Horizon View 5.3 Part 13 – VMware Blast

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.

Connection Server

The steps for installing the HTML Access component on a Connection Server are:

1. Run the HTML Access Installer

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2. Click Next

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3. Accept the license agreement and click Next

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4.  Select the installation directory and click Next

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5. Click Install to begin the installation

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6. Once the installation has finished, click Finish to exit the installer.

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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. 

Firewall - VMware Blast
Caption: Make sure the two highlighted rules are enabled.

Security Server

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.

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2. Accept the license agreement.

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3.  The HTML Access option is enabled by default.  Click next to continue.

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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:

  1. Log into View Administrator
  2. Click on View Configuration
  3. Click on Servers
  4. Click on the Connection Servers or Security Servers tab.
  5. Select the server that you want to configure and click Edit.
  6. Enter the URL that users will use for accessing desktops via HTTPS under Blast Secure Gateway.  The default port for Blast is 8443.

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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:

  1. Log into View Administrator
  2. Click on Pools
  3. Select the pool you want to enable HTML Access for
  4. Click Edit
  5. Click the Pool Settings tab
  6. Look for the line called HTML Access in the Remote Display Protocol section.  Check the box for Enabled and click OK.

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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.

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6 thoughts on “Horizon View 5.3 Part 13 – VMware Blast

  1. hi Sean :))
    can you help me with a figure of HTML access feature in View 5.3 network bandwidth usage for a normal office user session ..?!?!
    for View 5.2, VMware stated that it uses more than PCoIP..
    and for View 5.3, VMware stated that it uses around 50% less than View 5.2 ..?!! or I can consider it like PCoIP which is 100-200 KBps ..?!?!
    Finally thanks for your great series about View 5.3 and please add articles 13 to 15 to the main index under Horizon View 5.3 Tab in the upper bar :))

    • I’ve updated the View 5.3 page. Sorry for the inconvenience.

      I haven’t seen any official numbers on bandwidth usage for Blast. I will need to look into it further to see if any of the PCoIP bandwidth monitoring tools work for monitoring Blast.

      • From what I can see, there aren’t any performance counters in Windows for Blast like there are for PCoIP. I did some unofficial testing using my router with the only outbound traffic being Blast, and it looks like it uses anywhere between 128 Kb/sec up to 600 Kb/sec. That’s the best I can say at the moment, and I will need to put some better monitoring in place to get better information.

  2. Hi Sean
    We are currently using blast, however we have noticed that when switching between applications, it can get a little laggy and sometimes we get an overlay of the closed application over the open application (doesnt appear to re-draw it very well).
    Have you played around with the GPO to edit the image quality, and if so what settings did you find best?
    We are using Win8.1
    Thanks

    • I’ve briefly dived into using the Blast GPO to adjust image quality. However, I really haven’t dived into it enough to write about best practices for settings. What I know from tuning PCoIP is that its really hit and miss when it comes to fine tuning, and it greatly depends on your bandwidth and number of users on the connection. You kind of have to try it, see how it works, and then adjust from there.

      That said, it sounds like you have a bandwidth issue. I’ve seen similar behavior with PCoIP on congested network links. Have you been able to correlate the poor performance with spikes in bandwidth usage.

      • I haven’t had a chance to look at the bandwidth usage. Will have a word with my network’s guy to get his input, but from what i can tell at the moment, its happening all the time even when there aren’t many people on the systems.
        Thanks for your response.

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