In Barcelona yesterday at VMworld, VMware announced their latest attempt at creating an enterprise-class Type-2 client hypervisor. VMware hasn’t had a whole lot of success in this department in the past–you might recall ACE having been a thing for a while a few years back–but the demand has always been there.
Recently, editions of Fusion Pro (and its PC counterpart Player Pro) have been available that have given administrators control over the hypervisor and the ability to create and run restricted virtual machines (VMs with pre-configured settings that the user cannot change), create custom networks, and limit access to USB devices. Users can even use Fusion Pro/Player Pro to access vSphere locally and in the cloud to run VMs remotely or copy them locally for offline use or a more native experience.
That’s Fusion Pro, though. What we’re talking about today is Horizon Flex.
Flex addresses the problem that there’s still no centralized management of client-side virtual machines with Fusion Pro and Player Pro. Admins can control how the VMs interact with the host, but the biggest hole in the solution was individual VM management. Horizon Flex addresses this using Horizon Mirage.
If you’ve been paying attention for the past twelve months, you’ll remember that the last version of Fusion Pro came with a Mirage license, too, so what’s new? Management! VMware has put a lot of effort into what they call the FLEX Policy Server and the FLEX Client, the combination of which allows centralized creation and management of restricted VMs.
The FLEX Policy Server is the meat of the solution. It allows you to create and manage an inventory of VMs, assign them to users and groups from Active Directory, and apply policies to those VMs on a per-user or per-group basis. These policies include settings like:
- Virtual machine expiration date
- USB device usage
- Allow/disallow copying files between host and VM
It’s the same settings you’ve seen before if you’re a Fusion Pro user familiar with restricted VMs, but you can now centrally administer everything. There are also new settings for the FLEX Profile Server address, how often the client should contact the VM, and the maximum amount of time a VM can run without contacting the server.
The FLEX Client is installed on to the endpoint (XP SP3 through Windows 8, x64 only, and OS X 10.8 or higher) and replaces Fusion Pro/Player Pro. This client then talks to the FLEX Policy Server in order to download virtual machines and policies and launch VMs.
The Mirage component is still sort of bolted on to the solution and gives more image management capabilities. It’s no different that the standard Horizon Mirage, but it’s important to note that Mirage is included as part of the Horizon Flex license.
The use cases for a solution like this are no different than in the past. Users that need access to offline desktops, BYOC users, and contractors are all good candidates. This time around, though, VMware added centralized management to create a more viable solution rather than just turning restricted VMs loose in the wild.
Other news from VMworld
In addition to Horizon Flex and Horizon 6 (which includes Horizon View, Advanced, and Enterprise), VMware also announced Horizon Air. It’s not really a new product, just a rebranding of Horizon DaaS as part of their overall trend towards the word Air for cloud services. At VMworld US, VCHS was renamed to vCloud Air, and this is a continuation of that.
VMware also announced that they will soon be standing up data centers in France and Germany in addition to their locations in the US and UK.
Horizon Air Desktop DR
Now that we know what Horizon Air is, we can talk about Horizon Air Desktop DR. Desktop DR is a solution for organizations that are faced with elaborate DR scenarios. Many companies maintain a separate site, often in a remote location, full of repurposed PCs and servers that need to be build, patched, and otherwise maintained. DaaS seems like an easy win for these situations, but I’m not sold because DR or not the same challenges of adopting DaaS still apply.
Check back later this week for a deeper look at Horizon Desktop DR.
VMware App Volumes
Although we were told that CloudVolumes would remain largely independent for a while, VMware has decided to change the name to VMware App Volumes. It’s the same product, just with a more descriptive name. CloudVolumes is the name you want to have to get acquired, but really it was always about the apps so I like the change. Plus, customers with their fingers in their ears any time the world “cloud” is uttered won’t be turned off before the conversation even starts.
They’ll also be integrating AppVolumes into VMware Horizon 6 and VMware Workspace Suite (you have to specify which Workspace Suite you’re talking about these days). This integration will be at the broker level, meaning that a lot of the work of attaching the VMDK files can be done pre-login rather than after the desktop is booted and logged in.
There will also still be a standalone product that works with XenDesktop and XenApp.
I asked about the relationship between Mirage and App Volumes, and was told while there is some overlap, the future for VMware will have App Volumes taking care of real-time delivery while Mirage is going to be about managing image content. This is a far cry from the days of Wanova when customers were told that Mirage could do just about everything under the sun. There’s just better technology out there now, and VMware has to figure out how to integrate it all.