VMware Horizon 6 closes in on Citrix VDI with more features

A year after its release, VMware shores up Horizon 6 with RDSH capabilities, GPU virtualization and Linux support to chip away at Citrix's EUC supremacy.

New features and capabilities abound in a new release of VMware Horizon 6, but more work is needed for the platform to catch up to Citrix's offerings.

The latest version of Horizon 6 includes application publishing enhancements, including port-level redirection of local USB devices. This allows access to files through published apps and virtual desktops.

Customers will also get support for scanning and imaging devices from Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) desktops and apps, SmartCards and HTML5 Access for RDSH session-based desktops.

These additions come just about a year after VMware joined the RDSH game with an app publishing feature aimed at rival Citrix XenApp.

The new features are important for VMware as it looks to overtake Citrix's long-held market dominance for RDSH, said Simon Bramfitt, desktop virtualization analyst with Entelechy Associates in Concord, Calif.

"It's absolutely necessary if [VMware is] going to compete at more demanding enterprise levels," Bramfitt said. "Without the bells and whistles Citrix has, they will never unseat Citrix at that top tier."

For users who need high-performance 3D graphics on virtual desktops, VMware has teamed Horizon 6 and vSphere up with Nvidia GRID vGPU technology to include support for GPU-sharing. These rich-graphics capabilities were something Citrix could hold over VMware's head, said Mark Lockwood, end-user computing research director with Gartner Inc., an analysis firm in Stamford, Conn.

VMware's GPU virtualization support may improve VDI adoption if it allows IT to move workloads off CPUs and bring down total cost of ownership, according to Bramfitt.

VMware's published application feature is also in tech preview for Google Chromebooks. VMware previously introduced full desktop delivery to Chromebooks. The app delivery will happen via two different means -- either through an HTML5 browser or a new, lightweight Chrome client.

Horizon 6 is also more integrated with existing VMware platforms, including vSphere Virtual Volumes, NSX for customized VDI networking and security policies and Virtual SAN 6 for hyper-converged storage. Horizon 6 can support up to 4,000 desktops per cluster on a 20-node cluster, the company said.

VMware is also offering an early access program for VMware Horizon for Ubuntu and Red Hat-based Linux desktops. Customers can access Windows and Linux-based apps through desktops and mobile devices on the new platform. This program may have more appeal in places where Linux desktop adoption is more widespread than the U.S., Bramfitt said.

"For developing economies that want to do first-world computing but without first-world costs and have come in without legacy Windows adoption behind them, Linux is more attractive," he said.

There's less interest in [VMware} RDSH because they are a newcomer. It's a tough market to crack.
Mark Lockwoodanalyst, Gartner Inc.

Interested customers can sign up for the Linux program online.

Battle with Citrix continues for VMware

Despite a year of Horizon 6 under its belt, VMware faces an uphill climb to convince customers to choose its technology around app publishing, Lockwood said.

"In general terms, there is a lot of interest in Horizon as a suite," Lockwood said. "Inside of that, there's less interest in RDSH because they are a newcomer. It's a tough market to crack."

There's also VMware's work on integrating acquisitions App Volumes and Immidio directly within Horizon 6. The work for creating VMware's Workspace Environment Management suite is ongoing but that was not part of this new release, a VMware spokesperson said.

A challenge for VMware in future updates will be to consolidate interfaces for administrators, Lockwood said.

"Just getting into the console and having some sort of single sign-on capability will be critical for administrators," Lockwood said.

The new release of Horizon 6, which does not include a new version number, is expected to be available this week. A free trial is available on VMware's website.

Horizon 6 is priced in three tiers: Standard View, Advanced and Enterprise. Standard View (which is VDI-only) is available at $250 per concurrent user (CCU) only, while Advanced is $250 per named user and $400 per CCU. Enterprise is priced at $300 per named user and $500 per CCU.

Jake O'Donnell is the news writer for SearchConsumerization.com and Search VirtualDesktop.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JakeODonnell_TT.

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