One of the new features that was introduced in Horizon View 5.2 was VMware Blast. VMware Blast gives Horizon View administrators another option for allowing users to access virtual desktops – any HTML5 compatible web browser.
Yes. You read that right. The newest option for accessing virtual desktops is your web browser. There are a couple of good use cases for this – employee remote access, employee BYOD, and Internet or guest-use kiosks are the first three that come to mind.
But there are also some drawbacks. A number of features, such as multimedia redirection, virtual printing (ThinPrint), and USB device access, are not available through Blast. View Blast is not as scalable as PCoIP – a single connection server can only support 350 users when using Blast compared to 2000 users when using PCoIP.
Despite those drawbacks, this is one of my favorite features. I love the ability to log into a desktop without having to load the View Client onto a machine.
Unfortunately, this feature isn’t included in the default installation, and additional components need to be installed on connection servers and virtual desktops in order to enable it.
Enabling VMware Blast
There are two components that need to be installed to allow HTML desktop access in a Horizon View environment. One component, the Horizon View HTML Access component, needs to be installed on connection servers, and Horizon View Remote Experience Agent needs to be installed on the View desktop with the HTML component enabled. No additional components need to be installed on Security Servers, but a service will need to be enabled to allow the Security Server to manage HTML5 connections to desktops.
The steps for installing the HTML Access component on a Connection Server are:
1. Run the HTML Access Installer
2. Click Next
3. Accept the license agreement and click Next
4. Select the installation directory and click Next
5. Click Install to begin the installation
6. Once the installation has finished, click Finish to exit the installer.
After you have installed the HTML access component, you will want to ensure that the VMware Blast firewall rules are enabled, and you can do that in the Firewall Management Console.
The VMware View Blast Secure Gateway Service is the Blast component that runs on View Security Servers. This components is part of the default security server installation, but the service is disabled.
If you are using a security server and plan to allow HTML access to external users, you will need to make sure the VMware View Blast Secure Gateway Service is set to Automatic and started. You will also need to enable the VMware Blast firewall rules.
View Desktop Agents
A component will need to be installed on each desktop that you want to enable HTML access to. This component is part of the Horizon View Remote Experience Agent.
The steps for installing the agent are:
1. Run the Horizon View 5.3 Remote Experience Agent installer.
2. Accept the license agreement.
3. The HTML Access option is enabled by default. Click next to continue.
4. Click Install.
All the components that are required for HTML Access will be installed after this installation is complete. If you are planning to use this feature with Linked Clones, you will need to take a snapshot and recompose the desktop pools where you want to use this feature.
Configuring VMware Blast URLs
The URLs that will be used to access desktops through VMware Blast need to be configured before users can log in. These URLs are configured in View Administrator, and they can be configured on both Connection Servers and Security Servers.
The procedure for configuring the URLs are the same for Connection Servers and Security Servers. These steps are:
- Log into View Administrator
- Click on View Configuration
- Click on Servers
- Click on the Connection Servers or Security Servers tab.
- Select the server that you want to configure and click Edit.
- Enter the URL that users will use for accessing desktops via HTTPS under Blast Secure Gateway. The default port for Blast is 8443.
Enabling HTML Access for Desktop Pools
Although the components for HTML Access are installed, the feature isn’t turned on yet. Users will not be able to access their desktops through a web browser until this feature is enabled on a desktop pool.
The steps to enable HTML Access are:
- Log into View Administrator
- Click on Pools
- Select the pool you want to enable HTML Access for
- Click Edit
- Click the Pool Settings tab
- Look for the line called HTML Access in the Remote Display Protocol section. Check the box for Enabled and click OK.
Accessing Desktops over HTML
Once HTML Access is enabled, you can log into your desktop right away. The login URL for VMware Blast is the similar as the URL used for the Blast Secure Gateway. The only difference is the port that users will connect to, the login page is a regular HTTPS site.
For example, if the URL you choose for your Blast Secure Gateway is https://blast.homedomain.com:8443, users should be directed to https://blast.homedomain.com to log in. If they go to the former example, they will receive an error page that “missing route token in request.”
That’s All, Folks!
That covers the basics of setting up HTML access to View Desktops with VMware Blast. Despite missing a number of features that the View Client has, this is a great tool for providing access to virtual desktops without having to install the desktop client.