VMware Horizon 6: Updates, Improvements, and Licensing Changes

By Chris Ward, CTO

I got a late start on this blog post but I’m a fan of the saying “better late than never!”  VMware officially shipped Horizon 6, the long awaited major update, to its end user computing product set late last month. There are numerous updates and improvements across the product set with this major release, but there is also a change in how it is licensed. In the past Horizon was consumed either as individual products (VIEW, Mirage, Workspace, etc.) or as a suite which included all components. With this new release, VMware has transitioned to its traditional product hierarchy which includes Horizon Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise editions.  

Each edition builds on previous versions with additional features added into the mix. The Standard edition basically amounts to what we’ve known as VIEW in the past.  It is the baseline VDI feature set inclusive of the connection and security servers, PCoIP protocol, ThinApp application virtualization, and linked clone functionality. Moving to the Advanced edition adds in the Mirage management, Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH), Horizon Workspace, and vSAN integration.  The Enterprise edition adds vCOPS monitoring and vCAC/vCenter Orchestrator integration.

One of the more exciting features of Horizon 6 is RDSH application publishing. This is a big deal because it’s been a glaring missing checkbox when comparing Horizon to Citrix in the past. This feature allows you to configure Windows terminal server (RDSH) farms which are configured to publish individual applications rather than full desktop sessions, very closely resembling Citrix XenApp. Why’s this a big deal?  Well, it can save a lot of back end horsepower when you can have 50 users share a single RDSH VM to run a few applications rather than needing 50 desktop VMs in traditional VDI. This allows a more flexible architecture so you can deliver each application in the best way possible, rather than being forced into deploying only full desktop operating systems. 

Mirage integration with the traditional VIEW product has improved as well.  While not 100% there, you can now get some of the Mirage OS/application layering functionality inside the VDI environment while still being able to use Mirage in its native capacity as a physical desktop management platform.  vSAN integration is a big step forward in potentially minimizing the typically large storage costs for a VDI environment, and the inclusion of vCOPS in the Enterprise edition is great as it provides very deep insight into what’s going on under the covers with your Horizon infrastructure, including deep PCoIP analytics.  Finally, the Workspace component of Horizon has improved greatly, allowing you to provide your end users with a single web page whereby they can access VDI desktops, RDSH based published applications, Citrix XenApp published applications, ThinApp packaged applications, and SaaS based apps such as Office365, Google Apps, etc.

With this release, VMware seems to be delivering on its promise that the EUC space is one of its 3 strategic focus areas.  I look forward to further improvements, along with the integration of Airwatch into the Horizon family in upcoming releases. For now, Horizon 6 is a very big step in the right direction. 

Have you tried or migrated to Horizon 6 since the launch?  If so, please share your thoughts!


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