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Upcoming VMware Horizon View features revealed

Bridget Botelho

The next version of VMware Horizon View will include important security and networking enhancements including context aware security.

VMware will divulge upcoming features during the VMworld 2013 conference later this month. The next release

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is expected to be View 5.5, though VMware has not confirmed a version number. View 5.2, the first iteration of its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software to be bundled with the VMware Horizon Suite, became available in February.

The company typically releases a new version of View every two years; View 4 became available in late 2009 and View 5 became available in September 2011, so View 6 isn't far off; probably 2014, sources said.

VMware View 5.5 security features

One beta tester said the upcoming security features will be important in environments with  regulatory and reporting requirements, and the network enhancements are something View shops "will be extremely excited about."

Specific capabilities coming to Horizon View, listed in a VMworld session summary, include context aware adaptive security -- important for securing mobile systems.

Context aware security systems use factors such as location, device and the information being accessed to decide the security levels required. It's a feature that users will find particularly useful, said Todd Knapp, CEO of Envision Technology Advisors, an IT consultancy based in Pawtucket, RI.

More on VMware Horizon View

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The context aware security tools may allow IT to expand and contract user rights based on heuristic assessment of past behaviors, Knapp said.

In other words, it takes the approach of understanding why a user wants to do something -- the context of the request -- and then makes a decision based on that, rather than by an access control list or a hard policy, he said.

"Instead of IT maintaining a table of permissions, this watches user behavior and automatically recognizes regular and irregular requests," Knapp said.

"I'm not sure that VMware will hit this nail on the head from day one, but the fact that they are thinking about it is important, and it is part of their software-defined data center [strategy]," he added.

The company has had context aware security technology since its  PacketMotion acquisition in 2011. VMware integrated those adaptive security capabilities into vShield, now called vCloud Networking and Security.

PCoIP, networking updates

View VDI performance will also improve via updates to Teradici's PCoIP Hardware Accelerator, which offloads PCoIP image encoding tasks and reduces server CPU utilization. The new driver release will incorporate caching support to cut bandwidth usage and complements the physical GPU in VMware Horizon View environments.

Upcoming network optimization improvements in View 5.5 should also alleviate some of the problems caused by traffic shaping tools that cannot prioritize virtual desktop traffic. Those tools erroneously shut down traffic that should be prioritized, causing latency.

"That leaves users feeling that they don't like VDI technology, even though the problem doesn’t have to do with VDI," Knapp said.

Availability and performance should also improve for companies with server farms in various locations through global server load balancing, which coordinateshow traffic is processed among multiple data centers. However, companies that currently require that capability already use a third-party tool, such as Barracuda Networks, Inc.'s Barracuda Load Balancer. 

It's something included in Citrix NetScaler, so competitively it makes sense for VMware to offer.

"I've had conversations with people who are looking at [global server load balancing] to design for [disaster recovery]," said Gunnar Berger, a Gartner Inc. analyst. "Instead of having a cold, cheap standby [colocation], you could have two or more hot sites…so that your critical users could be up and running quickly."

It isn't clear whether the upcoming server load balancing feature is something VMware is building, Berger said, or if it is using a tool from a partner company such as F5 Networks. F5's BIG-IP for Horizon View delivers centralized access to all applications, traffic management between multiple sites, and security controls.

However, VMware has been known to step on partners' toes, as have other large technology vendors.

"Though [VMware] talks about how they value partners, they often develop products that could be viewed as competing with or trivializing their partner products," Knapp said. "[The upside is that it] forces evolution among the partner ecosystem."

VMware also plans to discuss during the conference options that can improve VDI performance and lower storage costs. Earlier this year, the company acquired Virsto, software that performs thin provisioning, caching and optimization for SANs and other types of storage, so conversations may center on that.

VMware will also add Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) support for View users that have converted to that version.

While View networking and storage performance improvements are necessary and are certainly welcomed, VDI shops have already invested in partner products to help solve those bottlenecks, said Mike Davis, managing director of technology at Broadleaf Services, an IT consultancy based in Burlington, Mass.

"A lot of our customers aren't necessarily looking for the latest and greatest features," Davis said. "Most of the time, it's small improvements we might take advantage of eventually, or things already being done well by other companies."

VMware did not comment for this article by press time.

Reporter James Furbush contributed to this report.


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