This article will talk about how VMware Horizon is different from a traditional Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Let’s start the discussion with VDI by understanding its major characteristics and then will proceed further with how VMware Horizon is different from VDI. We will also have a look at VMware Horizon’s architecture, its components, and the various aspects of VDI that VMware Horizon relies on.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure allows organizations to host desktop operating systems (OS) as a VM on servers. Users can remotely access the virtual desktops from different devices and locations. VDI can be deployed in a public or private cloud and provided as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) or DaaS (Desktop as a Service).

In Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, we can make use of various connection brokers aka connection servers which helps us to automate the connections from user PC’s to virtual desktops, connection servers act as a helping hand for organizations running with help desk user environments where every user needs the access to the same desktops. Various TCP/IP based remote protocols like Remote Desktop Protocol, Virtual Network Computing (VNC) which uses a remote framebuffer protocol can be used to connect a remote client to Virtual Desktops.

Why VDI?

Organizations can buy less powerful endpoints and thin clients to connect to VDI as the actual computing takes place at the endpoint is very less.

Fully functioning virtual desktops eliminate the need to integrate apps within endpoints. So the users can bring their own endpoint devices to the workplace and quickly access a virtual desktop with no additional configuration to the enterprise applications.

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As all data lives in the data center, not on the endpoint, there are significant security benefits of VDI. If a user endpoint is stolen or physically damaged, the critical data is still safe as there is no data stored on it.

The organizations expand faster using the VDI. It enables the new employees to access an enterprise virtual desktop workload and its respective apps, within minutes, compared with days or weeks to procure endpoint devices and configure apps.

Organisations can avoid frequent hardware failure of the endpoints and simplify the software update process

VMware Horizon

VMware Horizon is a product offering from VMware to create a virtual desktop infrastructure and uses the vSphere for hosting virtual desktops. It is designed in such a way it integrates with the other VMware products.

VMware Horizon is a highly customizable VMware solution for Virtual Desktop infrastructure and is a complete packaged solution that provides desktop management, pool management, application virtualization, storage management, application entitlement.

With VMware Horizon all the guest operating systems supported by VMware ESXi can be used as desktops, depending on the requirements within the organization we can go ahead and create desktops for Windows, RedHat, Ubuntu, etc. VMware vCenter Server is used to manage the resources and the Virtual Desktops, we can also leverage various features and functionalities like High Availability, Distributed Resource Scheduler and Templates available within vCenter Server to efficiently manage the resources and to deploy Virtual Desktops.

Components of VMware Horizon

ESXi – It is a hypervisor developed by VMware that abstracts the CPU, storage, memory, and networking resources of the underlying physical host to host the Virtual machines.

vCenter Server – It is the centralized management utility from VMware, used to manage virtual machines hosted on multiple ESXi hosts, and all dependent components from a single centralized console.

View Connection Server – It is the primary component of a View solution, which acts as a gateway and lets the end-users to connect to their virtual desktops.

View Manager – It is an enterprise‐class virtual desktop manager that securely allows only authorized users to connect to centralized virtual desktops. It provides a complete, end‐to‐end solution that improves control and manageability and provides a familiar desktop experience.

View Agent – A component that is installed on the virtual desktops which allow the View Connection Server to establish a connection to the desktop.

Horizon Client – It is a Client available for Windows, MAC, Ubuntu, iOS, and Android, through which the users can access the virtual desktop sessions from different devices such as smartphones, thin and zero clients, Windows, Macs, iOS, and Android devices.

View Composer – It is an optional component which enables the administrators to clone and deploy multiple virtual machines from a single centralized base image, called a parent virtual machine. It uses linked-clone technology to rapidly create desktop images from a parent image. Multiple virtual machines can be patched by updating the parent image. Updating the parent image does not affect user settings, data, or applications, so the user does not notice the changes.

View Administrator – IT provides View administration through a Web browser. It is used to make configuration settings and manage virtual desktops and entitlements of desktops of Windows users and groups. It also provides an interface to monitor log events and is installed with View Connection Server.

VMware Horizon architecture

VMware Horizon architecture consists of various conceptual layers wherein each of these layers should not be designed in isolation rather we need to carefully understand the key dependencies between each of these layers.

The topmost layer is the client access devices that address the physical devices and provides end-user access to their desktops.

The next layer is the access infrastructure layer which includes networking and connectivity components to enable client communication

The profile and session provisioning layer defines the session requirements associated with presenting virtual desktops to end-users

Applications are part of the application provisioning layer which talks about the infrastructure required to deploy, manage and package applications in the VMware Horizon environment.

VMware Horizon Architecture

Just in time Management platform

VMware Horizon delivers virtual desktops and applications for end-users who may not require access to a full desktop using just in time management platform, which eliminates complexity by providing instant app delivery, zero downtime updates.

Just in time Management platform is composed of the following VMware technologies:

  • VMware Instant Clone Technology for fast desktop and RDSH provisioning
  • VMware App Volume for real-time application delivery
  • VMware User Environment Manager for contextual policy management

Just-in-Time Desktops – Leverages Instant Clone Technology coupled with App Volumes to accelerate the delivery of user-customized and fully personalized desktops.

Instant clone uses a powered-on parent desktop which is quiesced and clone to create child clones, the child clones can be provisioned quickly as they use the memory and disk of the parent virtual machine.

App Volumes is a real-time application delivery and lifecycle management tool which can be used to build dynamic application delivery systems that ensure all applications are centrally managed. App Volumes solution can be scaled out easily and cost-effectively, without compromising end-user experience.

User Environment Manager – provides personalization and dynamic policy configuration across any virtual, physical, and cloud-based environment. It also helps end-users to gain quick access to a Windows workspace and applications, with a personalized and consistent experience across devices and locations.

VMware Unified Access Gateway provides a secure gateway for users who want to access VMware Horizon desktops and applications from outside the corporate firewall. Unified Access Gateway directs authentication requests to the appropriate server and discards any unauthenticated request.

Displays protocols for remote access

Blast Extreme & PCoIP are some of important displays protocols provided by the VMware Horizon for remote access virtual desktops

Blast Extreme provides VMware’s new Blast Extreme protocol that provides rich user experience through the LAN or WAN by using H.264 as the default video codec. These video codec are considered crucial when thinking about the great user experience as it impacts various factors like “latency”, “bandwidth”, “frames per second (FPS)”, blast extreme can be used with NVIDIA GRID GPU to offload the encode-decode process from CPU to dedicated H.264 engines on NVIDIA GPU

PCoIP is a proprietary UDP based protocol developed by Teradici and provides security by using encryption and transmission. It provides one of the rich feature i.e progressive build operation means the image which is visible to end-user on his system improves progressively

Conclusion

VMware Horizon is a one-stop-shop client solution that helps us to manage operating systems, hardware, applications, and users independently of one another, irrespective of their locations. With VMware Horizon, we can streamline desktop and application management, increase data security through centralization, and achieve greater end-user flexibility and IT control. VMware Horizon does that by encapsulating the operating system, applications, and user data into isolated layers, allowing the admins to change, update, and deploy each layer independently for greater business agility.

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VMware Horizon Architecture and how it differs from VDI
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