In order to deliver virtual desktops to end users, a Horizon environment requires multiple components working together in concert. Most of the components that Horizon relies upon are VMware products, but some of the components, such as the database and Active Directory, are 3rd-party products.
The smallest Horizon environment only requires three components to deliver a remote desktop session to end users: a desktop, a View Connection Server, and Active Directory. Technically speaking, you do not need vCenter or ESXi as the Horizon agent can be installed on physical desktops.
Many environments, though, are built on vSphere, and the virtual infrastructure for this type of environment doesn’t need to be anything special. For small proof of concepts or upgrade testing, one server with direct attached storage and enough RAM could support a few users.
All Horizon environments, from the simple one above to a complex multi-site Cloud Pod environment, are built on this foundation. The core of this foundation is the View Connection Server.
Connection Servers are at the core of a Horizon environment. They handle desktop provisioning, user authentication and broker user sessions to desktops. They manage connections to multi-user desktops and published applications.
There are three roles that can be installed using the Connection Server installer, and all three roles have the same requirements. These roles are:
- Standard Connection Server – The first Connection Server installed in the environment.
- Replica Connection Server – Additional Connection Servers that replicate from the standard connection server
- Enrollment Server – The Enrollment Server was introduced in Horizon 7. role is used to facilitate the new True SSO feature in conjunction with Workspace ONE Access and a local certificate authority.
The requirements for a Connection Server are:
- 1 CPU, 4 vCPUs recommended
- Minimum 4GB RAM, 10GB recommended if 50 or more users are connecting
- Windows Server 2012 R2 or newer
- Joined to an Active Directory domain
- Static IP Address
Note: The requirements for the Enrollment Server are the same as the requirements for Connection Server.
Aside from the latest version of the Connection Server, the requirements are:
ESXi – ESXi is required for hosting the virtual machine The versions of ESXi that are supported by Horizon 2006 can be found in the VMware compatibility matrix.
vCenter Server – The versions of vCenter that are supported by Horizon 2006 can be found in the VMware compatibility matrix.
Active Directory – An Active Directory environment is required to handle user authentication to virtual desktops, and the domain must be set to at least the Server 2012 R2 functional level. Group Policy is used for configuring parts of the environment, including desktop settings, user data redirection, UEM, and the remoting protocol.
Horizon has a lot of features, and many of those features require additional components to take advantage of them. These components add options like secure remote access, profile management, and instant clone desktops.
Secure Remote Access – The options for delivering secure remote access with Horizon have been simplified in Horizon 2006. Traditionally, remote access had been provided by the Horizon Security Server, but this feature has been removed. The Unified Access Gateway replaces the Security Server for all remote access functionality.
Networking Requirements – Horizon requires a number of ports to be opened to allow communication between the user’s endpoint and the remote desktop as well as communication between the management components. The best source for showing all of the ports required by the various components is the VMware Horizon Network Ports diagram. The Network Ports diagram can be found on TechZone.
Instant Clone Desktops – Instant Clones are a rapid desktop provisioning model. With instant clones, desktops are created when the user signs in and are provisioned and ready to use within seconds. When the user signs out, the desktop is destroyed. Instant clones allow for elastic capacity and rolling image upgrades. They support both floating and dedicated desktops.
One new feature of Horizon 2006 is a change to the Instant Clone provisioning model. In Horizon 7, Instant Clones relied on a tree of VMs, including a powered-on parent VM on each host in the cluster that all of the desktops are forked from. An additional deplopyment model is being added in Horizon 2006 that enables the benefits of Instant Clones without having to have that parent VM consuming resources on each host.
Other Components: The Horizon Suite includes a number of tools to provide administrators with a full-fledged ecosystem for managing their virtual end-user computing environments. These tools are App Volumes, Dynamic Environment Manager, and an on-premises version of Workspace ONE Access.
Horizon subscription licensing, including Horizon Universal Licensing, include the Horizon Service and it’s associated cloud features including Cloud Monitoring Service, Image Management Service, and Universal Broker, and an entitlement to ControlUp for user experience monitoring. The Horizon subscription licensing SKUs are required for running Horizon on cloud-based SDDCs like VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Service, and Google Cloud VMware Engine. These licenses also allow customers to utilize Horizon Cloud on Azure and Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud.