VMware announces plans for Horizon View 5.3. Here are 4 new features I love!

At VMworld 2013 Barcelona this week, VMware revealed their plans for Horizon View 5.3-the latest version of their VDI product.

At VMworld 2013 Barcelona this week, VMware revealed their plans for Horizon View 5.3—the latest version of their VDI product. They've published a PDF of the full list of new features, but four in particular stand out to me.

Horizon Mirage 4.3 will be supported when used on VDI desktops

The first major change in View 5.3 is that Mirage will be supported. You might recall that this was a major sticking point for me before, as I thought it was crazy that VMware was recommending completely different management techniques for physical desktops versus virtual ones.

But in the 5.3 announcement PDF, VMware wrote, "When combining View with VMware Horizon Mirage™ 4.3, administrators can now manage View persistent desktop pools with full clones." I assume that means that they'll support this use case now? Or are they just saying it's possible?

Either way, it's a good start. I say "start" because the ultimate would be for Mirage to work with non-persistent desktops too. It seems like it would be cool if everyone could share the same base layer and then get their apps and personality layers on demand. Then again, today's modern storage systems render that moot (since they're not moving any more bits around for the scenario I just described in a persistent or non-persistent way). So really I'm fine with this. It took awhile, but I'm glad it's here.

Enhancements to GPU support in View

View 5.3 will have support for Virtual Dedicated Graphics Acceleration—"vDGA". (This is the setup where a GPU is passed through in a 1-to-1 way to a user, useful for high-end workstation users who need powerful GPUs.) View 5.3 will also add support for AMD/ATI GPUs for the Virtual Shared Graphics Acceleration (vSGA), which is where the hypervisor virtualizes and slices up a GPU which it provides to each user. (Support was already in View 5.2 for GPU virtualization for NVIDIA, so 5.3 is adding AMD/ATI, which is cool because now we can use this thing.)

View Agent Direct Connection (VADC)

This new option is a software agent that's installed into Windows which allow a Horizon View client to make a direct PC-over-IP connection to a desktop without requiring a back-end Horizon View connection broker. (It's similar to HDX Connect from Citrix.)

I can imagine using VADC with physical workstations, allowing users to "remote in" to their work computers from home without needing an entire VDI environment set up. I can also imagine using it to roll your own VDI if you want PC-over-IP and the View clients without the hassle of the View Connection Broker. This is also very cool!

Support for Windows Server 2008 as a VDI desktop OS

View 5.3 will let you use Windows Server as a the guest VM in place of using Windows 7 or 8. The idea is that this would still be done in a 1-to-1 way, (i.e. each user gets full control of a single-user VM), it's just that in this case, the VM happens to be running a server OS instead of a desktop OS.

There are two reasons to do this, both of them tied to bullshit Microsoft licensing policies. (Seriously, how long are we going to allow Microsoft to get away with this?)

The first is for internal VDI deployments where you don't want to deal with Microsoft's restrictive VDA licenses. To do VDI without VDA, you can buy a Windows Server Datacenter Edition license (which lets you run as many Server VMs as you want on a physical server), and then use them as single-user RDS servers instead of Windows desktop. Doing so still requires you to buy an RDS CAL for each user. (More bullshit because while you don't need RDSH to do this, Microsoft claims that if you use one of server's two built-in "free" remote desktop connections to provide a desktop experience for a user, you have to buy an RDS CAL.)

The other scenario for this is for hosted desktops in the cloud / DaaS desktops, since Microsoft does not sell a service provider (SPLA) license for Windows desktop. So if you're a provider who wants to sell Windows desktops as a service, then your only options are (1) for the customer to "bring their own" Windows desktop licenses, or (2) for you to provide a Server desktop via an RDSH SPLA CAL which you configure to look like a normal client desktop.

So now VMware Horizon View will let you use either a Windows desktop or a Windows Server OS as your guest VM platform. (By the way, does anyone know if this new support from View will also work with Server 2008 R2 or Server 2012? Or is it only 2008? (i.e. "Vista Server?")

It's sort of ironic for VMware to add this support since they've spent so much time trashing this concept in the past, though now that they're in the DaaS business, I guess they can't really talk about how much using Server as a desktop OS sucks while simultaneously trying to convince customers to pay them to use a Server OS-based DaaS product.

All I can say is, "See? Using server isn't that bad, right?" I mean really, if it's used in a 1-to-1 way and you don't have RDSH installed, who can even tell the difference?

Speaking of RDSH, I don't get the feeling that VMware is going to fully support RDSH sessions from View 5.3. Everything I read seems to still focus on 1-to-1 Server OSes used like VDI. If you want real RDSH support from View, you have to get it from Teradici.

The bottom line on View 5.3?

It looks like View 5.3 should be pretty good. We don't know when it's coming out. VMware says it's "expected" in this year, but who knows exactly what that means? Overall though it has some great new features (and a bunch of minor new features which I didn't mention), so I'm looking forward to it.

What are your thoughts? Any killer features you love that I missed? Any missing features you think VMware needs to add? Have you spent any time with View 5.3 yet?

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I'm satisfied to see that VMware treated EUC a lot better at VMworld Europe than they did in San Fran.  Frankly I'm surprised at the number improvements for 0.1 improvement.  

I've been experimenting with Mirage in my lab for several months now.  I've used it as one option to manage the master images for linked clone desktop pools where our customer is demanding multiple application sets.  (I've been looking into FSlogix as an alternative to this).  Now I can offer a more complete and integrated solution with Mirage.  

One thing I'm curious to test out is how well Mirage behaves with storage technologies that use inline de-dupe, like Atlantis ILIO using persistent VDI.  

(disclaimer, I work for HP..  please pray for me... </jk>)

I'm also happy to see vDGA come out of it's technical preview because I have multiple customers that have expressed an interest in it.  Some have been at the PoC stage but now we can start offering HP's WS460 workstation blade with multiple GPUs more earnestly.  

At VMworld 2013, Scott Davis showed off come improvements to Unity Touch that made it more application aware.  In other words, the UI could be configured to have buttons for various applications like Office.  He even told us that we would be able to customize this interface for various apps.  This should help out a bit for tablet access.  I use a BT keyboard with my iPad and have found that Office 2013's "touch mode" is pretty much worthless since you can't autohide the ribbon without it automatically going back to "mouse mode"  I'm HOPING that this is the improvement mentioned in the What's New PDF...

Some nice improvements, but obviously there is much more room for improvement..

For one, I would like to see more improvement in the vSGA area.  Adding AMD/ATI to the mix may help get us there but right now vSGA only supports OpenGL2.1 and DirectX9.0c in VMware's API capture model.  Also, vSGA is limited to 512mb of VRAM per user and half of that comes from the host servers own RAM and has to be counted as overhead.  NVidia's K1 card has 16GB of RAM available and I would like to see our end users get the most out of it.  

I would also like to see View better integrated into vCloud/vCAC for end user provisioning.  Also, why not integrate Mirage into vCloud for building/managing server virtualization images.  I think there are some opportunities there.  

Finally, where is "APP"Blast?  Blast is pretty good but I think many folks would like to see the APP version of that.  


Actually you are off base (or being given bad info here)

"Either way, it's a good start. I say "start" because the ultimate would be for Mirage to work with non-persistent desktops too. It seems like it would be cool if everyone could share the same base layer and then get their apps and personality layers on demand."

Supporting non-persistent desktops will be just that. Non-persistent. Any user changes flushed at logoff. What they mean is you can't build non-pers desktops with their layers. But may be able to int he future.

not, we will give you non-pers desktops with a dynamically attached personalization layer. because if you see how their product works, the pers layer isnt a layer in a VMDK... its stored somewhere else and would be copied down at login. Imagine the amount of data copied at login.

basically each VM will have a copy of the OS and any other "layers" assigned. No image sharing, no non-pers, etc. It just means mirage is now supported in View (they removed some of the CPU intense stuff).


"Support was already in View 5.2 for GPU virtualization for NVIDIA, so 5.3 is adding AMD/ATI, which is cool because now we can use this thing."

Yes and no - the AMD R5000 (this thing) is a dedicated PCoIP host card and graphics card combined. It's not really intended for vDGA but instead for one-to-one PCoIP workstation remoting (although incidentally you could probably use just the GPU for vDGA purposes). Instead I think it is actually the AMD FirePro S series cards which will be pushed for vSGA.

By opting to do their own thing (vSGA) rather than use the NVIDIA option (VGX), there are currently some limitations in terms of what you can do (e.g. DX9 and OpenGL 2.1). However:

1. If you are sharing GPU resources amongst multiple users you probably aren't doing workloads which need any more than this.

2. It means that AMD can be brought into the picture rather than forcing customers to use just NVIDIA GRID cards.

(Note that the demo Teradici were showing on their VMworld stand in Barcelona this year was using the R5000 but it wasn't vDGA - they were passing through the GPU and PCoIP chip using VT-d... so no Horizon View involved, just ESXi. As an aside, this is a really neat solution for supporting Linux as a VMware based virtual desktop despite the lack of Linux supporting VMware Agent.)


@Ron, you bring up a great point. A lot of people will get lost in the marketing though :-(


@appdetective, in fact I had to explain the difference between Unidesk and Mirage to one of my customers this very afternoon.