Horizon Cloud on Azure - Xtravirt

A brief update

Following my visit to VMworld Europe in 2017 I wrote a blog post on VMware Horizon Cloud on Azure. Much has changed in a year, so it seems rather timely, given that VMworld Europe 2018 has just concluded, that I update the blog.

Where we were….

Going back a year to 2017, VMware Horizon Cloud on Azure had only just launched and at the time, it was capable of publishing full clones of Remote Desktop Session Host servers for publishing Shared Desktops and applications.  A pretty good start, all things considered, albeit slightly functionally limited compared to the VMware Hosted offering that could also offer dedicated VDI desktops.

A year on, where are we now?

Things have definitely moved on in the last year.  Not only is feature-parity between Azure and VMware Hosted offerings somewhat closer, but in one area, graphics, the Azure offering is actually superior!

Deployment

The deployment model has remained the same – you bring your own Azure subscription rather than lean on VMware for the hosting.  In this sense, it is still the case that a cost/benefit analysis needs to be undertaken

The cost of deploying Horizon VMs on Azure can be more expensive when compared to the VMware hosted offering.  To be fair, Azure is more oriented towards a server offering than desktops, so perhaps this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.  To counterbalance this however, one must also consider connectivity in the equation.  If you already have an established Azure tenant with backhaul connectivity to on-site, then deploying VMware Hosted with its own connectivity overhead may counter the VM costs to a degree – certainly, the operational upkeep of additional environments and connectivity is a consideration.

An additional point to consider may be functionality.  From a deployment perspective, Horizon Cloud on Azure is now starting to offer dedicated and floating full desktops, not just shared.  However, at present, Instant Clones are not supported so deployment is limited to essentially persistent desktops.

Features

There is, as yet, no support for VMware App Volumes AppStacks in Horizon Cloud, so legacy deployment mechanisms will need to be considered.  As desktops are currently persistent in nature, legacy tooling such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager remain viable in this sense, though streaming application virtualisation tools such as VMware ThinApp and Microsoft App-V would be attractive too.

One feature that stands out over Hosted Horizon Cloud is that Azure offers enhanced graphics using Nvidia vGPU technology.  So, if you have a need for graphically intensive workloads in the Cloud, then Azure is currently the better choice.

Otherwise, with respect to connectivity protocols, management interfaces and other functionality such as the Skype for Business Virtualization Pack, the two offerings are now aligned.

What about VMware Cloud on AWS with Horizon?

VMware and Amazon Web Services have joined up to offer their VMware Cloud on AWS solution.  This allows customers to deploy a full VMware vSphere infrastructure in AWS data centers.  On top of that, it is possible to deploy VMware Horizon, so in a sense there is now a third Cloud desktop offering.

VMware consider this as an IaaS solution with desktops on, rather than a Desktop-as-a-Service offering as the customer has to look after the management tier of Horizon here, as opposed to Horizon Cloud.

The million-dollar question is – which is best? Well, there’s no easy answer to that.  Functionality wise, Horizon View has been around longer, has far greater scalability and the ability to federate multiple instances for greater resilience.  In an on-prem capacity, vGPU is supported, however this has yet to reach AWS.  The economics are more complex too given the different acquisition model involved.

There are a considerable number of use-cases where Horizon on VMware Cloud on AWS makes much more sense. For example, you have an on-prem VDI (and other services) that you wish to provide an instantaneous Cloud based DR or scaling offering, this is much more seamless and flexible than Horizon Cloud.

Closing Thoughts….

While the choice between on premises and then several cloud offerings is undoubtedly great, never has it been more apparent that an analysis prior to deciding is not just a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity.  The wrong decision can have expensive repercussions.  Such an analysis needs to consider:

The business needs:

  1. How does the business function currently and what are the issues to address?
  2. How will a given solution benefit the business?

Technology needs:

  1. Compatibility with the existing environment
  2. What connectivity do I have, and what will I need?
  3. What resilience and security features are required?

User needs:

  1. Where are the users working?
  2. What devices do they use and how do we manage them?
  3. What and where are application services that users need?

For some customers, on-premises will remain the best approach to VDI, while others may benefit from the VMware Cloud on AWS approach offering both hybridity and flexibility and yet more may find a Desktop-as-a-Service the suitable answer.

Horizon Cloud on Azure has evolved rapidly and offers a convincing use case for customers who can gain a tangible benefit from it, but it’s not suitable in all cases.  If you need a DaaS solution and have Azure already or have graphical requirements that can’t be met in Horizon Cloud Hosted, then this might be your answer. But consider all possibilities and use cases before committing.

 

If you’re considering a VDI solution or digital workspace transformation, whether Cloud or On-Premises, we can help. We provide advisory, design and implementation services to create the right solution for your organisation. Contact us and we’d be happy to use our wealth of knowledge and experience to assist you.


Date Published:
Date Modified: 19th March 2019
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Curtis Brown joined the Xtravirt consulting team in October 2012. His specialist areas include End User Compute solutions and Virtual Infrastructure design and implementation with particular strength in VDI, storage integration, backup and Disaster Recovery design/implementation. He was awarded VMware vExpert 2018.