In-Depth

VMware Horizon 6.2: An Overview

The latest version of Horizon has numerous upgrades that make it a must-have for those using it for virtual desktop infrastructure.

At VMworld last week, VMware announced Horizon 6.2. This version has many new features in it, such as first day support for Windows 10 as virtual desktops and clients, support for iOS 9 devices, biometric authentication for mobile devices, vGPU and vSGA support for Linux virtual desktops, enhancements to its Cloud Pod architecture, streamlined pool creation and certification for Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) and Common Criteria.

Although these new features are great, I'll focus in on the three enhancements that I think will have the biggest impact on the Horizon community: integration with Access Point, client enhancements and improvements in how it deals with Remote Desktop Services Hosted (RDSH).

Access Point
Access Point is VMware's new gateway solution. VMware has signaled that it will be used initially for Horizon, and later for other VMware products. Access Point is a stand-alone vApp based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 11, and is deployed from an Open Virtualization Format (OVF) package. It serves the same purpose as a View Security Server: it acts as an authenticating reverse proxy that's transparent to the View client and the connection server. This ensures that all data traffic entering the datacenter or cloud tenant environment is from an authenticated user.

Unlike the View Security server, however, it's based on a codebase-independent of the View Connection Server, which allows Access Point and View to be upgraded independently of each other. It has dynamic paring with the connection server, and doesn't require it be paired with a single connection server, which allows a load balancer to be used between the Access Points and multiple connection servers. Security servers can only be paired with a single connection server.

Perhaps the only drawback to using Access Point is the niche cases; for instance, when corporate governance requires a non-virtual server in the DMZ. For enterprises that don't want or need a Windows-based server in their DMZ, this will be a huge win. View Security servers will still ship with version 6.2, but I'd suggest adopting this new technology as soon as practical.

Horizon Client
The next big enhancement that will impact Horizon users is the Horizon client, used to access virtual desktops. It's an integral feature of Horizon, but has a separate release cycle to better accommodate the rapid changes in smart phones, thin and zero clients, and the other devices used to access virtual desktops.

This release of the client (3.5) has expanded capabilities for Linux, Windows and iOS devices. One of the features, client drive redirection (CDR) for Mac and Windows clients, had been in tech preview but is now a supported feature. CDR redirects the files on the local system to the virtual desktop. This means you can access and manipulate data stored on your local drives using your virtual desktop. When you launch a session, you're asked which local files you use on your virtual desktop. The data stream is encrypted for security and compressed for performance. This is a huge win for those that have files scattered on physical as well as virtual desktops.

RDSH
VMware has gotten very aggressive about supporting RDSH, as it now supports file type association and linked clones. When a file with a known extension is launched, the associated RDSH application is automatically launched; no longer do you need to launch the application and then open the file you want to work with.

The other major enhancement is support for linked clones. Prior to this release, only RDSH manual farms were supported. That meant each RDSH server had to be hand built and added to the farm manually, which was time consuming, made management difficult, and wasted space. VMware now supports using View Composer to create linked clone RDS hosts for the automated build-out of RDSH farms, which should result in huge storage savings. A lot of management headaches go away as well with the use of linked clones; the parent image can be patched, and when the RDSH farm is recomposed, all the child clones will receive the patched image. For anyone using RDSH farms, using linked clones should be a no-brainer.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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