VMware Horizon 6 RDSH to lack built-in profile management support

The applause for VMware Horizon 6 has died down and it's time to reveal the holes: View Persona won't support the awaited RDSH app publishing feature.

VMware Horizon 6's shining star is an RDSH app publishing feature similar to XenApp, but there's an issue with support that may prevent IT shops from using it right away.

View Persona Management won't support the upcoming Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) application publishing feature in VMware Horizon 6, according to a source familiar with VMware's plans.

IT pros need some type of profile management software to ensure end users' personal settings are applied to their virtual desktops and applications wherever they login to provide a seamless user experience. Citrix provides a seamless user experience with its User Profile Management tool in XenApp and XenDesktop.

A VMware spokesperson confirmed View Persona will not support RDSH in Horizon 6.0, but said it will be supported in a future version of Horizon. He did not provide a timeframe.

Ideally, you don't want to reach into your pockets to buy another product.

Gunnar Berger, analyst, Gartner

"It's definitely a big deal, depending on your architecture," said Phil Maas, a systems administrator for Inovalon, Inc., a Bowie, Md. technology company that provides analytics to the healthcare industry. "If you rely on linked clones and want to use [RDSH] published apps, it won't remember your settings."

Many companies with complicated virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) needs, including Inovalon, already rely on third-party profile management tools from companies such as Unidesk Corp. or AppSense for their VMware View environments. For them, the support gap won't matter much.  

But VMware customers expect some persona management to be built into the Horizon product to solve challenges that aren't solved with Group Policy or roaming profiles, said Gunnar Berger, an analyst with Gartner Inc., an IT consulting and research firm.

"Products like AppSense cost money, and you have put money into View," Berger said. "Ideally, you don't want to reach into your pocket to buy another product."

Profile management tools with many extra bells and whistles can be quite expensive -- to the tune of a VDI license in some cases, Berger said. So the lack of persona management support for RDSH is a problem that VMware must do something about, he said.

And they will.

But this isn't the first time VMware will launch a VDI suite without an expected profile management capability. View Persona Management was expected in View 4.6, but wasn't offered until View 5.0. To fill the gap, VMware encouraged the use of its partners profile management tools and it will do the same in this instance.

VMware said customers should use tools from partners such as Liquidware Labs' ProfileUnity for profile management support with RDSH. ProfileUnity costs $39 per user.

VMware Horizon 6 RDSH limitations expected

Inovalon's Maas uses VMware View 5.2 to deliver virtual desktops to 625 users, and plans to scale it to 1,000 users by this time next year. He'll upgrade to Horizon 6.0 fairly quickly because he doesn't have XenApp and the application publishing feature will add significant value to his environment.

"I've been waiting for [app publishing], and expected it to come with View 5 [in 2011]," Maas said.

He already uses ProfileUnity, so the lack of built-in persona management support won't matter. In fact, Inovalon bought ProfileUnity because of issues with View Persona that VMware didn't have answers for, Maas said.

The lack of profile management in Horizon 6 is forgivable to some, as it is a version one product (despite the 6.0 name) and IT managers typically wait before deploying new products.

"Citrix has had time to find the holes and fill them – not that VMware comes out of the gate with a lot of holes, but over time, they'll fill the gaps," Berger said.

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