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?