VMware Announces Updates to View and Horizon Application Manager

[NOTE: The information in this post was provided to me by VMware in a pre-announcement briefing and was under embargo until 8:01 EDT 2 May 2012.]

Today, 2 May 2012, VMware is announcing new advanced features in their End-User Computing solution set.  These features come to us in the form of VMware View version 5.1 and VMware Horizon Application Manager version 1.5, both of which should be GA by the end of May.

Here’s what you’ll see in the new versions:

VMware View 5.1

View 5.1 adds new storage features, management improvements, and an overall improved end-user experience.

New Storage Features

  • View Storage Accelerator — This is a set of new functionality that uses Content-Based Read Cache (CBRC) to keep common block reads in the server cache.  This allows for improved performance that is completely transparent to whatever you’re running as a Guest OS and — since it’s happening on the server side — will work regardless of what you’re using for a storage solution.
  • View Composer Array Integration (VCAI) — VCAI is a specific use-case of the NFS VAAI File Cloning feature.  When View Composer creates a Linked Clone (in View 5.1), if the datastore is NFS on a supported array, Composer will take advantage of the array’s native snapshot capabilities to create that clone, creating it faster while using less space.  As of this writing, VMware has not certified any vendors on VCAI, but since it’s really just a special-case of an existing VAAI feature, I’d anticipate those arrays that are already certified for that feature (e.g.: EMC VNX) to be certified for VCAI fairly soon.

The improved performance and space savings offered by View Storage Accelerator and VCAI will allow customers to save money by sizing storage for average — rather than peak — loads (since Storage Accelerator will alleviate the I/O burst), and to grow to a larger number of concurrent View users on the same storage.

Improved Management Features

  • Improved Admin UI response time
  • Syslog support for event logging
  • A stand-alone View Composer server
  • Ability to expand clusters from the former maximum of 8 to 32 hosts when using NFS storage
  • Expanded RADIUS support, allowing more choices for customers’ two-factor authentication vendors
  • Improved Persona management, allowing one strategy for all devices and support for one-time migrations from XP to Windows 7

These features will help customers accelerate large-scale View deployments and reduce the cost of supporting those installations.

 User-Experience Improvement Features

  • Improved USB device handling, allowing the vast majority of existing USB devices to connect to View 5.1 without issue
  • Additional PCoIP performance improvements — the optimization will be available in the latest client, meaning that even View 5.0 users can get the increased performance
  • Improvements for desktop clients including: Mac OS X, Ubuntu, and Windows Thin PC
  • Improvements for mobile clients including iOS (all the iPad models) and Android (phones and tablets)

These improvements will make the overall user-experience of View far better, thus helping to remove many user objections to the adoption of virtual desktops.

Horizon Application Manager 1.5

If you’re not familiar with Horizon, it’s VMware’s hosted management platform for user applications.  It integrates with VMware ThinApp and provides for easy and cost-effective management and license control for your users’ applications, allowing you to deliver Cloud-based applications anywhere, to any device. VMware has a great FAQ about Horizon Application Manager here.

The improvements in Horizon make it easier than ever to manage:

  • User authentication
  • Cost- and resource-effective application provisioning
  • Application licenses
  • Rules and policies for application access

In version 1.5, Horizon Application Manager is now available as an improved VMware vSphere virtual applicance.  This virtual appliance can scale to support 100,000 users.  The appliance comes with configuration wizards for quick and easy deployment.  In another change, software updates can be done directly to the Horizon appliance without the need to re-install it, thus enabling non-disruptive maintenance and updates.

Horizon ships with an SaaS application catalog , but also allows you to build your own custom one for your users’ particular needs.  Horizon provides a unified application experience for your users, regardless of what device they use to access the applications.

Additionally, the Horizon architecture has been expanded with APIs for reporting, work flows, user provisioning, and adding enterprise applications.  This will make it far easier to integrate with existing systems and processes, as well as to create completely new ones.

For me, personally, two other changes VMware is making to Horizon Application Manager are the most exciting ones.

First, in the past, Horizon was really only available in one architecture model.  Customers had their Active Directory server and Horizon Enterprise Connector on-premise, and the rest of the Horizon infrastructure — Horizon modules, SaaS connectors, updates, etc. — was pulled from a cloud-based catalog.  This worked out to be about 10% of Horizon infrastructure was on-site, while the remaining 90% was in the cloud.

With version 1.5, customers will have more configuration choices for their environments, allowing more of the elements to be hosts on-premise.  That 10/90 model can now be 90/10 if that’s a better fit for your organization…

Second, the other change I find exciting is this: Up until now, customers could only purchase Horizon Application Manager directly from VMware.  With version 1.5, Horizon will be made available through resellers for the first time.  So while this is exciting to me as I now work for a VMware reseller, I’m more excited by how this opens up more options for customers, allowing them to work with the partner/reseller/integrator of their choice.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Horizon-based services offerings starting to appear.

Conclusion

Today’s announcements open up new expanses for virtualization to move into, adding all sorts of improvements, scalability, and extensibility.  These are the tools that will be building tomorrow’s Clouds.

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