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VMware Horizon 7 requirements, features and troubleshooting

If you're considering VMware Horizon for your remote desktop needs, review its deployment requirements, current features and common issues you might face first.

VMware Horizon is VMware's virtual desktop portfolio, designed to enable IT admins to deploy secure desktops and applications to end users on a variety of endpoint devices, such as laptops and mobile phones. Before you put it in your data center, consider its deployment requirements, your ideal deployment method and whether Horizon's feature set suits your virtual desktop needs.

Horizon is made up of several different, but complementary, technologies including Horizon View, the desktop virtualization platform; Horizon Client, the software that establishes a connection between Horizon View and endpoint devices; Horizon Workspace, which enables end users to access their workspaces, data and applications from any device; and Horizon Air, which enables admins to deploy cloud-based desktops and applications.

VMware Horizon 7, the current version of Horizon, is on its twelfth release as of March 2020.

Horizon deployment requirements

Before you deploy Horizon -- whether on premises or in the cloud -- make sure you have Active Directory (AD) available. AD handles important authentication tasks such as rights management and certificate services.

With AD configured, you must then configure a connection between your Horizon infrastructure and the rest of your infrastructure. Next, you can create virtual desktops known as pods. Use pods from multiple IaaS providers, if you need to. Choose your IaaS region based on the location of your user base to ensure the lowest latency and highest performance.

Finally, use the Horizon control interface wizard to configure the rest of your environment. You can manage your IaaS infrastructure from this control pane. Don't forget to set up a user access gateway (UAG) so users can log into their desktops. This should be part of the wizard setup process.

VMware Horizon 7 on premises vs. in the cloud

Whether you choose to deploy Horizon on premises or in the cloud, each deployment option presents different pros and cons. Consider your security, region, data center support costs, administration and management costs, and number of desktops required before deciding which deployment method suits your organization.

When you deploy Horizon for use in a certified public cloud -- meaning IBM Cloud or Microsoft Azure -- Horizon has no on-premises dependencies. You can see and manage the entire environment from a single pane of glass, including environments in different regions. You can choose from several size offerings for each platform, but you can't create custom VM sizes in the cloud and are limited to just the sizes offered.

If you deploy VMware Horizon 7 on premises or in a hybrid cloud environment, you get more customization options and flexibility, but Horizon costs more to implement.

Troubleshooting Horizon

The most common issues with Horizon include users unable to authenticate in the Horizon client, users receiving error messages saying no desktop is available, users not receiving a remoted desktop session or poor UX quality.

To initiate a troubleshoot session, start by prompting your end user to open the Horizon client or an HTML5 client. The user should authenticate on the connection server or the UAG. Horizon then verifies that user's entitlements and presents them to the client.

Next, prompt your user to open a desktop in the pool. The connection server verifies whether a desktop has already been assigned to that user. If no assignment exists, the server creates a new one. The Horizon client then receives a message to establish a connection to the assigned desktop and attempts to connect to that desktop. Once Horizon establishes a connection, the user is presented with a desktop and receives remoted display information on the Horizon client.

Using Horizon Performance Tracker

You can also use Horizon Performance Tracker to monitor your end users' experience.

Evaluating UX relies on a variety of factors, so it often presents a challenge to accurately measure and adjust. Horizon Performance Tracker, introduced in Horizon 7.5, helps address some of the nuances of UX management. You can find UX metrics for a desktop in one of two tabs -- At a Glance or Session Properties.

At a Glance shows some of the more general metrics associated with remote connection to the virtual desktop, such as bandwidth usage, frames per second and CPU usage. You can toggle between grid and graph view to more easily digest the information presented.

The Session Properties tab shows session details -- such as location and device -- and peripheral details, such as keyboard settings.

The state of VMware Horizon

VMware released Horizon 7.11 in December 2019. It announced the depreciation of the Flash-based Horizon Administrator in this update, recommending the HTML5-based Horizon Console instead. It released Horizon 7.12 at the end of March 2020; this update came with fewer changes and new features. It did, however, make it possible for end users to launch streaming applications faster, and it made small tweaks to ease desktop provisioning and administration from the IT side.

Horizon 7.12 still maintains many features from older releases of VMware Horizon 7. Some key Horizon capabilities include vMotion support for live migration, quality-of-service support for Blast Extreme, geolocation redirecting, clipboard auditing, session collaboration and help desk integration.

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