This content is part of the Essential Guide: A complete guide to XenApp and XenDesktop vs. Horizon

A hands-on look at VMware Horizon View 7

Reading up on VMware Horizon View 7 has value, but you never know how the company's desktop virtualization platform will work in production until you use it. One expert gives a hands-on tutorial.

Horizon 7 has been on the market for a while, so it's time to dig yourself out from under all the documentation and get down to the facts about what's new with the updated View.

I got my hands on VMware Horizon View 7, the latest version of the company's desktop virtualization platform, and although I don't run a huge View deployment for end users, I use it every day. I've upgraded from Horizon View 4.6 through every major release to the current version. I have virtual desktops and Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) pools as well as RDSH applications. I even have a physical workstation with a hardware PCoIP card.

Find out how the upgrade process works in Horizon View 7, how the new version of View works across different device types and what to expect from VMware's new remote display protocol.

VMware Horizon View 7 upgrade process

My experience with Horizon View upgrades has been pretty good. In Horizon 7, View follows its standard upgrade formula. You should make sure your backups are set and your documentation is up to date before you start. I also like to confirm the View System Health Dashboard isn't showing any errors. Disable provisioning on desktop pools and then upgrade each component in order.

Make sure your backups are set and your documentation is up to date before you start.

View Composer goes first. Make sure you keep using trusted certificates. Then update Connection Servers and Security Servers in one maintenance window. Horizon View 7 only supports mismatched Composer or Connection Server versions for a brief time during an upgrade. Get everything to a consistent version before you let users back in. Then upgrade the desktop agents or master VMs. This upgrade is less urgent; you can keep using the older agent for a while. Just don't let the agent version get ahead of the Connection Server version. VMware usually doesn't support it.

As always, you must update full clone VMs individually. Don't forget to upgrade the VM template as well, so View deploys new VMs with the latest agent already installed. Admins must recompose View Composer pools to get the new agent. At some point you also need to upgrade the Horizon View clients. Fortunately you can do so at any stage before or after the Horizon View 7 upgrade, and you can perform the upgrade in batches if necessary. You won't be able to use the new Blast Extreme protocol until you update the View clients.

Spend some time planning your VMware Horizon View upgrade. Ideally, replicate your production environment and upgrade the replica as a test before starting the real upgrade.

What to expect after an upgrade

I only ran into upgrade issues with my physical Windows 7 workstation -- it had some errors with MSIExec tasks during the agent upgrade -- but the errors appeared to be cosmetic, because the desktop functioned perfectly. Clicking OK let the old agent uninstall and the new agent install again.

After the upgrades, the existing client made all pools available on my Mac and various mobile devices. Everything worked just as it had before the upgrade. My iPad and Android phone both already ran the latest Horizon client. I had no trouble gaining access to the upgraded environment on either device. The client upgrades didn't take long on the Mac or on a couple of Windows devices.

The Mac client is far less configurable than the Windows client, however. For example, I cannot specify the window size on Macs. It also appears that the latest Mac client for Horizon View has done away with the drop-down menu at the top of a View desktop window, which is how I used to shrink windows.

What do you know about VMware View components?

There are a lot of VMware View components that VDI admins need to be familiar with. Take this quiz to prove your knowledge.

VMware's display protocol blasts off

VMware developed its own high-performance display protocol, Blast Extreme, which is the default protocol for new virtual desktop pools. Blast Extreme uses H.264 video encoding, which most mobile devices can decode using special hardware. With PCoIP, the mobile device's CPU decodes the protocol, so Blast Extreme uses less battery life compared to PCoIP.

With the rise in mobile devices as VDI clients, battery life has become critical to VDI efficiency. So far, I was impressed with Blast Extreme. It was as pleasant to use as PCoIP.

Next Steps

A look at security improvements in Horizon 7

Combine the powers of Linux and Horizon

How to improve network connectivity in Horizon View 7

Dig Deeper on VMware virtual desktop software