Introducing Horizon 7.2

What’s new in Horizon 7.2?  A lot, actually.  There are some big features that will impact customers greatly, some beta features are now general availability, and some scalability enhancements. 

Horizon 7 Helpdesk Tool

One of the big drawbacks of Horizon is that it doesn’t have a very good tool for Helpdesk staff to support the environment.  While Horizon Administrator has role-based access control to limit what non-administrators can access and change, it doesn’t provide a good tool to enable a helpdesk technician to look up what desktop a user is in, grab some key metrics about their session, and remote in to assist the user.

VMware has provided a fling that can do some of this ā€“ the Horizon Toolbox.  But flings aren’t officially supported and aren’t always updated to support the latest version. 

Horizon 7.2 addresses this issue with the addition of the Horizon Helpdesk tool.  Horizon Helpdesk is an HTML5-based web interface designed for level 1 and 2 support desk engineers.  Unlike Citrix Director, which offers similar features for XenApp and XenDesktop environments, Horizon Helpdesk is integrated into the Connection Servers and installed by default.

Horizon Helpdesk provides a tool for helpdesk technicians who are supporting users with Horizon virtual desktops and published applications.  They’re able to log into the web-based tool, search for specific users, and view their active sessions and desktop and application entitlements.  Technicians can view details about existing sessions, including various metrics from within the virtual desktops and use the tool to launch a remote assistance.

Skype for Business Support is Now GA

The Horizon Virtualization Pack for Skype for Business was released under Technical Preview with Horizon 7.1.  It’s now fully supported on Windows endpoints in Horizon 7.2, and a private beta will be available for Linux-based clients soon. 

The Virtualization Pack allows Horizon clients to offload some of the audio and video features of Skype for business to the endpoint, and it provides optimized communication paths directly between the endpoints for multimedia calls.  What exactly does that mean?  Well, prior to the virtualization pack, multimedia streams would need to be sent from the endpoint to the virtual desktop, processed inside the VM, and then sent to the recipient.  The virtualization pack offloads the multimedia processing to the endpoint, and all media is sent between endpoints using a separate point-to-point stream.  This happens outside of the normal display protocol virtual channels.

image

Skype for Business has a number of PBX features, but not all of these features are supported in the first production-ready version of this plugin.  The following features are not supported:

  • Multiparty Conferencing
  • E911 Location Services
  • Call to Response Group
  • Call Park and Call Pickup from Park
  • Call via X (Work/Home, Cell, etc)
  • Customized Ringtones
  • Meet Now Conferencing
  • Call Recording

Instant Clone Updates

A few new features have been added to Horizon Instant Clones.  These new features are the ability to reuse existing Active Directory Computer accounts, support for configuring SVGA settings ā€“ such as video memory, resolution and number of monitors supported –  on the virtual desktop parent, and support for placing Instant Clones on local datastores.

Scalability Updates

VMware has improved Horizon stability in each of the previous releases, usually by expanding the number of connections, Horizon Pods, and sites that are supported in a Cloud Pod Architecture.  This release is no exception.  CPA now supports up to 120,000 sessions across 12 Horizon Pods in five sites.  While the number of sites has not increased, the number of supported sessions has increased by 40,000 compared to Horizon 7.1.

This isn’t the only scalability enhancement in Horizon 7.2.  The largest enhancement is in the number of desktops that will be supported per vCenter Server.  Prior to this version of Horizon, only 2000 desktops of any kind were supported per vCenter.  This means that a Horizon Pod that supported that maximum number of sessions would require five vCenter servers.  Horizon 7.2 doubles the number of supported desktops per vCenter, meaning that each vCenter Server can now support up to 4000 desktops of any type. 

Other New Features

Some of the other new features in Horizon 7.2 are:

  • Support for deploying Full Clone desktops to DRS Storage Clusters
  • A Workspace One mode configure access policies around desktops and published applications
  • Client Drive Redirection and USB Redirection are now supported on Linux
  • The ability to rebuild full clone desktops and reuse existing machine accounts.

Key Takeaways

The major features of Horizon 7.2 are very attractive, and they address things that customers have been asking for a while.  If you’re planning a greenfield environment, or it’s been a while since you’ve upgraded, there are a number of compelling reasons to look at implementing this version.