VMware’s virtual desktop and application publishing portfolio has gotten increasingly complex of late, with a mix of cloud and on-premises offerings, and this is even before you consider the components that make up the supporting pieces, such as User Environment Manager, App Volumes and integration with Workspace ONE.

In this article I hope to provide you with a (little) clearer view as to which Horizon to look out onto (pun intended).

The On-Prem option – Horizon 7

The On-Prem Option - Horizon 7

This is the ‘great original flavour’ of VMware’s desktop virtualization offering.  The customer provides the tin to host it all on, builds a VMware vSphere estate (with VMware vSphere for Desktops included in the suite) and then layers on the VMware Horizon components for delivery of either Virtual Desktops or Remote Application publishing.

It does have several pro’s and cons –

  • You have flexibility on the scale and architecture, including geographic locations.
  • Scaling from very small to incredibly large, through the ability to leverage Cloud Pod Architecture.
  • Proximity to on-premises services and corporate network users can be an advantage, particularly for client/server resources.
  • Scaling down is expensive as you own the tin it’s hosted on.
  • It can generate VDI desktops, RDS Desktops and applications, using a number of delivery methods (Linked, Instant and full clones) of whatever specification you’ll need.

Being the most developed product, in combination with being in a customer-owned environment, it has a greater range of integration points with third party products, for example, there are numerous application delivery tools available.

When On-Prem is also Cloudy – Horizon View on VMware Cloud on AWS

When On-Prem is also Cloud - VMConAWS

This next offering is also the newest.  VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services (VMC on AWS) is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering that allows a customer to purchase VMware vSphere environments on AWS.  As an IaaS solution, the customer has more control over the estate than would be the case in most XaaS offerings, to the point that it is possible to deliver VMware Horizon View on the platform.

Functionally, this is the same as the on-premises Horizon View, right down to the point that you build your own servers for hosting the otherwise identical components, however, there are a small number of caveats.  The biggest one of these is that you can’t use Linked Clones for delivering desktops – only full or instant clones are supported.  Although given that Instant Clones are rapidly superseding Linked clones, this is not that much of a loss.

As this is a Cloud solution, there are still questions to answer with respect to connectivity to on-premises resources, though if application services are moved to AWS, this is less of an issue.

By leveraging multiple tenants and AWS connectivity, it is possible to scale outwards for geographical and resilience reasons.  It is even possible to run a Cloud Pod federation that includes both on-premises and VMware Cloud on AWS-hosted Horizon Pods.  It’s a little more elastic than an on-premises solution in that you can scale down the VMware Cloud on AWS tenant.

Going Full Cloud – Horizon Cloud

The next option is VMware’s true Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering, Horizon Cloud.  Currently, this is available in two flavours – Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud and Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure.   Each of these have slightly different attributes that affect use cases, however as both use a common management backplane, they’re similar to administer.

The key thing that separates the Horizon Cloud flavour is that because it’s a DaaS offering, the buyer is literally just an administrator of desktops – all the broker components and (in the case of the IBM Cloud hosted) infrastructure is controlled and maintained by VMware.  If you require elasticity in scaling both up and down, this is the most dynamic offering as it is purchased in desktop capacity units as a subscription service.

Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud

This is hosted on an IBM platform based on VMware vSphere technology.  This option is comparatively cheap and is intended to be the ‘all in one’ greenfield solution as the license includes the compute capacity as well as Horizon licensing.

It can provide full VDI desktops, or Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) based desktops and published applications.  For VDI, it can produce non-persistent desktops using Linked Clone technology.  There are several Nvidia GPU offerings for graphic intensive desktops, but only for full VDI.

While this solution offers VMware App Volumes for application delivery to the desktops (no user assigned disks), it does not support the use of App Volumes with RDSH servers, unlike the Horizon View offerings.

As a DaaS offering, rather than IaaS, integration is limited – for example, little ability to leverage virtualisation-based app delivery tools outside App Volumes and no agentless anti-virus.

Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure

By leveraging the same broker technology and management portal as Horizon Cloud on IBM Hosted, it is now possible to deploy on your own Microsoft Azure tenant.  In this case, an appliance is used to automate the cloning process for deploying full clones in Azure – there is no Instant Clone capability here currently.

This is largely intended for those who want to do desktop virtualisation and already have Azure.  It’s not particularly cheap as you must pay both VMware (for Horizon licensing) and Microsoft for the Azure VMs.  While it has no App Volumes support at all, it does, however, have enhanced 3D graphics support through Microsoft Azure GPU-enabled infrastructure for RDS workloads.

Closing Thoughts

The choice is quite broad, but must be considered with care, leaning heavily on the use case.  The discovery process is more critical than ever and should be embarked upon before signing on the dotted line for a product to ensure that not only is the solution sized and designed correctly, but that the correct platform is selected in the first place.

The Horizon Cloud DaaS offerings are compelling, but they aren’t a panacea – you still need to design and administer the solution.  You’ve only eliminated the infrastructure support and moved your desktops further away from your users and their data.

Horizon View remains the most flexible product and, with the VMware Cloud on AWS support, even offers a cloud presence and better scaling options than previously.  An interesting option here is a hybrid approach of Horizon View on-premises, but federated with an AWS hosted tenant for DR.  The disadvantage is that you need to keep the platform running rather than throwing infrastructure issues over the fence to VMware and that infrastructure will be costly.

Ultimately, it’s a ‘choose your poison’ decision, which re-emphasises the point above – don’t rush in and buy first/design later – carry out a proper investigation into the options and decide based upon business requirements and use cases.

Choose Your Poison - Blue pill Red pill

Xtravirt have been involved in End User Compute virtualisation projects of all sizes for many years, bringing a broad range of skills and experience to the table. If you are looking to deploy a new digital workspace solution or wish to enhance or upgrade what you currently have, we can help. We have a long track record of successful workspace projects and can provide advisory, design and implementation services to create the right solution for your organisation. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.