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On Tuesday, VMware announced a collection of new features for their Horizon platform, simplifying the work to deploy their code across a mixture of local and cloud-based servers. The new Desktop-as-a-Service enhancements support a wide range of uses, but the most notable ones may target migrating workers. As the world tries to adjust work patterns in the wake of the pandemic, the new enhancements make it easier for IT teams to offer all users the flexibility to choose where they work.
One new feature, called “Universal Brokering,” will match workers with the best available virtual machine host by analyzing a number of parameters, like location and spare capacity. Teams using Horizon on Azure VMware Solution (AVS) can rely upon the brokering software layer to balance the load and ensure that users find the best match.
Distributing this load will also get a bit simpler because the new version of Horizon will also support larger pods, the term used for groups of virtual machines. Pods as large as 20000 virtual machines will now be manageable, allowing IT teams to simplify their job by supporting fewer, larger pods.
The new roll out will also simplify the chores associated with creating desktop images and distributing them across local and cloud-based pods. The tools automate the job of packaging applications with operating system images and then deploying them, often in real-time.
Some of the new features target less visible layers. The Blast protocol that carries screen imagery from the virtual machine to the clients will now carry higher resolution and HDR imagery. It will also support the latest NVIDIA Ampere GPUs to allow teams to take advantage of the best hardware.
Horizon will also work with PostgreSQL, a popular open source database. Some companies have been requesting the option to avoid the license costs of proprietary databases.
To get a better understanding of how VMWare thinks this will affect their users, we spent a few minutes discussing the new enhancements with Sachin Sharma, VMware’s director of product marketing.
VentureBeat: It seems like this is part of a big effort to make Horizon run seamlessly over a wide variety of platforms, from the local hardware down the hall to the instances in some cloud across the country. Is that the theme?
Sachin Sharma: That’s right. Over the course of the next several years, we’re seeing a shift from the traditional on-premises world where you procure some hardware. Then, you install the software on it and you host your desktops, your virtual desktops and apps, and give your employees access to those virtual desktops where they are.
That is slowly starting to shift towards a model that is not necessarily a pure cloud model, but a hybrid model where our customers can leverage our cloud control plane. We call it the Horizon Control Plane with the Cloud, Native Management Service on there to make their lives easier. You know, give users one single site URL to access all of their virtual desktops and apps, no matter where they’re being hosted. Whether it’s on Azure VMware solution, a Horizon Cloud on Azure on Google Cloud, on AWS, or on premises.
VentureBeat: A big part of that must be juggling the apps.
Sharma: We’re also making their lives easier from an image management standpoint. That’s been one of the biggest hurdles to cross. How do I manage images in a more effective way within not only virtual desktops, but also physical desktops? We’re bringing our image management service to life and really lighting up more of these services across more of these cloud control planes.
VentureBeat: When it’s that flexible, that must open up the cloud marketplace and start to break down resistance to renting machines anywhere.
Sharma: I think as customers start to use our cloud management services, they’ll start to realize that maybe it does make sense for me to actually host some, or maybe all, of my workloads inside of a public cloud setting. I might have been adverse to that years ago when public cloud and VDI didn’t really mesh well together. But now that we’ve come a long way and VMware, you know, we’re pushing out these new services to be cloud agnostic.
Then this will give them at least new use cases that they could look at. For example, in 2020 all these employees went home but they had to have access to their secure corporate resources. And the way that they did that was calling up Amazon or Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud and saying, “Hey, I need infrastructure, can you help?” Here’s my credit card, spin up some infrastructure for me, and we’ll ask VMware to go ahead and lay down the Horizon piece on top of it. These partnerships are helping us out. But we at VMware want to ensure that our cloud control plane is cloud agnostic. All the way across.
VentureBeat: The boundaries between the clouds and the local hardware are disappearing?
Sharma: So really, we’ll have a little bit of Azure, a little bit of Google, and maybe some of the machines down the hall and then you can just say, “Okay, we’ve got something going on. So let me buy 20 new machines and, you know, start up 20 machines and it’ll all just pop up there.”
Another great example is just seasonal workers around Christmas time. What our retail customers would do is come to us and say I need to stand up 25,000 extra machines because I’m hiring fifty thousand extra workers. Previously they had to buy Dell hardware or HP hardware to host all of this. Wouldn’t it be easier for them to just contact Google or Microsoft or Amazon Web services and say, “Just for this short period, I need some infrastructure capacity and then access to a virtual app so that my employees can work for these three months?” They’re off to the races. Once they’re done, bring that capacity back down and then we’ll see you again next year.
VentureBeat: And it’s not just capacity. Are you seeing companies deploy Horizon for other jobs?
Sharma: We absolutely support legacy apps. That’s one of the use cases for desktop and app virtualization. I’ve lots of customers that are using IE6 for a certain web app that they need inside of their financial services environment. They cannot get away from that and therefore they have to continue to use IE6. One way that they do that is deliver it through a virtualization platform like Horizon.
VentureBeat: There must be other cases where it’s too much trouble to maintain a real desktop in an office or a store?
Sharma: There are several other use cases for security compliance. For example, a big customer is healthcare apps that cannot, for HIPAA reasons, be installed on a local laptop. When doctors are moving around from one room to the other room, a great solution for them is a desktop virtualization.
VentureBeat: That’s starting to sound like many workers. No one wants to be pinned down to a desk. They want to migrate where it’s convenient.
Sharma: As employees start to go back to work or maybe have a hybrid multimodal type of experience, we want to show that Horizon is a platform that can help deliver their apps securely to them. It’s all a part of it making their lives easier.
This also helps reduce that total cost of ownership by using our connection server across multiple clouds so that you don’t have to deploy just on-premises hardware. You can actually leverage Microsoft Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud to deliver those desktops and apps and host those desktops and apps, but then use the same type of infrastructure.
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