BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
The newest VMware Horizon 7 features aim to help VDI shops deliver a top-notch user experience and manage the platform through the web.
Horizon 7.5, released in May, added an end-user-accessible performance tracker, for example. Version 7.4 added a Session Collaboration feature that enables users to share desktop sessions with peers. Other highlights include a cloud connector that hooks on-premises devices into a cloud control plane and a new HTML5 console for managing Horizon 7. Attendees learned more about the latest Horizon 7 features at VMworld 2018 in Las Vegas.
"These are great features [that] seem like they're worthy," said Jay Foreman, senior systems engineer at Kelly Services, a staffing company based in Mississippi, in an interview.
User experience improvements
Recent Horizon 7 features include three main user experience (UX) improvements -- Session Collaboration, Horizon Performance Tracker and Blast Extreme Network Intelligent Transport.
Session Collaboration. VMware demoed Session Collaboration during the digital workspace keynote at VMworld 2018. The feature allows a user to share his desktop with a second user and then grant that user control of the desktop so she can make changes to whatever he is working on. This feature can extend to multiple users. The tool, which runs through the Blast Extreme remote display protocol, is particularly useful for engineers who have to show each other 3D designs.
"Session Collaboration might save time for some of our users because, right now, we use Skype for that," said Foreman, who is planning an upgrade to Horizon 7.x from 6.2.
Horizon Performance Tracker. The tracker, one of the newest Horizon 7 features in version 7.5, is a support tool that IT and users can use to evaluate the UX and view display protocol details. It runs in a remote desktop and monitors the performance of both PC over IP and Blast Extreme, including showing whether the protocol is using the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Users can also work with the tool to identify why their sessions are experiencing issues.
Jay Foremansenior systems engineer, Kelly Services
Blast Extreme Network Intelligent Transport. This feature automatically chooses either UDP or TCP, the network communication protocols responsible for the exchange of data across the network between network-attached devices, based on bandwidth, packet loss, delays and jitter. TCP numbers each data packet so they render in order on the endpoint, checks for errors in the delivery and confirms that the packets were delivered. UDP focuses only on transmitting the data, so it works better for performance-heavy visuals such as videos.
Blast Extreme Network Intelligent Transport is enabled by default, and IT pros can override the UDP or TCP automation if they want to.
New management console and help desk integration
VMware also showed in a session the new HTML5 console for Horizon 7 that is poised to replace the current flash console. It does not have full feature parity yet, but it can still do many of the things the flash-based console can. IT pros can use it to create user assignments for applications, for example, but it does not support View Composer or linked clones because the company plans to depreciate both technologies in the near future.
To access the HTML5 console, IT pros click on Horizon Console on the menu bar at the top of the Horizon 7 dashboard or go to the connection server website.
"The HTML5 console is a huge performance increase," Foreman said. "Everything is so much faster, snappier. I'm sure it will increase the performance of what we can do with [Horizon] and make us that much more efficient."
The console will also integrate with the help desk tool introduced in Horizon 7.2 that allows IT to work directly with end users when they're having an issue with a desktop or an application. An IT pro can simply see the user's name and pull up information on his session to identify the problem.
Horizon 7 and the cloud
A new cloud connector will allow IT departments with on-premises Horizon 7 deployments to hook their desktops into the cloud-based control plane.
"We want to have two different sites, and I want to be able to provision [desktop] pools to two separate sites," Foreman said. "This would help me do that."
IT pros can also now install the Horizon platform on VMware Cloud on AWS. In doing so, they can expand their data center on demand by adding capacity as needed. This is particularly useful in a disaster recovery scenario or if an organization has seasonal workers. It can also work as a proof of concept for Horizon 7.