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VMware Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode bets big on cloud-based desktops

VMware finally introduced its competitor to Citrix Workspace Cloud, but the company's new management offering is also a wager that Horizon Air cloud-based desktops will catch on.

VMware Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode moves virtual desktop, application and infrastructure management to the cloud, but one problem is that it doesn't support Horizon View.

The technology behind Hybrid-Mode originated with Project Enzo, which VMware announced on Twitter right before Citrix Synergy 2015. Since then, all indications were that VMware's product would be superficially similar to competitor Citrix Workspace Cloud (CWC).

VMware Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode and CWC are both cloud-based management platforms that aim to take assembling the infrastructure to support virtual desktops and applications off an administrator's plate. The key difference is that CWC works with on-premises and cloud-hosted desktops and applications, but Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode is designed to work only with cloud-based desktops and applications (even if they're located on premises in a sort of hybrid-cloud mode). That means no support for on-premises View desktops.

VMware is apparently going all in on the Horizon Air model.

It's also important to note that VMware bundled Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode into the company's new Workspace One suite, which is more comparable to CWC than standalone Hybrid-Mode. Workspace One and Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode are both cheaper options than CWC. The Hybrid-Mode tool costs $16 per named user, per month, and then $26 for each concurrent user. Workspace One starts at $8 per user, per month for the Standard edition. Meanwhile, CWC starts at $20 per named user, per month for its most basic Virtual Desktops package.

How Hybrid-Mode works

For those not familiar with on-premises cloud-based desktops, the idea is that an organization can put hardware in the data center that serves as a node that connects to a cloud management console. This strategy gives admins cloud scalability and management, and it also keeps the desktops and data in house and close to the applications, which provides better performance.

Using Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode with this model, admins can install Horizon Air Node technology onto either VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes (VSAN) or compatible hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) systems and connect on-premises infrastructure to Horizon Cloud Services, which hosts Hybrid-Mode's cloud management plane.

This setup allows IT to manage both the back-end systems and the cloud desktops from the same platform. Horizon Air virtual desktops are usually cloud-hosted, but the Air Node allows desktops to run on premises and then connect to VMware's cloud services, too. Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode can also connect to VMware's desktop as a service platform, Horizon DaaS, if administrators want to avoid putting any infrastructure in the data center.

VMware nudges admins toward the cloud

Administrators are very receptive to the concept of a cloud-based management platform, and this product will gain some traction as VMware continues to expand it. Though currently only for use with VMware Horizon Air or the aforementioned VSAN and HCI systems, VMware is planning to extend Hybrid-Mode to other cloud platforms in the future. Also expect that if VMware starts losing deals to Citrix because of the lack of support for the Horizon View VDI platform, the company will try to integrate Hybrid-Mode there as well.

That situation alone is very intriguing, because at this stage VMware is apparently going all in on the Horizon Air model. Of course, things can change, but I think we're about to get our real glimpse how ready the world is for cloud-based desktops. Who is going to bend: the customers by moving in the direction Horizon Air, or VMware by adding support for local Horizon View deployments?

Next Steps

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