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Unraveling the end-user computing layers of VMware Horizon Suite

VMware Horizon Suite is the virtualization company's response to IT's needs in handling the numerous ways end users want to work.

Most everyone who has worked with virtualization has heard of VMware's virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution, VMware View. However, not too long ago, the company changed the name to Horizon View and made it part of VMware Horizon Suite, along with two other entries in the VMware end user computing portfolio.

While I think these changes were needed, I have found many people don't have a full understanding of the Horizon Suite -- or even know VMware View is now a part of it. Here's a look at what VMware Horizon Suite is, what's new and what resources you need to get started learning and testing the company's latest end-user computing (EUC) products.

What is the VMware Horizon Suite?

The VMware Horizon Suite is VMware Inc.'s flagship EUC product. In the past, VDI was VMware's only approach to EUC, but now the company has three very different EUC solutions in Horizon Suite: Horizon View, Horizon Mirage and Horizon Workspace.

Horizon View

Horizon View is the renamed -- and upgraded -- VMware View. Horizon View is used for VDI, which connects multiple types of end user devices to their own personal virtual desktop running in the vSphere infrastructure in the data center. Horizon View is what VMware recommends to enable bring your own device (BYOD).

View sends screen updates to the end user's device while the end user sends back keyboard and mouse movements. The recommended protocol between the end user device and the VM is PCoIP, but other protocols -- like RDP -- are available. The end user's Horizon View desktop consists of that person's operating system, applications and data all stored securely in the company's private data center. Horizon View offers linked clones to save disk space when creating multiple VMs based on the same VM golden image.

VMware Horizon Suite
VMware's Horizon Suite consists of Horizon Mirage, Horizon View and Horizon Workspace. 
Each piece serves a different purpose for end-user computing. (Image courtesy of VMware Inc.)

Horizon Mirage

Horizon Mirage is an end-user computing system for physical desktop and laptop computers. It might surprise you to learn that, while Mirage is compatible with virtual machines, it is primarily a physical desktop/laptop solution. Mirage provides centralized image management for Windows desktops with enhanced levels of backup and OS migration capabilities. While Mirage lets companies implement BYOD, it does so in a very different way than Horizon View. It uses layered endpoint management and application layering, with the ideal use cases being simplified Windows 7 migrations and seamless desktop recovery and repair.

Horizon Workspace

The final piece of the Horizon Suite is Horizon Workspace. Workspace provides access to apps and files on any device and gives IT a way to centrally manage and secure those files across and outside the enterprise. Horizon Workspace, previously known as Project Octopus, has been touted as VMware's version of Dropbox for the enterprise.

What's new in the VMware Horizon Suite?

While Horizon Suite is technically a version 1.0 release, the products that make it up have been around for a few years.

For example:

  • In Horizon View 5.3, Windows Server 2012 Datacenter is now a supported OS, Windows 8.1 is a supported OS, VMware VSAN is now supported to run View desktops, Horizon Mirage is now supported, virtual dedicated graphics acceleration (vDGA) is now supported, and View Composer array integration (VCAI) is now out of Tech Preview.
  • In Horizon Mirage 4.3, you can now manage View linked clone desktops with Mirage, the resource overhead of Mirage on the end-user desktop has been reduced and Windows 7 migrations with layers have been improved.
  • In Horizon Workspace 1.5.2, new Workspace clients were released for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.

For complete release notes for all Horizon Suite products, visit the Horizon Suite documentation homepage.

Resources for learning and testing

To learn more about Horizon Suite and try it out in your own lab or as a proof of concept, here are some resources to help you get started:

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