Horizon 7 overview from VMware`s Tony Paikaday
On Feb. 9, 2016, VMware announced Horizon 7. This release centres on the desktop and includes many enhancements, three of which are very important, and one that will be a game-changer in the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) market.. The industry news, buzz and information on Horizon 7 are significant.
Horizon 7 is the first VMware product that uses Instant Cloning (a.k.a. VMFork). Instant Clone, undoubtedly the most important new feature, allows a virtual desktop to be cloned fast; really, really fast. Each VMfork child VM can be created in seconds, and because a child VM was forked from a running VM, there's no boot up time required. In one test, 1,000 Instant Clone VMs were created in under 25 minutes.
Creating clones extremely quickly is more than just a "gee-wiz, that's cool" feature. The ability to spin up clones in seconds translates into some interesting business possibilities. The business case I find most interesting is "just-in-time" and "disposable" virtual desktops. One of the problems with desktops, either virtual or physical, is the amount of patching an OS requires and the baggage (e.g., viruses, registry entries) a desktop collects over time. By using Instant Clones, a new, fresh desktop with all the latest updates and patches can be spun up.
Moreover, by using Instant Clone in conjunction with AppVolumes, persistent applications and data can be attached to this new desktop, which can all happen in a matter of seconds. When the user logs out, the desktop retains the user's customization, persona, and user-installed apps through the use of App Volumes and User Environment Manager, even though the desktop itself is destroyed. For more information on AppVolumes, see Keith Ward's article here. Note that the first release of Instant Clone only supports VMFS or VSAN, and has a limited number of SVGA options.
VMware continues to improve its remote display protocol and will include "Blast Extreme" with Horizon 7. Blast, a remote display protocol, is the evolutionary product of Horizon View HTML Access (which was introduced in Horizon View 5.2). It allows Horizon end users to access their virtual desktops via a Web browser.
The original release of HTML Access had some limitations around connectivity (USB devices and printing) and scalability. Blast has come a long way since it was first introduced, and supports a long list of features, including:
Another nice feature allows you to select Blast as the default protocol for your virtual desktops.
Blast uses H.264 (AKA MPEG-4 AVC) for encoding and decoding its remote display. H.264 can use hardware-based decoders, which are readily available on most hardware devices. VMware has stated that using Blast with hardware decoding, rather than PCoIP, will greatly increase the battery life of portable devices acting as View Clients. Blast uses UDP by default, but will fall back to TCP if UDP isn't available. Blast, when using UDP, can handle a large amount of network packet loss and still have acceptable performance.
Granular Control of Remote Features
Prior to Horizon 7, VMware didn't have the ability to enable/disable certain features dynamically at the protocol level via the administrative console; instead, either the agent or GPOs were needed to enable/disable features. Although this did work, it didn't scale well nor lend itself to creating dynamic policies based on a user's identity, location, the group to which the user belongs, or the pool that the desktop belongs to.
With "Smart Policies" in Horizon 7, features such as clipboard cut/paste, local printing, client drive redirection, USB, and PCoIP profile selection can be defined at a very granular level. VMware has pointed out two examples for using Smart Policies: a user logging in from a network location considered unsecured can be denied access to USB and printing, and/or PCoIP bandwidth settings can be set based on user location and the context in which they are using there endpoint device.
Horizon Client 4.0
The Horizon Client isn't on the same release cycle as Horizon and has a different version number scheme, but in this case the latest Horizon Client (4.0) has been announced to coincide with the release of Horizon 7. The Horizon Client has been released for all of its supported platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, Android and Chrome OS. Here are some of the updated Horizon Client 4.0 features for each of these platforms:
Horizon for Linux
VMware has made a few updates to Linux virtual desktops being managed by View. View now supports copy and pasting between a Linux virtual desktop and the Horizon Client. The virtual desktop supports vGPU in RHEL 7 virtual desktops, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 11 SP3 has been added to the list of supported virtual desktops.