A quick rundown of VMware's Horizon, Skype for Business, and Horizon Cloud announcements today

VMware announced a few changes to Horizon today along with a new product called Horizon Cloud. Here's the quick breakdown.

You probably saw VMware’s announcement this morning where they announced a few changes to Horizon 7.1 (and if you haven’t, you can find the 2+ pages of press release-y goodness on the interwebs). Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll find.

JMP

VMware’s Just-in-Time Management Platform (JMP) uses App Volumes, Instant Clone, and User Environment Manager to enable super-fast imaging, desktop provisioning, and application delivery. We’ve known about this for a while now, but the big news to come out of this is that JMP has been extended to published applications from Horizon Apps, and it’s got a catchy name.

BEAT

Blast Extreme receives an update in the form of the Blast Extreme Adaptive Transport (BEAT), which dynamically adjusts the Blast protocol to network conditions that include varying speeds and packet loss. VMware claims a 6x increase in speed over previous versions of Blast, and also believes they have a significant performance advantage over Citrix. I’ll reserve judgement on that until I see independent data, but suffice it to say that as much as both sides claim the protocol wars are over, it sure seems like they’re still on (though the differences in the majority of scenarios are increasingly miniscule).

Skype for Business

While we’re talking about protocols, VMware also reminded us of their forthcoming Skype for Business support. Intended to address the last significant gap between VMware and Citrix platform support, we can expect to see it as a tech preview when Horizon 7.1 ships. I’ve heard (admittedly from Citrix) there is a significant difference between “making it work” and “integrating it into your entire environment,” so when it arrives I want to take a deeper dive into both the Citrix and VMware offerings. While I don’t expect a half-assed effort from VMware, at the very least you can say they’ve checked the box.

(I have two questions that I’ve passed along to VMware with regards to Skype for Business. First, in the press release it only notes Skype for Business support in the Horizon (on-prem) section. Does that mean that Skype for Business is not supported in DaaS configurations? The other question is about whether or not Skype for Business will be released in April, or if it will be a Tech Preview in April. I’ll update this when I find the answer.)

UPDATE: VMware answered the questions. Skype for Business support will only be supported in on-prem Horizon 7.1 environments, and will not be available to Horizon Cloud customers "yet." Also, when released in April, Skype for Business will be a tech preview. No timeframe was given with regards to general availability for the Skype for Business feature.

New: VMware Horizon Cloud

VMware Horizon Cloud is a new offering that is built upon the VMware/IBM partnership that they talked about at VMworld. With Horizon Cloud, companies can deploy desktops and applications that live in SoftLayer or on-premises (or both) using supported hyper-converged hardware. GPU-enabled desktops are available in addition to traditional desktops, and customers can use both PCoIP or Blast Extreme as the protocol. Horizon Cloud pricing will start at $16/user/month for named users ($26/user/month for concurrent), and includes the cloud-managed service only. Compute resources (i.e. virtual desktops) are an additional cost.

New: Separate SKU for VMware Horizon Apps

The last bit of news is that VMware has created a separate SKU for Horizon Apps for customers that don’t need the full Horizon suite that also does VDI. Horizon Apps will be available in two editions: Standard and Advanced. The Standard edition supports published applications and desktops, and it will cost $125 per named user ($200 for CCU). The Advanced edition will include Instant Clones, App Volumes, User Environment Manager, and vSphere at a cost of $225 per named user (or $300 per CCU).

Wrap-up

For the most part, none of this should be shocking. I don’t recall any talk about VMware creating a separate SKU for Horizon Apps, but the move makes sense and could attract a few XenApp-only customers that are ready to migrate off of XenApp 6.5. All of these changes are expected in April, and more information can be found at the VMware End-User Computing blog as it comes out.

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I'm with you Gabe and will await independent results.  Unfortunately, I've seen VMW rush to fill that "checkbox" very quickly and the reality once seen differs.  
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