Select Page
Know Your Options with Citrix and VMware

Know Your Options with Citrix and VMware

No, this is not an article about Citrix vs. Horizon and which product is better. And I think that you should not compare Citrix and VMware anymore. If you are still reading and haven’t closed the tab in your browser yet, you made the right decision. The intent of this article is to help you better understand when the usage of Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (CVAD) makes sense, which VMware products could complement a CVAD infrastructure and the different options you have with VMware Horizon.

I think it is a very big plus that I worked for Citrix before and still have some technical knowledge. This gives me more credibility in front of the customer and I am not just someone from a vendor, who tries to blame or downplay the other competitor to sell his on stuff. In fact, I always tell my customers how good Citrix is – there is no doubt about that.

But people are still stuck in the past and have the knowledge from four or six years ago. VMware Horizon has evolved into a very mature virtual apps and desktops solution and at the same time VMware’s products evolved as well and the story and product portfolio are better than ever.

Would have asked me a few years ago, no matter if I would be still with Citrix or already with VMware, VMware Horizon had some (feature) gaps and differences (e.g. display protocol) compared to Citrix. But Horizon has transformed into a equal player in the market and can do the same as CVAD (formerly XenDesktop and XenApp).

Let’s see which enhancements or new features have been released in the last 18 months for Horizon:

  • A lot of enhancements and closed feature gaps for the Horizon HTML5 console (now default)
  • RDS Drain Mode and RDSH Load Balancing configurable from UI
  • Improved CDR (Client Drive Redirection) performance
  • Increased CPA (Cloud Pod Architecture) scale up to 250k sessions
  • Session “pre-launch”
  • Two-Factor Re-Authentication
  • Client UI redesign
  • vGPU vMotion (came with vSphere 6.7 U1)
  • VM hosted apps (published applications from Win10 desktop pools)
  • Longer Lived Instant Clones
  • Horizon Cloud Services Enhancements & WVD support for Horizon Cloud on Azure
  • VMware Skyline Log Assist
  • App Volumes 4
  • New REST APIs
  • Bandwidth savings in Blast (with Blast Codec)
  • CPU utilization by Blast has been reduced
  • Blast Extreme HEVC High Color Accuracy support
  • Automatic codec switching based on screen content
  • NSX Advanced Load Balancer (Avi LB) support

As you can see, a lot work has been done and a lot of time has been invested to make Horizon better! These improvements are one of many why I think it’s useless to compare Citrix vs. Horizon, because both can basically do the same if you ask me.

Note: Horizon 8.0 is coming very soon and the beta program for it starts in a few weeks! Stay tuned for more enhancements and innovation. 🙂

Citrix and VMware – Four Options

When I think about Citrix and VMware, there are four options which come up in my mind how a customer could move forward at any given time:

  1. Replace Citrix with Horizon
  2. Integrate Citrix with Workspace ONE
  3. Enhance Citrix with Horizon or Workspace ONE components
  4. Enhance Citrix with other VMware components
  5. Use Citrix and VMware Horizon (yes, there are customers with both!)

Replace Citrix with Horizon

The first option is the most obvious one and can happen from time to time due to various reasons. Sometimes the customer is just not happy anymore (technical or commercial) or wants to try something new because of one or more of the other listed options (integration and enhancements in place already).

A migration would be very easy. StoreFront could be replaced by Workspace ONE Access (formerly vIDM), the VDA installed on RDS hosts or virtual desktops need to be replaced with the Horizon agent and on the client side the Citrix Workspace App (Citrix Receiver) gets replaced by a Horizon Client (including HTML5 client).

VMware and Citrix Partnership

A replacement could also be done in parallel where you install a Horizon infrastructure beside the current Citrix environment and move the users over whenever you are ready.

If you are running your desktops on Azure together with Citrix Cloud, then the Citrix Cloud piece can be replaced with the Horizon Cloud Service on Azure. Citrix and VMware Horizon are both supported if you are looking for a connection broker for your Windows Virtual Desktops (WVD).

Integrate Citrix with Workspace ONE

The second option doesn’t come up very often. If a Citrix customer is using CVAD only and no Citrix Endpoint Management (formerly known as XenMobile) or Microsoft Intune (or MobileIron) and is considering Workspace ONE for their unified endpoint management of iOS, Android, macOS or Windows 10 clients, then mutual customers could use Workspace ONE (WS1) Access as the web portal or application catalog and single point of access for any application.

As just mentioned already, Workspace ONE users and devices access Citrix-published resources by integrating their Citrix deployment with Workspace ONE Access, which offers an application portal, single-sign on capabilities, conditional access and many other features. Citrix-published resources include applications and desktops from any CVAD infrastructure starting from XenApp 6.0.

All entitlements are still configured in Citrix Studio and you just have to sync these users and groups to the WS1 Access services from Active Directory first.

Beside WS1 Access you need one additional component called the Integration Broker, which can be installed on a Windows Server. The Integration Broker is responsible for the communication with all Citrix farms/sites. The WS1 Access connectors then communicate with the Integration Broker.

Workspace ONE Integration Broker

More information can be found here. That’s all what is needed for the integration with Workspace ONE.

Enhance Citrix with Horizon or Workspace ONE components

VMware has customers with a large Citrix footprint of several thousand users. And some of these customers are using Horizon components together with their Citrix infrastructure. The two most used Horizon components in a Citrix infrastructure are:

I am not up to date anymore what Citrix App Layering, Profile Management (UPM) and Workspace Environment Management (WEM) can do for you today. But App Volumes would replace App Layering and Dynamic User Environment (DEM) would replace UPM and WEM in a Citrix environment.

Don’t know if this still is the case, but a few years ago App Layering had very limited features, didn’t perform and the handling of layers was a pain. And WEM just didn’t scale in larger Citrix environment. Probably Citrix UPM still is doing its awesome job but is leveraging FSLogix for profile and O365 container management and I assume that WEM is also installed more nowadays.

If Citrix App Layering is in use, then probably the FSLogix Application Masking feature could be used as well to hide some components in the image, which also allows the admin to manage fewer golden images. This is something you also can do with Dynamic Environment Manager in combination with App Volumes.

Before FSLogix was available to almost every joint Citrix/VMware and Microsoft customer, it totally made sense to use something like DEM for the user environment management, as DEM has similar features as FSLogix.

To understand the integration of FSLogix and AV and DEM better, this article from VMware’s Digital Workspace TechZone is for you. 

Maybe you ask yourself now how you could get App Volumes and Dynamic Environment Manager for your Citrix environment? Well, there are a few ways and options:

  • Buy the “Horizon Enterprise” or “Horizon Apps Advanced” edition which includes AV and DEM (yes, can happen)
  • Buy the “Workspace ONE Enterprise” edition which includes “Horizon Apps Advanced”
  • Buy the “Workspace ONE Enterprise for VDI” edition which includes “Horizon Enterprise”

You have to buy another license from another vendor, yes. But, let me explain why this could make sense.

Scenario 1 – Citrix customer is buying Workspace ONE Enterprise

Let’s assume you are a Citrix customer and use CVAD to publish applications to your users, but want to manage your iOS, Android, macOS and Windows 10, IoT devices with one solution or platform. That’s the moment when you go for Workspace ONE as your Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) platform. Here’s what you get with Workspace ONE Enterprise:

  • iOS, Android, macOS, Windows 10 and IoT device management (MDM/UEM)
  • Workspace ONE Access
  • Application delivery and management (mobile and desktop)
  • Mobile SSO
  • Workspace ONE productivity apps (email, tasks, notes, content/file repository, web, card scanner)
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) with “Workspace ONE Verify” mobile application
  • Workspace ONE Intelligence (SaaS-based intelligence and automation engine including reporting)
  • Add-on: Remote Management of any device based on Workspace ONE Assist
  • Add-on: Workspace Security (Carbon Black offerings)
  • Horizon Apps Advanced

The Horizon Apps Advanced edition includes the following:

  • RDS published apps (no desktop OS, only server OS) and session-based desktops
  • ThinApp (not included with WS1 Enterprise)
  • App Volumes
  • Dynamic Environment Management
  • vSphere Desktop

As you can see, you are removing silos in your digital workspace and can use App Volumes and Dynamic Environment Management at the same time to enhance your Citrix infrastructure.

Scenario 2 – Citrix customer is buying Workspace ONE Enterprise for VDI

The difference between scenario 1 and scenario 2 is the Workspace ONE Enterprise for VDI license, which includes the following components:

  • Published desktops and apps (server OS and desktop OS incl. Linux)
  • App Volumes
  • ThinApp (not included with WS1 Enterprise for VDI)
  • Dynamic Environment Management
  • vRealize Operations for Horizon (not included with WS1 Enterprise for VDI)
  • vSphere Desktop
  • vSAN Advanced for Desktop with All-Flash

WS1 Enterprise for VDI makes it possible to have VDI based on the Windows desktop operating system (e.g. Windows 10) as well and adds the infrastructure capability to run your desktop workloads on vSAN enabled clusters! The only thing which differs from the regular standalone Horizon editions, is, that ThinApp and vRealize Operations are not part of the suite. If you have a lot of legacy apps or you need application virtualization or isolation, then take a look at ThinApp.

Applications installers such as MSI files can be packaged into a portable EXE file and can then be run on any physical or virtual Windows PC and delivered with App Volumes (RDS/VDI) or with Workspace ONE (persistent VDI desktop or physical desktop).

And you get the “vSphere for Desktop” edition in both cases which is another killer argument why you could buy Workspace ONE Enterprise (for VDI) licenses as a Citrix customer.

vSphere Desktop

I don’t have any confirmed number, but I assume that 70% of the Citrix customers are using VMware vSphere as their hypervisor. Each regular Horizon edition has vSphere Desktop included which many people are not aware of.

vSphere for Desktop is a special edition, which provides the full range of features of the vSphere Enterprise Plus edition:

  • The new image management feature to patch, update or upgrade ESXi clusters (vSphere 7.0)
  • vCenter Server profiles and update planner (vSphere 7.0)
  • Distributed vSwitch
  • Secure access and account management with ADFS (vSphere 7.0)
  • Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS)
  • Storage DRS
  • Nvidia GRID vGPU

vSphere Desktop is licensed based on the total number of powered-on VMs and has no processor limitation. It’s available in a pack size of 100 desktop VMs with up to 100 users per pack. VERY IMPORTANT: vSphere Desktop can be used for a VDI environment only and a vCenter license is not included in vSphere for Desktop.

This is the only restriction mentioned in the vSphere Desktop FAQ:

vSphere Desktop can be used only to host a desktop
virtualization environment or desktop management and
monitoring tools. Each pack of 100 VMs can be used for
up to 100 users. You can use vSphere Desktop for desktop
management and monitoring tools in a VDI environment
only. Desktop licenses covered by this provision, however,
may not be managed by the same instance of VMware
vCenter that is being used to manage non-desktop
OS virtual machines.

So, what is considered as a “desktop virtualization environment” including monitoring tools? Normally you would separate your Citrix or Horizon infrastructure servers from the virtual machines which provide the virtual desktops and applications. But this design is more a leading practice and recommended by reference architectures and therefore it is technically possible to mix the RDS and VDI virtual machines with the infrastructure servers like:

  • Connection Server / Delivery Controller
  • Workspace ONE Access / StoreFront
  • Unified Access Gateway / NetScaler
  • Active Directory
  • Monitoring Tools (vRealize Operations / Director)
  • any “other infrastructure directly related to and exclusive to the VDI environment”

In a Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop environment you can use vSphere Desktop to provide the virtual machines (desktops) and the underlying infrastructure. In this use case, you are licensed per virtual machine and virtual machines used to host the infrastructure servers. These two numbers will be counted against your “total powered-on VM” count. If your Citrix environment has a 100-pack of vSphere Desktop licenses and you host 85 VDI desktops and 15 VMs that host the Citrix VDI environment, then you have used up all the 100 vSphere Desktop licenses.

vSAN Advanced for Desktop

vSAN Advanced for Desktop is shipped together with Horizon Advanced, Horizon Enterprise and Workspace ONE Enterprise for VDI. This license is available for customers using vSAN exclusively for a VDI infrastructure.

Horizon Universal License

The Horizon Universal License is a single subscription-based license, which is included in the Workspace ONE Enterprise edition and serves as an entitlement for all Horizon products, namely Horizon Cloud (including Horizon Cloud Apps) and Horizon on-premises (including Horizon Apps). Thus, the universal license entitles you for the following solutions:

This universal license gives customers the choice to start with an on-premises Horizon deployment and to move to the cloud (or vice versa) without requiring a new license.

Note: Because it’s the universal license and not a regular Horizon license, which is included in the WS1 editions, vRealize Operations (vROps) is not part of this subscription bundle. If needed, vROps can be bought as a standalone license.

Thin Client Management

I thought it is worth mention it here. Keep in mind that you could use a platform like Workspace ONE to manage your thin clients. If your environment is heavily using thin clients you could “build” your own thin client based on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and manage it via Workspace ONE.

E.g. Workspace ONE can manage Dell Wyse 5070 thin clients with Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. If needed, WS1 can configure the Unified Write Filter (UWF) feature to protect your thin client drives for any changes (saved data, setting changes or app installations). This is also helpful for increasing security for kiosk PCs in hotels, public spots, internet cafés etc. or for devices where it’s not expected to have new application frequently added.

WS1 Unified Write Filter

Enhance Citrix with other VMware components

We know that you could make your Citrix environment “better” with Horizon components like App Volumes or Dynamic Environment Manager and vSphere components like vSphere and vSAN. But there are other products and components which could make sense in a Citrix environment.

I believe, today, VMware has something which you could call a partnership and both CTOs are clearly leading the way:

Citrix Partnership VMware

 

I don’t know if it ever happened before that Citrix mentioned VMware on stage at Synergy, but the announcement from the above picture brings me to my first solution which you could use for your Citrix deployment.

VMware Cloud on AWS

What has been announced at Citrix Synergy 2019? The intent to officially support CVAD running on VMware-based clouds, starting with VMware Cloud on AWS. Many organizations are evaluating or even using a hybrid cloud approach already. This announcement should help Citrix customers, who are running their workloads on vSphere already, to seamlessly move to the cloud to experience a consistent infrastructure with consistent operations.

Because you are using the same technology stack on-prem and in the cloud, this allows you to easily bring your RDS and VDI golden images to the cloud without any a conversion.

I see two deployments options here. Either you leverage the Citrix Cloud services (use VMC as a resource location) or manually install your Citrix infrastructure like you would normally do in your on-premises environment.

VMC on AWS is Citrix-Ready

Note: VMC on AWS is citrix-ready since Q4 2018!

CVAD on VMC on AWS

If you would like to know more about running Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops with VMC on AWS, please watch the VMworld 2019 recording of the session “Building Global Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops with VMware Cloud on AWS (HBI2247BU)“. There’s also a recording of the US 2019 session “Building Global Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops with VMware Cloud on AWS“, presented by Andrew Morgan and James Hsu.

Interesting facts:

  • It takes about 60-70min in average to deploy a new SDDC on VMC on AWS
  • 12min is the average time to add a new host
  • Stretched clusters give you a guaranteed SLA of 99.99%
  • Sync your VM templates with your Content Library
  • Andrew and James deployed 100 Win10 desktops in 5min only
  • PVS and MCS both work on VMC on AWS

NSX – Software-Defined Networking

Digital transformations are nothing new, but get more complex with newer technologies we have today. One very important topic which came up in 2019 and is one of the most important trends for 2020 is “cyber security” or “zero trust security”. VMware and Citrix are both pointing to a zero trust approach to protect the workforce, any app and data. VMware has defined 5 pillars of zero trust for a digital workspace and “transport/session trust” is one of them with these parameters:

  • Micro-Segmentation
  • Transport Encryption
  • Session Protection

For secure transport of a user’s session you would use appliances like the Unified Access Gateway (UAG) or Citrix NetScaler. To achieve a trusted network access within the data center and between workloads, you’ll need something like NSX and micro-segmentation. Citrix has only a SD-WAN solution to protect branch offices and branch users, but no solution for micro-segmentation. What is micro-segmentation and why is it important?

Imagine that network policies can be bound to a virtual machine or in our case to a virtual desktop and dynamically follow a virtual desktop. This is very helpful in the case of VMC on AWS for example. You can easily move the workload to the cloud and move the networking policies together with the VM, because the underlying stack on VMC on AWS (based on VMware Cloud Foundation) includes NSX and the vSphere hypervisor.

How would you secure the communication and access between desktops in the same VLAN? All desktops on a VLAN can communicate freely and one compromised desktop allows lateral movement. With NSX we can provide granular control of desktops and user/group based access control. This is micro-segmentation.

NSX Micro-Segmentation

Here are two articles about Citrix and NSX from VMware and Citrix:

If you are interested in 100% software-defined networking and are thinking to replace an existing hardware or virtual ADCs (application delivery controllers), take a look at NSX Advanced Load Balancer (formerly Load Balancer from Avi Networks).

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Architecture

Where VMware Horizon differs from Citrix

Now you know the four options you have as a Citrix customer when considering VMware products for your current and future environment. Let me explain you why you shouldn’t compare Citrix and VMware Horizon anymore. To get started, you need to understand all the different options you have and how and where you could consume VMware Horizon:

  • Horizon on-premises
  • Horizon Cloud
  • Horizon DaaS

And with the different desktop virtualization offerings there are also different management responsibilities for the customer, partner and VMware:

VMware Horizon Responisibilities

Customers have the flexibility to choose the level of control they want to have over the Horizon and data center infrastructure. If full control of the solution is needed, then you would probably implement Horizon with vSphere on-premises. For use cases where you only would like to maintain the desktop and apps only without concerning yourself about managing any infrastructure, Horizon Cloud on Azure could be one option.

Horizon On-Premises

The biggest difference for me, if you really want to compare Citrix and VMware in a better way, is to see the big picture. People need to understand that it is totally normal that one vendor sometimes is ahead or behind the competitor. The feature set from both vendors, only considering desktop virtualization, is pretty much the same.

When you start a desktop virtualization project and design the solution, you also have to think about the data center part. I’m am not only talking about Horizon and the storage or network requirements here. It’s important to understand the general strategy and vision of VMware and your employer/customer.

Today, automation is a design requirement and you ideally build your on-premises infrastructure based on public cloud principles. Companies don’t start anymore by buying hardware and think about automation later. They want to buy and build something that can be automated from day 1 like it’s done in the public cloud. Everything needs to be agile and elastic and should be able to change when any kind of change occurs.

Because of that it is essential to understand the cloud infrastructure part very well and this is the big difference between Citrix and VMware. We shouldn’t only talk about EUC (End-User Computing) only, but even consider other projects or domains of the infrastructure:

  • Does it fit in my cloud operating model?
  • Can I use an existing solution to automate it (software and hardware)?
  • How would I move my workloads to the cloud tomorrow?
  • Can I integrate existing solutions in my ecosystem (e.g. security, IPAM etc.)?
  • Can it be integrated in our existing or new platform for modern applications based on containers?
  • What about day 2 operations if I need to expand?
  • Can I reduce my silos and reduce the number of vendors and licenses somehow?

The installation of a complete Horizon (or Citrix) infrastructure can be done in a few days, normally, but larger environments require a lot of automation and integrations into the existing infrastructure. Then we talk about several months and not days or weeks anymore.

Horizon on VMware Cloud Foundation

VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) is made for any workload and is a hybrid cloud platform which provides a set of software-defined components for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management. VCF is an engineered solution that integrates the entire VMware stack without the need you dealing with complex interoperability matrixes.

VMware Cloud Foundation Overview

The architecture is built on VMware’s Validated Designs (VVD) to reduce the risk of misconfigurations or design failures. The VCF stack is also used with VMC on AWS or Azure VMware Solutions (AVS) for example. This is another reason that clearly shows that this technology stack is the right for any (VMware) infrastructure. If workload mobility is part of your IT strategy, then only VMware can offer this at the moment.

VCF 4.0 Bill of Materials

VMware Cloud Foundation has a “siloed” approach when it comes to the deployment. Based on different hardware resource pools you can create different so-called workload domains (WLD). Each WLD is a different SDDC instance which is managed by software-defined policies. The Horizon deployment can form one or more VDI WLDs.

VCF WLD Overview

Because it’s a standardized approach, VCF makes it very easy to scale on-demand depending on your needs. To get started you’ll need a management workload domain, which is a special-purpose workload domain dedicated for infrastructure and management components like the SDDC Manager, vCenter Servers, vRealize Suite and NSX. The SDDC Manager is responsible for the creation, update or deletion of a workload domain.

Using the regular standard architecture model for VCF, an environment starts with at least 4 physical servers for the management domain, 3 servers for the VI workload domain (Active Directory, SQL servers, any general infrastructure VM) and 3 servers for a Horizon VDI workload domain. This gives us a starting point of 10 physical servers if you build a complete IT infrastructure from scratch. Otherwise you just need the management domain and VDI workload domain with a total minimum of 7 physical servers.

There is also the option available of a consolidated architecture design for smaller environments. In this design the management and workloads run together on a shared management domain. But the consolidated architecture doesn’t support the automated deployment of Horizon yet.

For the automated deployment of Horizon on VCF you would use the SDDC Manager to deploy Connection Servers, App Volumes, Dynamic Environment Manager and Unified Access Gateways. Let me show you some part of the wizard to create a VDI WLD:

You don’t have to install the components by hand, but still need to do your homework before you can deploy the WLD.

I skipped a few steps. You need to upload the Windows server template, convert an existing VI WLD to a Horizon VDI WLD, configure the Horizon AD service account, provide a SQL server and provide information for the load balancers before you reach the step where you enter the details for the connection servers:

One more App Volumes Manager can be added as well:

If you reached the end, you’ll see a review page to do a final check and after that you can run a validation of all your inputs. The deployment of at least one Connection Server is required, but Horizon Composer Servers, UAGs, App Volumes and DEM are optional components and could be skipped.

To expand a current VDI WLD to install UAGs or just to expand the Horizon Pod (add ESXi hosts or Connection Servers) VCF gives you the option to start small and expand later. In the future it should also be possible to shrink a VDI WLD.

The lifecycle management with VCF is very easy. Available updates for all components are tested for interoperability and then bundled with the necessary logic for the proper installation order. VCF offers automated lifecycle management on a per-cluster basis (one WLD can have one or more clusters). This allows admin to target specific workloads or environments for updates independently of the rest of the environment.

VCF Lifecycle Management

For a VDI workload domain VCF delivers a nice view to see the allocated servers/resources and each component related to this workload domain. 

VCF Horizon Deployment WLD

Horizon on VCF on VxRail

So, we know now that VMware Cloud Foundation is the “easy button” for the deployment of the full vSphere stack including vSAN, NSX, vRealize Operations, vRealize Automation, vRealize Log Insight and so on. VCF on VxRail goes one step further and provides you the “one-click upgrade button” for your vSphere stack including the server hardware and firmware. VxRail bundles are pre-configured and pre-tested and therefore validated by Dell EMC and VMware.

VxRail SDDC Manager

The cool thing with VxRail is, that it gives you flexibility for your workloads and that you can choose between different series based on Dell EMC PowerEdge servers. You have multiple compute, memory, storage, network and graphics (M10, P40, T4) options available to cover your workloads and applications with the right server specifications.

VxRail Server Series

Citrix (on VCF) on VxRail

Since VxRail is an HCI appliance, it can run everything on top. I know some larger Citrix customers who are running their Citrix infrastructure on VxRail. It is also possible to run your Citrix infrastructure on VCF on VxRail on a VI workload domain. The only difference with Horizon is the missing automation and integration into the whole (VCF) stack.

Intrinsic Security

In case you missed it, VMware bought Carbon Black and has a new security business unit now. And this is one very important differentiator in this virtual cloud computing space. If VMware’s software-defined data center is your platform of choice already, it makes sense to use a security solution which can be fully integrated and provided by the same vendor.

VMware Security Solutions with Carbon Black

Imagine, that the endpoint protection agent is already integrated in the Horizon Agent and that you could deliver security from your mobile endpoints (Windows, Mac, Linux) to your workloads (VMs or container) in your data center or any cloud (AWS, Azure, GCP). Sounds too good to be true? No, this where the VMware products are heading, especially with Workspace ONE and Horizon (next-gen AV, behavioral EDR, audit and remediation)! 

Workspace ONE for Horizon

I mentioned it already, Horizon is included in the Workspace ONE Enterprise editions. I haven’t covered the case yet where you could combine Horizon and Workspace ONE. If you provide your users persistent virtual desktops based on Windows 10, then it is also possible to manage those with Workspace ONE as well. This will help if you want to move away from a traditional PC lifecycle management (PCLM) solution and move to a modern management approach. So far this only supported with Horizon on-premises installation. Take a look at the product interoperability matrix:

Workspace ONE for Horizon

For which other use cases could this be useful?

  • Physical desktops with Horizon Agent installed (Remote PC access)
  • Physical servers with Windows 10 installed (e.g. HP Moonshot)

I don’t know if the last option has been tested but Windows 10 is a supported operating system for HP Moonshot cartridges.

Horizon Cloud

The Horizon (Cloud) Service is a group of cloud-based services that deliver features for Horizon deployments. This includes the Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) on Azure as well since the 17th March 2020. Any customer who is using a Horizon subscription license, such as the universal license, can use the Horizon Service.

Horizon Cloud Service Overview

The goal of Horizon Cloud is to provide a single-pane management UI for the delivery and management of your desktops and applications. This is the overview dashboard which shows some information about the health and capacity of all your Horizon deployments.

Horizon Cloud Dashboard

The Cloud Monitoring Service (CMS), which is one of the central services of the Horizon Service, provides data about the user’s session and issues. It can show you how many users and their user experience are impacted related to issues (latency, protocol, slow logon).

In the administration console you can configure the role-based access (RBAC) for your helpdesk admins. It allows them to log in to the admin console and use the search feature to look up users. The help desk administrator can then look up the user’s sessions and perform troubleshooting or desktop maintenance operations. 

Horizon Cloud Helpdesk

The Image Management Service (IMS) is one of the coolest feature of the Horizon Service. As the name suggests it already, it allows you to manage Horizon images from the cloud. You can create, customize, publish and even version all your different images for your Horizon pods. IMS provides a centralized catalog for your images and these can be automatically replicated across the cloud-connected Horizon pods.

Important note: The current release of Horizon Cloud only supports Windows operating systems and on-premises Horizon pods.

Universal Broker

When I joined VMware in May 2018 I was waiting for a feature like this and tried to explain some product managers (PM) that we need something like the Universal Broker. I was looking for a solution that we can avoid E/W traffic in a Horizon multi-pod deployment. I think I tried to explain it to some of our PMs using Citrix’ Optimal Gateway Routing for
Storefront & NetScaler capability. Nobody understood me, but at least we have it now. 😀

Horizon Universal Broker is the cloud-based brokering technology used to manage and allocate virtual resources from multi-cloud assignments to your end users.

These are the listed key features in the VMware Horizon Cloud Service documentation:

  • Single FQDN for all multi-cloud assignments
  • Global pod connectivity and awareness for optimal performance (no longer need for GSLB and no more E/W traffic)
  • Smart brokering (awareness of geographical sites and pod topology)

This diagram shows the Universal Broker components and how the traffic flow works:

  1. From Horizon Client, the end user requests a virtual desktop by connecting to the Horizon Universal Broker service through the brokering FQDN. The service uses the XML-API protocol to authenticate the Horizon Client user and manage the connection session.
  2. After determining that Pod 1 in Site 1 is the best available source for the desktop, the Horizon Universal Broker service sends a message to the Horizon Universal Broker client, which runs on the Horizon 7 Cloud Connector paired with Pod 1.
  3. The Horizon Universal Broker client forwards the message to the Horizon Universal Broker plugin, which runs on one of the Connection Server instances within Pod 1.
  4. The Horizon Universal Broker plugin identifies the best available desktop to deliver to the end user.
  5. The Horizon Universal Broker service returns a response to Horizon Client which includes the unique FQDN of Pod 1 (typically the FQDN of the Pod 1 load balancer). Horizon Client establishes a connection with the load balancer to request a protocol session with the desktop.
  6. After passing through the local load balancer, the request goes to the Unified Access Gateway for Pod 1. The Unified Access Gateway validates that the request is trusted and prepares the Blast Secure Gateway, PCoIP Secure Gateway, and tunnel server.
  7. The Horizon Client user receives the specified desktop and establishes a session based on the configured secondary protocol (Blast Extreme or PCoIP).

Horizon DaaS

In 2013 VMware acquired Desktone. A company that was specialized in delivering desktops and applications as a cloud service. The product got renamed during the years and kept the name “Horizon DaaS“. This is the reason that Horizon DaaS is not just another version of the classic “Horizon” or “Horizon View” since it was a different product which VMware bought. It’s important to know that there are technical differences/characteristics between Horizon and Horizon DaaS because of this history.

Horizon DaaS is the Horizon Desktop-as-a-Service platform for service providers. Not many people understand and know this specific product and you won’t find a lot of content on blogs about it.

The most recent information, beside the official Horizon DaaS documentation, can now be found here 😉 or on Johan’s blog, where he published a lightboard series about Horizon DaaS.

As a service provider you have different options to provide a “managed desktop” or “DaaS” offering:

  • Dedicated Horizon deployment hosted in your data center (licenses through VCPP rental)
  • Horizon Cloud Service (DaaS offering licensed through VCPP MSP)
  • Horizon DaaS – multi-tenant Horizon deployment hosted in your data center (VCPP rental)

Again, Horizon DaaS should be seen as something different than Horizon, it’s really just not Horizon. But the future strategy and look of the user interface will be aligned with Horizon Cloud, because VMware’s Horizon Cloud Service is powered by Horizon DaaS already.

If multi-tenancy is a key requirement for your business, you’ll have to go with Horizon DaaS. Otherwise the regular Horizon edition or the combination with Horizon Cloud are the right fit. Horizon DaaS and Horizon have common components like vCenter, Agents, UAGs etc., but there are also different appliances with Horizon DaaS which replace components of a regular Horizon deployment.

Horizon DaaS Architecture

With Horizon DaaS you are going to have “Service Provider” appliances, “Tenant” appliances and “Tenant Resource Manager” appliances, which form the DaaS back-end.

The Service Provider Appliance is the first appliance installed in a data center and provides the foundation to install the remainder of the Horizon DaaS application.

The Resource Manager abstracts the specifics about the desktop infrastructure from the tenant appliances and allows multiple Desktop Managers to communicate with their respective virtualization resources. A Resource Manager appliance integrates with the hypervisor and storage infrastructure in a given data center. A single Resource Manager appliance can be shared across multiple tenants.

The Tenant Appliance provides the tenant with both end user and administrative access to their virtual desktops. End users access and manage their individual virtual desktops via the Desktop Portal. Administrators create and manage their virtual desktops via the Enterprise Center. The Tenant Appliance includes the Desktop Manager, a per-tenant resource that manages each tenant’s virtualization resources and communicates with a tenant’s hosts (hypervisors). You associate the desktop manager with a resource manager and one or more host managers.

It’s not 100% clear from the Horizon DaaS 8.0.0 Service Center guide, but a Tenant Appliance replaces the Connection Server you would know from a regular Horizon deployment (one of the differences I was already referring to).

Use what makes sense

For me it is very important that you understand how VMware products can help and that people are aware of all the different options they would have with VMware and Horizon.

You must form your own view and opinion and I hope this article was useful to get facts from both worlds (based on my best knowledge and experience). If you understand Horizon better now, this is already fine for me.

There was no intention to lead the path to a way where you would replace Citrix. The new information should help you to make the right decision for your company, your environment, your needs and use cases. Use the products which make sense for you and make sure you understood all options.

Horizon and Workspace ONE Architecture for 250k Users Part 1

Disclaimer: This article is based on my own thoughts and experience and may not reflect a real-world design for a Horizon/Workspace ONE architecture of this size. The blog series focuses only on the Horizon or Workspace ONE infrastructure part and does not consider other criteria like CPU/RAM usage, IOPS, amount of applications, use cases and so on. Please contact your partner or VMware’s Professional Services Organization (PSO) for a consulting engagement.

To my knowledge there is no Horizon implementation of this size at the moment of writing. This topic, the architecture and the necessary amount of VMs in the data center, was always important to me since I moved from Citrix Consulting to a VMware pre-sales role. I always asked myself how VMware Horizon scales when there are more than only 10’000 users.

250’000 users are the current maximum for VMware Horizon 7.8 and the goal is to figure out how many Horizon infrastructure servers like Connection Servers, App Volumes Managers (AVM), vCenter servers and Unified Access Gateway (UAG) appliances are needed and how many pods should be configured and federated with the Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA) feature.

I will create my own architecture, meaning that I use the sizing and recommendation guides and design a Horizon 7 environment based on my current knowledge, experience and assumption.

After that I’ll feed the Digital Workspace Designer tool with the necessary information and let this tool create an architecture, which I then compare with my design.

Scenario

This is the scenario I defined and will use for the sizing:  

Users: 250’000
Data Centers: 1 (to keep it simple)
Internal Users: 248’000
Remote Users: 2’000
Concurrency Internal Users: 80% (198’400 users)
Concurrency Remote Users: 50% (1’000 users)

Horizon Sizing Limits & Recommendations

This article is based on the current release of VMware Horizon 7 with the following sizing limits and recommendations:

Horizon version: 7.8
Max. number of active sessions in a Cloud Pod Architecture pod federation: 250’000
Active connections per pod: 10’000 VMs max for VDI (8’000 tested for instant clones)
Max. number of Connection Servers per pod: 7
Active sessions per Connection Server: 2’000
Max. number of VMs per vCenter: 10’000
Max. connections per UAG: 2’000 

The Digital Workspace Designer lists the following Horizon Maximums:

 

Horizon Maximums Digital Workspace Designer

Please read my short article if you are not familiar with the Horizon Block and Pod Architecture.

Note: The App Volumes sizing limits and recommendations have been updated recently and don’t follow this rule of thumb anymore that an App Volumes Manager only can handle 1’000 sessions. The new recommendations are based on “concurrent logins per second” login rate:

New App Volumes Limits Recommendations

 

Architecture Comparison VDI

Please find below my decisions and the one made by the Digital Workspace Designer (DWD) tool:

Horizon ItemMy DecisionDWD ToolNotes
Number of Users (concurrent)199'400199'400
Number of Pods required2020
Number of Desktop Blocks (one per vCenter)100100
Number of Management Blocks (one per pod)2020
Connection Servers required100100
App Volumes Manager Servers802024+1 AVMs for every 2,500 users
vRealize Operations for Horizonn/a22I have no experience with vROps sizing
Unified Access Gateway required22
vCenter servers (to manage clusters)20100Since Horizon 7.7 there is support for spanning vCenters across multiple pods (bound to the limits of vCenter)

Architecture Comparison RDSH

Please find below my decisions* and the one made by the Digital Workspace Designer (DWD) tool:

Horizon ItemMy DecisionDWD ToolNotes
Number of Users (concurrent)199'400199'400
Number of Pods required2020
Number of Desktop Blocks (one per vCenter)20401 block per pod since we are limited by 10k sessions per pod, but only have 333 RDSH per pod
Number of Management Blocks (one per pod)2020
Connection Servers required100100
App Volumes Manager Servers142024+1 AVMs for every 2,500 users/logins (in this case RDSH VMs (6'647 RDSH totally))
vRealize Operations for Horizonn/a22I have no experience with vROps sizing
Unified Access Gateway required22
vCenter servers (to manage resource clusters)440Since Horizon 7.7 there is support for spanning vCenters across multiple pods (bound to the limits of vCenter)

*Max. 30 users per RDSH

Conclusion

VDI

You can see in the table for VDI that I have different numbers for “App Volumes Manager Servers” and “vCenter servers (to manage clusters)”. For the amount of AVM servers I have used the new recommendations which you already saw above. Before Horizon 7.7 the block and pod architecture consisted of one vCenter server per block:

Horizon Pod vCenter tradtitional

That’s why, I assume, the DWD recommends 100 vCenter servers for the resource cluster. In my case I would only use 20 vCenter servers (yes, it increases the failure domain), because Horizon 7.7 and above allows to span one vCenter across multiple pods while respecting the limit of 10’000 VMs per vCenter. So, my assumption is here, even the image below is not showing it, that it should be possible and supported to use one vCenter server per pod:

Horizon Pod Single vCenter

RDSH

If you consult the reference architecture and the recommendation for VMware Horizon you could think that one important information is missing:

The details for a correct sizing and the required architecture for RDSH!

We know that each Horizon pod could handle 10’000 sessions which are 10’000 VDI desktops (VMs) if you use VDI. But for RDSH we need less VMs – in this case only 6’647.

So, the number of pods is not changing because of the limitation “sessions per pod”. But there is no official limitation when it comes to resource blocks per pod and having one connection server for every 2’000 VMs or sessions for VDI, to minimize the impact of a resource block failure. This is not needed here I think. Otherwise you would bloat up the needed Horizon infrastructure servers and this increases operational and maintenance efforts, which obviously also increases the costs.

But, where are the 40 resource blocks of the DWD tool coming from? Is it because the recommendation is to have at least two blocks per pod to minimize the impact of a resource block failure? If yes, then it would make sense, because in my calculation you would have 9’971 RDSH users sessions per pod/block and with the DWD calculation only 4’986 (half) per resource block.

*Update 28/07/2019*
I have been informed by Graeme Gordon from technical marketing that the 40 resources blocks and vCenters are coming from here:

App Volumes vCenters per Pod

I didn’t see that because I expect that we can go higher if it’s a RDSH-only implementation.

App Volumes and RDSH

The biggest difference when we compare the needed architecture for VDI and RDSH is the number of recommended App Volumes Manager servers. Because “concurrent logins at a one per second login rate” for the AVM sizing was not clear to me I asked our technical marketing for clarification and received the following answer:

With RDSH we assign AppStacks to the computer objects rather than to the user. This means the AppStack attachment and filter drive virtualization process happends when the VM is booted. There is still a bit of activity when a user authenticates to the RDS host (assignment validation), but it’s considerably less than the attachment process for a typical VDI user assignment.

Because of this difference, the 1/second/AVM doesn’t really apply for RDSH only implementations.

With this background I’m doing the math with 6’647 logins and neglect the assignment validation activity and this brings me to a number of 4 AVMs only to serve the 6’647 RDS hosts.

Disclaimer

Please be reminded again that these are only calculations to get an idea how many servers/VMs of each Horizon component are needed for a 250k user (~200k CCU) installation. I didn’t consider any disaster recovery requirements and this means that the calculation I have made recommend the least amount of servers required for a VDI- or RDSH-based Horizon implementation.

Horizon on VMC on AWS Basics

VMC on AWS

In Switzerland where VMware has a lot of smaller to medium sized companies, the demand for a  cloud solution is increasing. The customers are not yet ready to put all their servers and data into to the cloud, so they go for a hybrid cloud strategy.

And now it makes even more sense and got easier since VMware’s offering VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC on AWS) exists. This service, powered by VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF), brings VMware’s SDDC stack to the AWS cloud and runs the compute, storage and network products (vSphere, vSAN, NSX) on dedicated bare-metal AWS hardware. 

VMC on AWS

If you would like to try this offering you have the option for a Single Host SDDC which is the time-bound starter configuration and comes with the limitation of 30 days. After 30 days your Single Host SDDC will be deleted and all data will be lost as well. If you plan to scale up into a 3-host SDDC you retain all your data and you SDDC is not time bound anymore.

Availability

This pretty new service is already available in 13 global regions and already had 200+ released features since its launch. VMC on AWS is available almost everywhere – in US and Asia Pacific for example – and in Europe you find the service hosted in Frankfurt, London, Paris and Ireland. 

Use Cases

It’s not hard to guess what the use cases are for a service like this. If you are building up a new IT infrastructure, don’t want to have your own data center and purchase any server, then you might want to consider VMC on AWS. Another project could be to expand your market into a new geography and extend your footprint into the cloud based on a VMware-consistent and enterprise-grade environment in the AWS cloud.

A few customers are also finding a new way to easily deliver business continuity with VMware Site Recovery and take advantage of VMC on AWS which delivers a robust Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) possibility.

Another reason could be that your on-premises data center is in danger because of bad weather and you want to migrate all your workloads to another region.

Or you just want to quickly build a dev/test environment or do a PoC of a specific solution or application (e.g. VMware Horizon).

Elastic DRS

In my opinion EDRS is one of best reasons to go for VMC on AWS. EDRS allows you to get the capacity you need in minutes to meet temporary or unplanned demand. You have the possibility to scale-out and scale-in depending on the generated recommendation.

A scale-out recommendation is generated when any of CPU, memory, or storage utilization remains consistently above thresholds. For example, if storage utilization goes above 75% but memory and CPU utilization remain below their respective thresholds, a scale-out recommendation is generated.

 

 A scale-in recommendation is generated when CPU, memory, and storage utilization all remain consistently below thresholds.

This is interesting if your dekstop pool is creating more instant clones and the defined value of RAM for example is above the threshold. But there is also a safety check included in the algorithm, which runs every 5 minutes, to provide time to the cluster to cool off with changes. 

If you check the EDRS settings you have the option for the “Best Performance” or “Lowest Cost” policy. More information can be found here.

Horizon on VMC on AWS

For customers who are already familiar with a Horizon 7 on-premises deployment, Horizon on VMC on AWS lets you leverage the same architecture and the familiar tools. The only difference now is the vSphere outsourcing.

Use Cases

Horizon can be deployed on VMware Cloud on AWS for different scenarios. You could have the same reasons like before – data center expansion or to have a disaster recovery site in the cloud. But the most reason why a customer goes for Horizon on VMC on AWS is flexibility combined with application locality.

Horizon 7 on VMC on AWS

There are customers who were operating an on-premises infrastructure for years and suddenly they are open to a cloud infrastructure. Because the SDDC stack in the cloud is the same like in the private cloud the migration can be done very easily. You can even use the same management tools like before.

Minimum SDDC Size

The minimum number of hosts required per SDDC on VMware Cloud on AWS for production use is 3 nodes (hosts). For testing purpose, a 1-node SDDC is also available. However, since a single node does not support HA, it’s not recommended for production use.

Cloud Pod Architecture for Hybrid Cloud

If you are familiar with the pod and block architecture you can start to create your architecture design. This hasn’t changed for the offering on VMC on AWS but there is a slight difference:

  • Each pod consists of a single SDDC
  • Each SDDC only has a single vCenter server
  • A Horizon pod consists of a single block Horizon7Pod on VMC on AWS

Each SDDC only has one compute gateway which limits the connections to ~2’000 VMs or user sessions. This means that the actual limit per pod on VMC on AWS is ~2’000 sessions as well. When the number of compute gateways per SDDC can be increased, Horizon 7 on VMC on AWS will definitely have a comparable scalability with the on-premises installation.

You can deploy a hybrid cloud environment when you use the Cloud Pod Architecture to interconnect your on-premises and Horizon pods on VMC on AWS. You can also stretch CPA across pods in two or more VMware Cloud on AWS data centers with the same flexibility to entitle your users to one or multiple pods as desired.

Supported Features

The deployment of Horizon 7 on VMC on AWS started with Horizon 7.5 but there was no feature parity at this time. With the release of Horizon 7.7 and App Volumes 2.15 we finally had the requested feature parity. This means since Horizon 7.7 we can use Instant Clones, App Volumes and UEM. At the time of writing the vGPU feature is not available yet but VMware is working with Amazon on it. With the release of Horizon 7.8 a pool with VMware Cloud on AWS is now capable of using multiple network segments, allowing you to use less pools and/or smaller scopes. Please consult this KB for the currently supported features. 

Use AWS Native Services

When you set up the Horizon 7 environment in VMware Cloud on AWS you have to install and configure the following components:

  • Active Directory
  • DNS 
  • Horizon Connection Servers
  • DHCP
  • etc.

If you are deploying Horizon 7 in a hybrid cloud environment by linking the on-premises pod with the
VMC on AWS pod, you must prepare the on-premises Microsoft Active Directory (AD) to access
the AD on VMware Cloud on AWS.

My recommendation: Use the AWS native services if possible 🙂

AWS Directory Services

AWS Managed Microsoft AD is built on actual Microsoft Active Directory and does not require you to synchronize or replicate data from your existing Active Directory to the cloud. You can use standard Active Directory administration tools and take advantage of built-in Active Directory features, such as Group Policy and single sign-on (SSO).

Amazon Relational Database Service

Amazon RDS is available on several database instance types – optimized for memory, performance or I/O – and provides you with six familiar database engines to choose from, including Amazon Aurora, PostgreSQL, MySQL, MariaDB, Oracle Database, and SQL Server. You can use the AWS Database Migration Service to easily migrate or replicate your existing databases to Amazon RDS.

This service allows you to quickly setup a SQL Express (not recommended for production) or regular SQL Server which can be used for the Horizon Event DB or App Volumes. 

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server provides a fully managed native Microsoft Windows file system so you can easily move your Windows-based applications that require file storage to AWS. Built on Windows Server, Amazon FSx provides shared file storage with the compatibility and features that your Windows-based applications rely on, including full support for the SMB protocol and Windows NTFS, Active Directory (AD) integration, and Distributed File System (DFS).

At the time of writing I have to mention that the FSx service has not yet officially been tested and qualified for User Environment Manager (UEM), but that’s no problem. Technically it’s working totally fine.

Amazon Route 53

The connectivity to data centers in the cloud can be a challenge. You need to manage the external namespace to give users access to their desktop in the cloud (or on-prem). For a multi-site architecture the solution is always Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB), but how is this done when you cannot install your physical appliance anymore (in your VMC on AWS SDDC)?

The answer is easy: Leverage Amazon Route 53!

Amazon Route 53 effectively connects user requests to infrastructure running in AWS – such as Amazon EC2 instances, Elastic Load Balancing load balancers, or Amazon S3 buckets – and can also be used to route users to infrastructure outside of AWS. You can use Amazon Route 53 to configure DNS health checks to route traffic to healthy endpoints or to independently monitor the health of your application and its endpoints. 

Check Andrew Morgans blog article if you need more information about Route 53.

Horizon on VMC on AWS rocks! 🙂

 

VCAP7-DTM Design Exam, Part 11

My last article was about the Horizon reference architecture and four weeks have already passed since then. My VCAP7-DTM Design exam is scheduled for October 18 – that’s in five days!

I haven’t opened my books the last three weeks, because I think it’s important to take a break and get some distance of your books and documents, which allows you to understand things better and faster and see connections between things you haven’t seen before. And another reason was my pregnant wife who delivered our beautiful daughter on October 4! 🙂

I started from scratch and repeated reading all my training material and PDF documents.

Infrastructure Assessment

To design a Horizon 7 environment you have to follow a process to work out a VMware EUC solution that meets the customer’s requirements and follow the VMware design guidelines and use the reference architectures while considering customer constraints. It is very important that all customer business drivers and objectives are clearly defined. Then you will start to gather and analyze the business and application requirements and document the design requirements, assumptions, risks and constraints. For example, if you talk about technical requirements with your customer, the following categories should be covered:

  • Virtualization infrastructure and data center hardware
  • Storage
  • Networking
  • Security
  • Application
  • Directory services and GPOs
  • Monitoring and performance
  • Management
  • Profile management
  • Peripherals
  • Printing
  • Backup and recovery (business continuity)
  • Endpoints
  • Users/Use cases: correlation between hardware, software and user requirements)
  • High availability
  • Licensing

With the information from the assessment phase, the design work can begin and you create the conceptual design before you head over to create a logical design. Advice: Minimize risks and keep things simple!

Horizon Logical Design

The logical design (high level design) follows the conceptual design and defines how to arrange components and features. It is also useful to understand and evaluate the infrastructure design. The easiest and most common way to create a logical design is the use of architecture layers. Each layer contains one or more components and has functional and technical inter-dependencies:

  • User Layer
    • Self-Service portal
    • Authentication
  • Application Layer
    • Application deployment and type (cloud-based, locally installed, enterprise apps etc.)
  • Desktop Layer
    • Use cases and type of user
    • Scalability and multi-site
    • Desktop types and OS
  • Virtualization Layer
    • Hypervisor
    • Compute, network and storage
    • Graphics
  • Hardware Layer
    • Server
    • Network and storage
  • Management Layer
    • Patching
    • Monitoring
    • Cluster and resources
    • Capacity
    • Backup
  • Security Layer
    • Internal and external
    • Authentication and authorization
    • Policies
    • Antivirus etc.

A Horizon logical design could look like this:

Horizon Logical Architecture

If you need to write down use cases and their attributes, here an example:

AttributeDefinition
Business UnitFinance
User ClassificationTask Worker
Time of use07:00-18:00, mo-fr
User deviceThin Client
PeripheralsNone
ConnectivityLAN
PersistencyNon-persistent desktop
Data centerBasel DC1
AuthenticationWindows Login

Horizon Block and Pod Design

In part 4 I covered this topic how to use a repeatable and scalable approach to design a large scale Horizon environment.

Horizon Component Design

To have a complete design you must define the amount and the configuration of Horizon components required for your environment. You have to include certain design recommendations and design the configuration for Horizon components for your use cases. These are some required infrastructure components:

  • VMware Identity Manager
    • Load Balancing for resiliency and scale
    • Database required
    • Connection to Active Directory
    • SaaS-based implementation recommended
    • Approx. 100’000 users per virtual appliance
  • vCenter Server
    • Up to 10’000 virtual machines per vCenter
      • Recommendation: 2’000 desktops per vCenter
    • Dedicated vCenter Server instance per resource block
    • Database required
  •  Connection Server
    • Up to 2’000 sessions per Connection Server (4’000 tested limit)
    • Database required
    • Install at least one Replica Server for redundancy
    • Max. 7 Connection Servers per pod
      • Load-balanced
    • Max. 10’000 sessions per pod recommended
    • Cloud Pod Architecture
      • Max. 175 Connection Servers
      • Max. 120’000 sessions
      • Max. 5 sites
    • View Composer needed?
      • Database required
  • Security Server (not recommended anymore, use UAG)
    • Should not be member of AD domain
    • Load Balancing
    • Should be hardened Windows server (placed in DMZ)
    • 1:1 mapping with Connection Servers
  • Unified Access Gateway (UAG)
    • Virtual appliance (placed in DMZ) based on linux (Photon OS)
    • Scale-out is independent of Connection Server
    • Does not need to be paired with a single Connection Server
    • Load Balancing

Pool and Desktop Configuration

  • Desktop Configuration
    • Specification (OS, apps, RAM, disk, network)
    • Operating System Builds (master images)
      • Image Optimization (use OSOT)
    • Application Deployment
  • Pool Configuration
    • Map use cases to pools
    • Pool Design
      • Type
      • User Assignment
      • User Experience Settings
      • Pool Size
      • Performance
      • AD Groups
    • Pool Types
      • Automated Desktop Pool
      • Manual Desktop Pool
      • RDS Desktop Pool
    • Desktop Persistence
      • Dedicated
      • Floating
    • Desktop Pool Definition
      • Full Clones
      • Linked Clones (Composer)
      • Instant Clones
    • Remote Display Protocol
      • Blast (H.264 capable, TCP/UDP)
      • PCoIP (UDP)
      • RDP (TCP)
    • 3D Rendering (Horizon 7.2)
      • Nvidia GRID vCPU (shared GPU hardware acceleration)
      • Hardware
      • Virtual Shared Graphics Acceleration (vSGA)
      • Virtual Dedicated Graphics Acceleration (vDGA)
      • Soft 3D (Software-accelerated graphics)
      • AMD Multiuser GPU using vDGA
      • Pool must use PCoIP or Blast
      • (Live vMotion of vGPU VMs is supported since Horizon 7.6)

VMware Infrastructure Design

You need to map the Horizon desktop building block and the Horizon management building block to vSphere and identify factors and design decisions to figure out the sizing of the VMware infrastructure.

  • ESXi Hosts
    • ESXi Host Specifications
    • CPU requirements
    • Memory requirements
    • Storage requirements (specially if using vSAN)
    • Host density (max. VMs/desktops per ESXi host)
    • vSphere cluster requirements (HA and DRS)
  • Storage
    • Storage performance and desktop I/O requirements
      • Types of disks (SSD, SAS, SATA)
      • Dedicated array for VDI
      • FC/Network connectivity
    • Shared Storage recommended
      • vSAN recommended for Horizon desktops
      • Datastore sizing
    • Storage requirements depending on pool configuration
      • E.g. Instant Clones use significantly less storage

Network and Security Design

The network design should be simple, scalable and secure. More secure does not always mean less “user simple” (user experience), but it does less risks and does not imply more complexity.

  • Network
    • UAG appliance load-balanced in DMZ
    • Connection Servers load-balanced inside corporate firewall
      • Security Server would be placed in DMZ if no UAG
    • Know the key firewall considerations for Horizon 7
    • Bandwidth requirements for different types of users
    • LAN considerations
    • WAN considerations (e.g. latency, WAN optimization)
    • Optimization/Policies for display protocols (LAN/WAN)
    • vSphere networking requirements
      • Separate networks for management, VMs, vMotion etc.
      • Physical redundancy
      • Use vSphere Distributed Switch
  • Security
    • Secure your desktops (lockdown, GPOs, UEM)
    • Use secure client connections (secure gateways/tunnel)
    • Use Unified Access Gateway for remote access (use three NICs)
      • View Security Server (if needed)
    • User authentication method from internal and external
      • Two Factor Authentication for external connections
    • Restrict access (tags, AD groups)
    • Use NSX for micro segmentation
    • Install signed SSL certificates

Session Management

Our objective of a Horizon implementation is to provide better support to users than the physical solution. Session management is an aspect of this. Configuration and different settings on the sessions or client device are essential for a smooth user experience.

  • Personalization
    • Profile Management (mandatory profiles recommended)
      • Use folder redirection
    • User User Environment Manager (UEM) for Windows and application settings
      • Personalization
      • Application Configuration Management
      • User Environment Settings
      • Application Migration
      • Dynamic Configuration
  • Just-in-Time Management (JMP) Platform
    • App Volumes (real-time application delivery)
    • Instant Clones (rapid desktop provisioning)
    • User Environment Management (contextual policy management)
  • End-User Desktop Maintenance
    • Maintaining linked-clone desktops with Composer
      • Recompose – Patch and update desktop
      • Refresh – Revert OS disk to the base image snapshot
      • Rebalance – Management of datastore capacity
    • Manage Instant Clones by pushing an image
  • User Authentication Method
    • Smartcard
    • Two Factor Authentication (RSA, RADIUS, SAML, vIDM)
    • True SSO (short-lived certificate for Windows login process)
      • Enrollment Server required
  • ADMX template files for secure remote desktops
  • Client Devices
    • Thin clients, zero clients, fat clients, tablet and smartphones
    • Different Horizon Clients
    • Printing

Delivering Applications

The last topic I quickly repeat is about delivering and managing applications. Horizon has different methods of application delivery and the method of application delivery depends on many factors.

  • Applications in general
    • New or existing applications
    • App Lifecycle
    • Dependencies and conflicts
    • Performance and stability
  • Application delivery methods
    • RDS-hosted apps
    • ThinApp package (containerized applications, isolated from OS)
    • Natively installed Windows apps (in master image)
    • Citrix published apps
    • SaaS
    • App Volumes (real-time application delivery with LCM)
  • ThinApp
    • Isolation modes
      • Merged mode (full write access)
      • WriteCopy mode (restricted write access)
      • Full mode (no read/write access)
    • Package format
      • EXE
      • DAT (when EXE is larger than 200MB)
      • MSI

These are the topics you should cover when you prepare for the VCAP7-DTM Design exam. In addition I also read the following documents:

This is my recommendation. Within the last 8 weeks I’ve effectively studied 5 weeks for the exam. I work approx. since 4 months with Horizon products in a pre-sales role, not as a consultant. I will update you after the exam if the experience combined with learning was enough to pass! 🙂

Did I forget anything? Let me know! Jump to part 12

VCAP7-DTM Design Exam, Part 7

This is the 7th part of my VCAP7-DTM Design exam series. In part 6 I covered the creation of a physical network design for Horizon 7. This time we take a look at section 6 of the blueprint, the creation of a physical design for Horizon desktop and pools:

Section 6 – Create a Physical Design for Horizon Desktops and Pools

Objective 6.1 – Design Virtual and Physical Image Masters
Objective 6.2 – Optimize Desktop Images, OS Services and Applications for a Horizon Design
Objective 6.3 – Incorporate Desktop Pools into a Horizon Design
Objective 6.4 – Incorporate RDS Pools into a Horizon Design

The desktops your customer provides must satisfy the use case requirements to ensure a good user experience and user acceptance. To provide desktops with Horizon you have to create so called desktop pools. VMware has a few recommendations and leading practices for the configuration and optimization of a Horizon desktop. These things will help you to enhance the overall scalability and performance of a Horizon implemenation.

Desktop configuration

The desktop build process would look like this:

hroizon desktop build process

  1. You will start with the creation of the target VM
  2. Installation of guest OS
  3. Installation of VMware Tools
  4. Perform image optimization
  5. Installation of globally used applications and Horizon Agent
  6. Creation of VM template

If you understand the customer’s use cases, you will understand what kind of desktops are needed to meet the requirements. The configuration of the desktop VM varies for each pool. The differences between them are often resource allocations like disk size,  installed applications, memory or even the operating system.

For the most use cases VMware recommends only assigning two vCPUs unless it’s proven  and really a requirement to have more CPU power.

Consider RAM reservation settings and keep in mind that high memory settings require more disk space as the VM swap file and the Windows pagefile sizes are related to these settings.

Globally used applications like MS Office or Adobe Reader should be installed within the desktop image. All other applications are delivered with App Volumes, if possible.

OS Optimization

VMware recommends optimizing the guest operating system of a desktop image to positively affect the performance of a Horizon desktop.

Use VMware OS Optimization Tool (OSOT) to optimize your Windows desktops and server images. It is a great tool and will help you to disable OS components  you don’t need and could help to enhance the overall scalability and performance. Make sure you know the optimizations you apply and what settings are changed to avoid any bad user experience or unexpected behaviour of your desktops.

If you are using Windows 10 for example, also make sure that you remove all unneeded native apps.

More details on creation of an optimized Windows image for a Horizon virtual desktop can be found on Tech Zone.

See also the blog article from Login VSI.

Pool Configuration

You can create desktop pools to give users remote access to virtual machine-based desktops. You can also choose VMware PC-over-IP (PCoIP), or VMware Blast to provide remote access to users.

There are two main types of virtual desktop pools.
Automated desktop pools use a vCenter Server virtual machine template or snapshot to create a pool of identical virtual machines.
Manual desktop pools are a collection of existing vCenter Server virtual machines, physical computers, or third-party virtual machines. In automated or manual pools, each machine is available for one user to access remotely at a time.

With Horizon 7.5 a instance is limited to 10’000 desktops and if the planned deployment exceeds this limit, then you must use the Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA) feature. With CPA you can link together 25 pods to provide one big desktop environment for ten geographically distant sites and provide apps and desktops for up to 200’000 sessions. See VMware Horizon 7 sizing limits and recommendations.

In a Horizon design you must state the use cases and use desktop pools which are the logical containers that represent each use case (desktop type, application set, access mode etc.).

With VMware Horizon it is also possible to provide hosted applications with the integration or Remote Desktop Services Hosts (RDSH) based on Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS).
A RDS desktop pool is associated with a farm, which is nothing more than group of RDS hosts. Each RDS host is a Windows Server that can host multiple RDS desktop sessions.

Desktop Persistence

The Horizon 7.5 handbook is a really great source for this part and I will allow myself to copy and past some part of it. 🙂

There are two options for a desktop assignment:

Dedicated-assignment pools
Each user is assigned a particular remote desktop and returns to the same desktop at each login. Dedicated assignment pools require a one-to-one desktop-to-user relationship. For example, a pool of 100 desktops are needed for a group of 100 users.

Floating-assignment pools
Using floating-assignment pools also allows you to create a pool of
desktops that can be used by shifts of users. For example, a pool of 100 desktops could be used by 300 users if they worked in shifts of 100 users at a time. The remote desktop is optionally deleted and re-created after each use, offering a highly controlled environment.

This means that a floating assignment is recommended because it decouples the user from a specific desktop and provides management and resource efficiency. This obviously could also reduce the licensing costs.

Dedicated desktop assignments are useful or required where users have applications or data that they install and keep on a specific desktop. A dedicated desktop can be assigned (fixed) to a specific user or also during the first logon where the next unused desktop will be assigned automatically.

Full Clones, Linked Clones or Instant Clones?

One of the most important questions for your design is whether users need a stateful or stateless desktop to work with. If the user has a stateful desktop, you have to think about the data which needs to be included in a backup (e.g. user profile or application data).

If you provide stateless desktop images you face other challenges. What happens to a user’s profile or data? Should it be saved and be available in the next session?

Stateless desktop images
Also known as nonpersistent desktops, stateless architectures have many advantages, such as being easier to support and having lower storage costs. Other benefits include a limited need to back up the virtual machines and easier, less expensive disaster recovery and business continuity options.

Stateful desktop images
Also known as persistent desktops, these images might require traditional image management techniques. Stateful images can have low storage costs in conjunction with certain storage system technologies. Backup and recovery technologies such as VMware Site Recovery Manager are important when considering strategies for backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity.

There are two ways to create stateless (non-persistent) desktop images in Horizon 7:

  1. You can create floating assignment pools or dedicated assignment pools of instant clone virtual machines. Folder redirection and roaming profiles can optionally be used to store user data.
  2. You can use View Composer to create floating or dedicated assignment pools of linked clone virtual machines. Folder redirection and roaming profiles can optionally be used to store user data or configure persistent disks to persist user data.

There are several ways to create stateful (persistent) desktop images in Horizon 7:

  1. You can create full clones or full virtual machines. Some storage vendors have cost-effective storage solutions for full clones. These vendors often have their own best practices and provisioning utilities. Using one of these vendors might require that you create a manual dedicated-assignment pool.
  2. You can create pools of instant-clone or linked-clone virtual machines and use App Volumes user writable volumes to attach user data and user-installed apps.

Whether you use stateless or stateful desktops depends on the specific type of worker.

There could be a lot more to tell you about when creating desktop pools, but those details can be found on Tech Zone and the available PDFs and Youtube videos.

The next time we take a look at “Section 7 – Incorporate Application Services into a Horizon Physical Design”.