(Edit: Updated to include a Blast Extreme feature I missed.)
Last week, VMware announced App Volumes 3.0. It was a taste of the bigger announcements to come in today’s Digital Enterprise event. And they have a huge announcement. Just a few short months after unveiling Horizon 6.2, VMware has managed to put together another major Horizon release. Horizon 7.0 brings some significant enhancements and new features to the end-user computing space, including one long awaiting feature.
Before I talk about the new features, I highly recommend that you register for VMware’s Digital Enterprise event if you have not done so yet. They will be covering a lot of the features of the new Horizon Suite offerings in the webinar. You can register are http://www.vmware.com/digitalenterprise?src=sc_569fec388f2c9&cid=70134000000Nz2D.
So without further ado, let’s talk about Horizon 7’s new features.
Instant Clones were debutted during the Day 2 Keynote at VMworld 2014. After receiving a lot of hype as the future of desktop provisioning, they kind of faded into the background for a while. I’m pleased to announce that Horizon 7 will feature Instant Clones as a new desktop provisioning method.
Instant Clones utilize VMware’s vmFork technology to rapidly provision desktop virtual machines from a running and quiesced parent virtual desktop. Instant clones share both the memory and the disk of the parent virtual machine, and this technology can provide customized and domain joined desktops quickly as they are needed. These desktops are destroyed when the user logs off, and if a new desktop is needed, it will be cloned from the parent when requested by a user. Instant clones also enable administrators to create elastic pools that can expand or shrink the number of available desktops based on demand.
Although they might not be suited for all use cases, there are a couple of benefits to using instant clones over linked clones. These are:
- Faster provisioning – Instant Clones provision in seconds compared to minutes for linked clones
- No Boot Storms – The parent desktop is powered on, and all instant clones are created in a powered-on state
- Simplified Administration – No need to perform refresh or recompose operations to maintain desktops.
- No need to use View Composer
Although instant clones were not available as a feature in Horizon 6.2, it was possible to test out some of the concepts behind the technology using the PowerCLI extensions fling. Although I can’t validate all of the points above, my experiences after playing with the fling show that provisioning is significantly faster and boot storms are avoided.
There are some limitations to instant clones in this release. These limitations may preclude them from being used in some environments today. These limitations are:
- RDSH servers are not currently supported
- Floating desktop pools only. No support for dedicated assignment pools.
- 2000 desktops maximum
- Single vCenter and single vLAN only
- Limited 3D support – no support for vGPU or vDGA, limited support for sVGA.
- VSAN or VMFS datastores only. NFS is not supported.
Desktop personalization for instant clones is handled using App Volumes User Writable drives and UEM.
VMware introduced HTML5 desktop access using the Blast protocol in Horizon 5.2 back in 2013. This provided another method for accessing virtual desktops and, later, published applications. But it had a few deficiencies as well – it used port 8443, was feature limited compared to PCoIP, and was not very bandwidth efficient.
The latest version of Horizon adds a new protocol for desktop access – Blast Extreme. Blast Extreme is a new protocol that is built to provide better multimedia experiences while using less bandwidth to deliver the content. It is optimized for mobile devices and can provide better battery life compared to the existing Horizon protocols.
Most importantly, Blast Extreme has feature parity with PCoIP. It supports all of the options and features available today including client drive redirection, USB, unified communications, and local printing.
Unlike the original Blast, Blast Extreme is not strictly a web-only protocol. It can be used with the new Windows, MacOS, Linux and mobile device clients, and it works over port the standard HTTPS port. This simplifies access and allows users to access it in many locations where ports 8443 and 8172 are blocked.
Blast Extreme is a dual-stack protocol. That means that it will work over both TCP and UDP. UDP is the preferred communications method, but if that is not available, it will fall back to TCP-based connections.
What if your use case calls for disabling copy and paste or local printing when uses log in from home? Or what if you want to apply a different PCoIP profile based on the branch office users are connecting to? In previous versions of Horizon, this would require a different pool for each use case with configurations handled either in the base image or Group Policy. This could be cumbersome to set up and administer.
Horizon 7 introduces Smart Policies. Smart policies utilize the UEM console to create a set of policies to control the desktop behavior based on a number of factors including the groups that the user is a member of and location, and they are evaluated and applied whenever a user logs in or reconnects. Smart policies can control a number of capabilities of the desktop including client drive redirection, Clipboard redirection, and printing, and they can also control or restrict which applications can be run.
Enhanced 3D Support
Horizon 6.1 introduced vGPU and improved the support for workloads that require 3D acceleration. vGPU is limited, however, to NVIDIA GRID GPUs.
Horizon 7 includes expanded support for 3D graphics acceleration, and customers are no longer restricted to NVIDIA. AMD S7150 series cards are supported in a multi-user vDGA configuration that appears to be very similar to vGPU. Intel Iris Pro GPUs are also supported for vDGA on a 1:1 basis.
Cloud Pod Architecture
Cloud Pod Architecture has been expanded to support 10 Horizon pods in four sites. This enables up to 50,000 user sessions.
Entitlement support has also been expanded – home site assignment can be set for nested AD security groups.
Other enhancements include improved failover support to automatically redirect users to available resources in other sites if they are not available in the preferred site and full integration with vIDM.
Other enhancements in Horizon 7 include:
- Unified Management Console for App Volumes, UEM, and monitoring. The new management console also includes a REST API to support automating management tasks.
- A new SSO service that integrates vIDM, Horizon, Active Directory, and a certificate authority.
- Improvements to the Access Point appliance.
- Improved printer performance
- Scanner and Serial redirection support for Windows 10
- URL Content redirection
- Flash Redirection (Tech Preview)
- Scaled Resolution for Windows Clients with high DPI displays
- HTML Access 4.0 – Supports Linux, Safari on IOS, and F5 APM
Horizon 7 provides another leap in Horizon’s capabilities, and VMware continues to reach parity or exceed the feature sets of their competition.