What's New in VMware Horizon 7

The big news is Instant Clone, but there's a lot more to it than that.

On Feb. 9, 2016, VMware announced Horizon 7. This release centers on the desktop and includes many enhancements, three of which are very important, and one I believe will be a game-changer in the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) market.

Instant Clones
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.

Blast Extreme
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:

  • 4K resolution on many client devices
  • Multimedia streaming
  • Lync
  • Linux desktop access to local USB devices
  • Local printing
  • Optimization for LAN and WAN
  • IPv6 and GPU Offload with support for NVIDIA GRID K1, K2, M6 and M60 graphics cards

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 he is using his 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:


  • Full support for PColP and Blast Extreme
  • Capability to auto-share USB drivers with the client on which it's running
  • Improved for easier use, with better performance for client drive redirection (CDR)
  • Faster printing: up to 4x improved printing speed
  • OpenSSL and TLS have been updated for improved security
  • Now supports Windows Server 2012, as well as Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10
  • Offers a scaled resolution option which allows better readability on high DPI clients (4K displays); for my article on 4K support in View, see my article here


  • Now has a 64 bit client version, which has full support for PColP and Blast Extreme
  • Supports split view in OS X El Capitan, and an improved fullscreen display
  • With Horizon hosted apps, Horizon Client supports opening local files as well as double-clicking, and using the "open with option" as well as  file drag-and-drop from the client to the virtual desktop
  • Printing speeds up to 4x faster
  • Client drive redirection (CDR) and USB are 50 percent more performant when going over WAN through security servers
  • OpenSSL and TLS have been updated for improved security
  • The ability to remember username/domain credentials


  • Can now use split view on iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro
  • Full support for Blast Extreme with H.264 hardware acceleration
  • The ability to use the Apple Pencil as a remote mouse
  • Supports real-time audio using the device's microphone with the desktop and most applications
  • OpenSSL and TLS have been updated for improved security


  • Now supports RHEL 7.2 x64 and Ubuntu 14.04 x64 clients
  • Full support for Blast Extreme and PColP
  • Implementation of Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) mode for Blast Extreme, PColP and USB
  • Printing speeds up to 4x faster
  • Client drive redirection (CDR) and USB are 50 percent more performant when going over WAN through security servers


  • Support for PColP and Blast Extreme with hardware acceleration (H.264)
  • Ability to use Android Fingerprint for authentication
  • Supports using real-time audio using the device's microphone with the desktop and certain applications
  • Updated OpenSSL and TLS for improved security
  • Possible to access device built-in storage in remote apps and/or desktop with client drive redirection (CDR)
  • OpenSSL and TLS have been updated for improved security

Chrome OS

  • Support for PColP and Blast Extreme
  • Possible to access Google Drive and USB storage from remote apps and desktops with client drive redirection (CDR)
Horizon for Linux
VMware has made a few updates to Linux virtual desktops being managed by View. Most of these features were actually added in the 6.2.1 release, but I'll include them here as the 6.2.1 release wasn't widely reported on. 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. For a list of use cases for Linux virtual desktops, see my article here. For my article on using Linux Virtual Desktops with VMware Horizon View, see my article here.

Other Enhancements

  • VSAN 6.1 and 6.2 are supported for storage options with Horizon 7. This includes advanced features in these releases, including All-Flash VSANs and VSANs operating in stretched cluster mode.
  • VMware has increased its Horizon 7 Cloud Pod Architecture to support 50,000 sessions, 25 pods, and 10 sites. 
  • Horizon 7 will support vDGA passthrough with support for Intel CPUs with integrated Iris Pro GPU and Intel Graphics Virtualization Technologies (GVT-d) graphics cards. Previously, only NVIDIA and AMD GPU cards were supported.
Tech Preview
VMware mentioned one item that will be in Tech Preview for Horizon 7: Flash Redirection. Flash Redirection allows flash content to be redirected from the virtual desktop to the client, where it's decoded and rendered locally. This should allow flash streaming content to play more smoothly, and should reduce CPU usage on the virtual desktop and consume less bandwidth. Hopefully VMware will come out with some benchmarks showing the network and CPU savings users can expect by using Flash Redirection.

Instant Clone FTW
The Instant Clone feature in Horizon 7 should be a huge win for VMware; the rest of the new and improved features in Horizon 7 pale in comparison. Yes, they're nice, but Instant Clone will be the feature that everyone will be talking about and testing when Horizon 7 releases. If Instant Clone works well for View virtual desktops, I suspect that VMware will implement Instant Clone for Big Data, use in lab environments and other uses where VMs need to be instantiated quickly, don't require persistence, and where VMs can be treated like cattle rather than pets.

About the Author

Tom Fenton has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 30 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 20 years focusing on virtualization and storage. He previously worked as a Technical Marketing Manager for ControlUp. He also previously worked at VMware in Staff and Senior level positions. He has also worked as a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, where he headed the Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on X @vDoppler.


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