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VMware Horizon 7.2 comes hot on the heels of 7.1 with major upgrades

Just months after the release of Horizon 7.1, VMware's back at it with version 7.2, and this release comes with capacity improvements and a new tool for support personnel.

For the second time in less than a year, VMware has updated its Horizon desktop management system. Horizon 7.1, released in March 2017, added new platform, remote experience and client-specific features. Horizon 7.2, released in June 2017, builds on these upgrades with its own sizable list of enhancements, including greater scalability, capacity improvements and a new Help Desk Tool. Let's take a closer look at some of the new features and capabilities included in the latest upgrade.

Skype for Business becomes GA

Previously included in Horizon 7.1 as a tech preview, Horizon 7.2 features the fully supported version of Skype for Business. Skype for Business processes audio and video on your local computer rather in the data center. This eliminates hairpinning because Skype for Business processes communications directly from your computer to your partner's. To use the Skype for Business feature in a Windows computer, run the new Horizon Client 4.5, and install the Skype for Business Virtualization Pack on both your computer and in the agent.

Capacity improvements

VMware increased capacity for several Horizon 7.2 components. The previous version of Cloud Pod Architecture supported 50,000 sessions, whereas the most recent version supports 120,000. VMware also raised the number of simultaneous connections for a Horizon Connection Server in each pod from 2,000 to 4,000. This is for direct connection only -- the previous limit for tunneling through the Connection Server was 70% of this value, so it's safe to keep that maximum of 70% when you aren't using direct connections. As in the previous version, Cloud Pod Architecture supports up to five Connection Servers but can now support up to 20,000 desktops in a pod. For each block in your pod -- each vCenter and its hosts -- the maximum number of desktops has been raised from 2,000 to 4,000 for all types of desktops.

WorkspaceOne mode and storage improvements

You can now configure a Connection Server to only allow connections through WorkspaceOne so that, when a user tries to log in with a Horizon Client, he is redirected to the WorkspaceOne login page. This allows the customer to enforce authentication through her main portal and focus on configuring additional authentication mechanisms for that environment only rather than multiple entry points. VMware has also made improvements to storage management in Horizon 7.2; you can now store instant clones and linked clones on the local hard disks of your vSphere hosts. This setup doesn't offer the same flexibility as vSAN, and it requires careful planning for the redundant capacity of failing hosts, but can be very cost-effective. Also, rather than select individual data stores, you can now select an entire data store cluster on which to store virtual desktops.

New tool for support personnel

The new Horizon Help Desk Tool eliminates the need to log into the Horizon Administrative console, which makes it easier for support personnel to find information about end users' virtual desktops in the entire Horizon environment. Delegated administration already made this type of access possible, but the View Admin console has a huge overhead in features that support personnel can't use anyway. Formerly a VMware Labs fling, this remote assistance is now a fully functional and supported feature.

The Help Desk Tool is immediately available after you install Horizon or upgrade to Horizon 7.2 and is accessible via a shortcut in the View Admin console or directly through the URL shown below. Simply replace "YourConnectionserverFQDN" with your FQDN: https://YourConnectionserverFQDN/helpdesk.

Once you log into the Help Desk Tool, it's easy to locate end users by their name and see what desktops they're entitled to use and which sessions are connected. For connected sessions, you can access information about the agent, VM resource usage and connection statistics.

The Help Desk agent overview screen shows you information about the desktop, including options to send a message to the user, start remote assistance and restart the VM. If you click the More button, you'll see options to log the user off or perform a hard reset of the machine.

Help Desk agent overview screen
Figure A. View information about the end user's desktop.

The Remote Assistance button starts remote assistance for your local client. To use this feature, you need to install Microsoft Remote Assistance software, as well as the  Horizon View Agent version 7.2. The session starts in view-only mode, but you can request control over the desktop to control it remotely. There's also a chat option that allows you to exchange messages with the user.

Start a chat session with Horizon Help Desk
Figure B. Start a chat session with the end user with the Horizon Help Desk Tool.

RDS host enhancements

Horizon 7.2 includes a new feature for Remote Desktop Services (RDS) hosted applications to improve user experience: prelaunching applications upon authentication. Normally, a user would open an application from the Horizon Client or the Workspace portal and, at that time, start the executable on the RDS host, at which point the application would open on the user's client device. With this new feature, the application's executable launches as soon as the user authenticates, then, when the user is ready to use the application, it's immediately available and opens without delay.

As you can see in Figure C, you can configure the prelaunch feature on a per-application basis. It makes sense to enable this setting for applications that you know the user will need early in her session, such as browser or an email application.

Enable the RDS prelaunch feature
Figure C. Enable the RDS prelaunch feature on a per-application basis.

The RDS farm also has a new setting that allows you to set a timeout value for the prelaunch feature. If the prelaunched application hasn't been used for a certain amount of time, this setting stops the application, preventing excess resource consumption from the RDS host.

The third and final enhancement to the RDS host environment in Horizon 7.2 is support for Horizon Smart Policies. Smart Policies already exist in combination with the User Environment Manager to dynamically adjust settings for USB access and client drive redirection for virtual desktops, but you can now apply these Smart Policies to RDS-hosted applications. For example, when tagging Connection Servers, you can now limit certain features for RDS-hosted applications to operate only in a secure internal network and not when connected through external networks.

Samsung DeX support

Samsung released two new models of its smartphone in April 2017, as well as the new DeX docking station, which turns your phone into a full-sized desktop. DeX, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are powered by USB-C, and both models of the phone charge wirelessly through the DeX dock. You can connect DeX to HDMI, 2x USB and RJ45; since both the S8 and S8+ can use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and the phone's wireless or mobile network connection, you really only need HDMI to connect to a monitor.

VMware added a DeX support feature to Horizon Client 4.5 for Android called the DeX Mode Auto Launch. The Horizon Client automatically launches when you enable this setting, making it easier for the user to connect to her virtual desktop. Thanks to the resources that the Samsung S8 and S8+ provide, you're able to run a full-scale desktop without any compromise to the image or audio quality. If your phone has a wireless or mobile data connection, it will remain connected to your virtual desktop, even if you remove it from the dock. You can continue to work on your virtual desktop when you place the phone back in the dock. You can also answer phone calls while the phone is in the dock with either normal speech or an earpiece.

Linux desktop improvements

Horizon 7.2 includes a number of significant improvements to the Horizon View Agent on Linux. Both USB redirection and client drive redirection have been upgraded from technical previews to supported features for Linux desktops. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Workstation and CentOS 7 are now available for Ubuntu, and you can now transfer audio output to the client when you connect through an HDMI connection.

Next Steps

Take a look at other existing Horizon 7 features

Learn all the basics about VMware Horizon View

A breakdown of Horizon View licensing

Dig Deeper on VMware desktop software and desktop virtualization