VMware announces RDSH & full app publishing support! Claims easy XenApp 6.5-to-Horizon 6 migration!

Well, it looks like we were all right about April 9, 2014 being big day! What we got wrong was the reason.

Well, it looks like we were all right about April 9, 2014 being big day! What we got wrong was the reason. Who knew that today would go down as the day VMware announced that they're attacking Citrix head on in the XenApp space by adding RDSH session support and published apps to VMware Horizon, all accessible via PCoIP? Amazing! VMware plans to sell this as "Horizon 6."

In what's perhaps the most sensational part of the announcement, you can actually install Horizon 6 on an existing Citrix XenApp server and it will happily run right alongside XenApp! (How ironic is it that it might actually be easier to migrate XenApp 6.5 to Horizon 6 than XenApp 6.5 to XenApp 7.5?) All of this new RDSH support for Horizon was built in-house by VMware, and they did it all with public APIs. They didn't have to invent anything new in terms of accessing Windows and RDSH.

The final awesome thing about Horizon 6 is the client software for published apps. VMware leveraged their six years of "Unity" experience from VMware Workstation and Fusion as the baseline for how the seamless windows published app experience works on the clients.

"What's the big deal?" you might wonder, "How hard is it to make a re-sizable application window?"

Anyone who's used Citrix Receiver for Mac or the Microsoft RemoteApp client for Mac knows that the challenge isn't about the app windows themselves—it's about all the little stuff. VMware's Horizon 6 published apps client just works, and remote published apps feel exactly as they should. On the Mac client that I used, VMware's client blows away Microsoft's RemoteApp and Citrix Receiver. For example, when you go to Expose, each Horizon published app is in its own section with multiple windows stacked per-app, just like they're supposed to be. You can minimize single windows to the Dock. CMD+Q only closes the current published app and CMD+W only closes the current window. You can CMD+TAB through the entire mix of local and remote apps as you'd expect, and you can even CMD+tilde through a remote app's open windows. The double-click of the Fn key for voice dictation works with remote apps too. You'll also be able to use the Horizon 6 clients to "double hop" from a remote published desktop to a second seamless windows application running on a different server.

The Horizon 6 remote apps client is truly a no compromise experience and something that Citrix hasn't gotten right yet even after 17 years of Mac clients.

From the management standpoint, VMware focused on operations, visibility, and automation for Horizon 6. vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPs) for View is now integrated with the standard vCOPs which gives you full visibility of everything from your users' desktops all the way into your datacenter. You can use it to set up your own NOC, do health monitoring, create dashboards, etc. You can even do full user experience monitoring including in-guest metrics.

If you've upgraded from vSphere to vCloud then you can also use vCloud Automation Manager which lets you automate common tasks like resetting desktops, refreshing clones, etc. You can setup workflows for end user self service.

On the storage front, vSAN is now integrated along with all the various groups and policies. It's all very desktop-centric when used with Horizon.

Finally, in another blow to Citrix, VMware enhanced Horizon 6 so that it supports multiple datacenters and multiple clouds. They call this a "Cloud Pod" architecture, and the protocol that the various pods use to communicate with each other was designed for the WAN. (Recall that this is one of the big features that Citrix XenApp lost as they moved from XenApp 6.5 to 7.5.

Horizon 6 Pricing & Licensing

VMware expects that Horizon 6 will be available this quarter with three pricing bundles.:

First, for customers who just want VDI (and not RDSH or remote apps), there will be Horizon View Standard. This will be $250 per CCU.

Next is Horizon Advanced. (Note that it is not Horizon "View" Advanced, rather, it is simply "Horizon Advanced.") This adds RDSH and remote app support, as well as the other elements of the Horizon Workspace Suite (single sign on to web and SaaS apps and Mirage). Horizon Advanced also also adds vSAN support, and it costs $250 per named user or $400 per CCU.

Finally there's Horizon Enterprise which adds the plug-ins for vCenter Ops Management and vCO. It costs $300 per named user or $500 per CCU.

An interesting note is that VMware is also expanding the terms of the vCenter for Desktops license. vSphere for Desktops is an alternate way to license vSphere if you're just using it to host desktops. Rather than paying the multi-thousand dollar processor licenses for each vSphere server, you can simply pay $50 per user for each VM you use as a desktop session. In the past this license only accounted for VDI users, but now VMware has expanded the definition to also include Windows Server licenses as long as the servers are used to host desktop sessions. In other words, VMware's charging you 50 bucks per user for vSphere and you can use any combination of RDSH sessions and VDI sessions to make it work for you.

What Horizon 6 means for Citrix

I have literally been waiting over 15 years for their to be a viable competitor to Citrix, and now it's finally here. Wow.

So now I'd like to take a look at Citrix's reality, which will look something like this:

  • Citrix is looking for a new CEO
  • All of Citrix's customers are pissed about XenApp 7.5
  • There now exists a viable alternative product
  • That alternative product is from a company that the customers already do business with and love

Who knows what the next few months will bring in terms new product announcements from both companies as VMware tries to pull ahead and Citrix tries to convince people not to migrate away. From an outsider's perspective, this is an exciting time for our industry.

The only unknown question is really whether VMware will stop trashing Terminal Services in their documentation?

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