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VMware Horizon 7 Blast protocol provides a rival for PCoIP

VMware made a pair of noteworthy changes in Horizon 7, adding its proprietary remote display protocol and the VM cloning feature it developed in Project Fargo.

With the release of VMware Horizon 7, the company finally made a statement in transitioning to its own remote display protocol.

In 2013, I speculated the relationship was growing weary between VMware and Teradici, the maker of the PC-over-IP (PCoIP) protocol that VMware's Horizon end-user computing suite uses. At the time, VMware hadn't released an application-oriented product yet and was relying solely on VDI as opposed to session-hosted applications. Teradici then released its own Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) platform, Arch, which to me seemed like a power play.

I thought VMware would acquire another remote display protocol or simply standardize on Microsoft's RemoteFX technologies, which boost the performance of Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol. Instead, VMware created its own protocol called Blast Extreme, which is based on the HTML Access protocol it's used in Horizon View for a few years. HTML Access allows admins to install software on a Horizon View server and the View endpoint, and users can then access their virtual desktops through a Web browser.

There are no feature gaps between PCoIP and Blast.

VMware developed Blast Extreme, or Blast, with mobile networks and devices in mind. The idea wasn't necessarily that enterprises are supposed to ditch their thin client devices, but VMware Blast protocol is aimed to work well in a mobile environment, which means it's sure to work in a more traditional VDI client setting as well.

VMware Blast is based on the H.264 video format coding, which means nearly every device made today can decode the protocol. This results in fast performance in spite of network latency, and because the hardware -- rather than the CPU and software -- decodes the protocol, VMware Blast significantly reduces battery consumption when using a remote desktop or application on a mobile device. Plus, there are no feature gaps between PCoIP and Blast, according to VMware.

Although the Blast protocol is clearly a competitor to PCoIP, VMware is playing nice for now and allowing admins to choose between Blast, PCoIP and Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol. When an admin creates a desktop pool, he can assign which protocols can access the pool. Admins can even select all three, and Horizon will run the best available protocol based on the client.

Project Fargo becomes Just-in-Time Delivery

Horizon 7 also brings Project Fargo to fruition in the form of the Just-in-Time Delivery feature. This new capability allows admins to provision and deploy desktops instantly, rather than cloning a base virtual machine as they had to do in the past. Just-in-Time Delivery uses VMware's Instant Clone feature to split off a running parent VM to make identical child VMs nearly instantaneously. Think of it like taking an online snapshot, with the original and the snapshot now running at the same time.

VMware Horizon 7 stores any changes to the desktop as delta files, which makes deploying updates to the parent VM and to users' virtual desktops much simpler. Now, admins can simply update the parent VM and apply new delta files when users reboot. They have the same desktop they had before, just updated.

This feature will certainly be useful, and it's nice to finally see the Project Fargo technology. Users first heard about it at VMworld 2014, and though the company was fairly tight-lipped about it last year, it appears VMware was indeed hard at work trying to implement it.

Next Steps

What is VMware Blast?

Showdown: Horizon RDSH vs. Citrix XenApp

A Q&A with the CEO of Teradici

This was last published in February 2016

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Which Horizon 7 feature are you more excited about: Blast protocol or Just-in-Time desktops?
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