VMware releases Horizon 6.1 (or Horizon 6 "newest release" or whatever they're calling it)

Last week VMware released the latest version of their Horizon 6 desktop virtualization product. It's been about a year since they first released Horizon 6-their product which combines VDI desktops with RDSH sessions and seamless application publishing.

Last week VMware released the latest version of their Horizon 6 desktop virtualization product.

It's been about a year since they first released Horizon 6—their product which combines VDI desktops with RDSH sessions and seamless application publishing. At that time there was a lot of rejoicing (mostly by me) because it finally meant that Citrix XenApp had some real competition for RDSH and published apps. (Prior solutions from VMware were VDI-only.)

Unfortunately while Horizon 6 was a good start, it lacked a lot of features that Citrix customers had grown accustomed to in XenApp, and it didn't look like Horizon 6 was really going to displace XenApp in any significant numbers in the enterprise based on the features that were there at the time.

Undaunted, VMware continued to update Horizon 6 (sometimes even under the radar?) throughout the year, culminating with a fairly massive update last week.

Strangely the new version of Horizon 6 is called... Horizon 6! Seriously! Major product update, but no new name or version. My personal theory on this is because the first release of Horizon 6 lacked so many critical enterprise features that they figured they could just slip them in within revving the product name and people might think they had them in there all the time:

"Oh hey, did you know Horizon 6 has printing for RDSH sessions now?"

"Oh yeah? Since when?

"Since Horizon 6!"

This is doubly awesome when you're trying to search for white papers or technical documentation about Horizon 6 and you don't realize that the paper you're reading is not about the version of the software you're using even though the paper is for Horizon 6 and you're using Horizon 6.

To that end, I'm launching a one-person campaign to call the newest release of Horizon 6 "Horizon 6.1." 

So, what's new in Horizon 6.1? (In random order):

  • vGPU support for NVIDIA GRID cards (when using vSphere 6)
  • Smart card authentication to RDSH desktops & published apps. (Previous was VDI only)
  • File system-based client USB drive access for RDSH 2012 / 2012 R2 hosts with Windows clients (Previous used generic USB redirection)
  • HTML5 access for RDSH desktops (previous was just for VDI). This includes vGPU and vDGA applications.
  • Location-based printing
  • Single-user Server 2012 R2 "desktop" support. (i.e. use a Server OS as your "VDI" desktop instead of a client OS). This is important for service provider license compliance.
  • Increased scalability to allow 2,000 simultaneous sessions through their connection gateway
  • Double the capacity of vSAN with vSphere 6
  • VVOL support
  • True IPv6 end-to-end (not just a proxy)
  • CAC support
  • A combination of NSX with Horizon 6 to create network micro-segmentation, integrated with Horizon's desktop and app publishing. (Map specific published applications to specific networking resources, so an attacker who exploits your published instance of MS Paint can't get to your customer database. The network connection simply wouldn't allow that route to exist.)

VMware also announced several future features, some of which are available in tech preview form as part of 6.1, and others which will be forthcoming:

  • Horizon for Linux (publish Ubuntu and Red Hat apps to non Linux clients)
  • Client drive redirection for RDSH sessions.
  • A Chromebook client based on their Android client which will allow a more rich and tightly integrated client experience. (Proper cut/copy/paste clipboard integration, for example.)
  • HTML5 access to published apps
  • Common Criteria certification. (If you've never heard of this then you don't need it.)

I'm still as excited about Horizon 6 as I was a year ago, though I haven't seen as much of it in the wild as I would have expected by now.

What are you finding? Are you using Horizon 6? Has anyone replaced XenApp with Horizon 6? If not, what would it take to switch? (Or are you currently happy with Citrix?) What's Horizon 6 still missing?

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Horizon will be the 'de facto' standard...in time.  The vision VMware is executing on is sound and is what the users and IT ultimately want... but will take some time.  Which is understandable... customers need the time to fully understand the big picture and take on the transformation.  Keep an eye on VMW's EUC practice!  Big things are coming!


H6.1 is cool, not Citrix cool yet though.  I mean they just got support for usb scanners?  Citrix has had that for years and years now.  I don't know how to code, however why wouldn't you just implement the whole USB stack for compatibility and move on with life?  Don't give it to us in pieces.  I've used Xendesktop with more weird USB devices than I care to remember and all have work seamlessly.  Citrix has that remote device stuff down pat.  I was extremely pleased to see what vSphere 6 now allows XD/XA Grid card support.  That was huge, I honestly didn't think VMW was going to let Citrix play in their sandbox.  Before us Citrix guys only had 1 option, XenServer, and who wants to go with another hypervisor if you're already happy with the one you got?  Although I am XD at the moment, I could "possibly" see myself giving Horizon a real good tire kick in about 18 months so I have 1 throat to choke.  I attend VMWorld yearly and go to alot of the EUC sessions as it does pertain to me even though XD is in the mix.  Sometimes I chuckle to myself thinking, "Citrix has had this for years and the guy onstage is acting like he invented fire".  With VMW picking up a few of the Citrix top brass in the past 18 months or so, I'm sure they're going hot and heavy writing their Citrix killer, however if the feature set is sub par, is there really a reason to switch?


I don't see a good enough reason to switch. Citrix is better, so why switch to something inferior, unless I want to consolidate on VMware as a single throat to choke? Price pressure on Citrix to get platinum license costs down is something that commoditization  of the VDI stack is useful for, so yeah in that respect keep going VMware. The only things that are worth considering from VMware are the newer technologies from VMware where Citrix does add enough or any value.


Hi Nick- You make some fair and valid points, no doubt.  

Though, let me suggest... VMware made the right choice to get the published app support out when they did.  Even though there is some functionality missing that's been out for some time now...there are MANY customers who don't need many of the ones missing.  And so, VMW answered the market NOW... which has been asking for an alternative for quite some time.

Plus, lets not kid ourselves...VMW isn't going to sit back... the pace of innovation at VMW is staggering!!  Overall feature set will be on par and surpass in short order.

And to your question regarding 'sub par feature set...why switch?'  Because it's about a MUCH BIGGER picture than just feature comparison.  Don't look at it from a 'feature to feature' perspective.  We all know that is a leap-frog business.  It's about the architecture.  The integration with the infrastructure... The level of management, automation, security and end user experience with VMware's Software-Defined-Enterprise is second to none.  Oh, and how about


Good comments Phil, however you can't go to your end users with architecture, infrastructure, the SDDC slide from VMWorld.  That doesn't work in the real world, that's marketing fodder.  When I can put check boxes in all of the features I need to support my customers with their daily tasks, then absolutely H6.1 will get an honest tire kicking by me.  I do agree that VMW is writing code at an amazing pace for Horizon and I hope they do continue going after Citrix's 100M+ licenses in use as that will cause Citrix to move faster as well and all of this will benefit the consumer in the long run.  


@PhilT3 - So what you are saying is that great marketing and perception is sometimes better then reality? you could be right but thankfully customers are more savvy then that.


I agree with Marek - @PhilT3 - the feature to feature comparison game is not a leapfrog business in this case.  VMware are making strides, but ultimately they are still chasing Citrix's tail lights when it comes to some of the most basic user functionality.  What employees do care about is having the tools to get their job done - having a good hypervisor with some integrated DC automation tools is of no interest to them.  IMHO its ludicrous to suggest otherwise.


any of these updates for PCoIP connections or mostly just for people using remote published apps over RDP?


Wow...now there is previous Horizon 6 , Current Horizon 6 and there will be next Horizon 6.

May be the next horizon 6 will support HDX connections as well.