in other pods.

What is interesting is VMware have decided to go with LDAP replication rather than ADAM (Active Directory Application Mode) which is Windows only. ADAM is currently used to enable Linked-Mode for vSphere which isn’t available with the vCenter Appliance so could this be what VMware is planning for the future to enable cross vCenter replication without requiring Windows?

You can give also now give your users a single global URL to connect to any of your View Deployments. This will allow you to more easily support Active/Active and DR use cases as well as geo-roaming users.

This all means Horizon deployments can scale to more than 10,000 sessions.

The choice of name for this feature is indicative of where VMware is going. You would have a single global URL for all your desktop entitlements. Some desktops may be delivered from your local data center, some from a remote data center across the city or anywhere in the globe but more importantly also from somewhere in the Cloud with a Desktone enabled service provider or VMware’s own vCHS.

Virtual SAN Support

Horizon View 6 now supports running on VSAN.

VSAN is VMware’s storage offering which creates a scale-out SAN spanning multiple local disks across ESXi servers within a cluster so no need for an external array.

See my VMworld post for more details on VSAN

vCOPS for View 6

imageThe last addition to mention is much more integration between Horizon View and VMware’s performance manage suite of products called vCenter Operations (vCOPS).

The RDSH Session support has been added so you will be able to drill down and view application and in-guest metrics for users down to process level. This will allow you to more easily see which applications and users are hogging resources, a common bugbear for RDS environments as you are now sharing an OS and everyone needs to play nicely. You can also find latency issues and poor user experience.

You can also do capacity measurement and modelling with a “What-If” capability.

Kudos to VMware for a solid release with Horizon 6.

Citrix is a massive player in the enterprise space alongside VMware so it will be interesting to see how the new XenApp functionality in Horizon View changes the enterprise landscape.

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