VMware Carbon Black Cloud Workload – Agentless Protection for vSphere Workloads

VMware Carbon Black Cloud Workload – Agentless Protection for vSphere Workloads

At VMworld 2020 VMware announced Carbon Black Cloud Workload (CBC Workload) as part of their intrinsic security approach.

For me, this was the biggest and most important announcement from this year’s VMworld. It is a new offering, which is relevant for every vSphere customer out there – even the small and medium enterprises, which maybe still just rely on ESXi and vCenter only for their environment.

CBC Workload introduces protection for workloads in private and public clouds. For vSphere, there is no additional agent installation needed, because the Carbon Black sensor (agent) is built into vSphere. That’s why you may hear that this solution is “agentless”.

Carbon Black Cloud Workload Bundles

This cloud-native (SaaS) solution provides foundational workload hardening and vulnerability management combined with prevention, detection and response capabilities to protect workloads running in virtualized private cloud and hybrid cloud environments.

Carbon Black Cloud Workload Protection Bundles

Note: Customers, that are using vSphere and VMware Horizon, should take a look at Workspace Security VDI, which has also been announced at VMworld 2020. A single-vendor solution with the combination of VMware Horizon and Carbon Black.

If you would like to know more about the interoperability of Carbon Black and Horizon, have a look at KB79180.

Carbon Black Cloud Workload Overview

Customers and partners have now the possibility to provide a workload security solution for Windows and Linux virtual machines. The complete system requirements can be found here.

“You can enable Carbon Black in your data center with an easy one-click deployment. To minimize your deployment efforts, a lightweight Carbon Black launcher is made available with VMware Tools. Carbon Black launcher must be available on the Windows and Linux VMs.”

Carbon Black enable via vCenter

Carbon Black Cloud Workload consists of a few key components that interact with each other:

CBC Workload Components

You must first deploy an on-premises OVF/OVA template for the Carbon Black Cloud Workload appliance (4 vCPU, 4GB RAM, 41GB storage) that connects the Carbon Black Cloud to the vCenter Server through a registration process. After the registration is complete, the Carbon Black Cloud Workload appliance deploys the Carbon Black Cloud Workload plug-in and collects the inventory from the vCenter Server.

The plug-in provides visibility into processes and network connections running on a virtual machine.

As a vCenter Server administrator, you want to have visibility of known vulnerabilities in your environment to understand your security posture and schedule maintenance windows for patching and remediation. With the help of vulnerability assessment, you can proactively minimize the risk in your environment. You can now monitor known vulnerabilities from the Carbon Black Cloud Workload plug-in:

vSphere Client Carbon Black

The infosec guys in your company would do the vulnerability assessment from the CBC console:

CBC Vulnerabilities

Carbon Black Cloud Workload protection provides vSphere administrators a full inventory, appliance health and vulnerability reporting from one console, the already well-known vSphere Client.

Carbon Black vSphere Client Summary

Cybersecurity Requirements

According to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework the security lifecycle is made of five functions:

  1. Identify – Cloud & Service Context, Dynamic Asset Visibility, Compliance & Standards, Cloud Risk Management
  2. Protect – Services / API Defined, Cloud Access Control, Network Integrity, Data Security, Change Control & Guardrails
  3. Detect – Cloud-Speed, Inter-connected Services, Events & Anomalies, Continuous Monitoring
  4. Respond – DevOps Collaboration, Real-time Notifications, Automated Actions, Response as Code
  5. Recover – Templates / Code Review, Shift Left / Pipeline, Exceptions and Verification

Workload Security Lifecycle

CBC Workload focuses on identifying the risks with workload visibility and vulnerability management, which are part of the “Workload Essentials” edition.

If you would like to prevent malicious activities to protect your workloads and replace your existing legacy anti-virus (AV) solution, then “Workload Advanced” would be the right edition for you as it includes Next-Gen AV (NGAV).

Behavioral EDR (Endpoint Detection & Response), also part of the “Advanced” bundle, belongs to “detect & respond” of the security lifecycle.

Workload Security for Kubernetes

Carbon Black Guardrails and Runtime Security

You just learned that Carbon Black Cloud gives workload protection for virtualized Windows or Linux virtual machines running on vSphere. What about container security for Kubernetes?

In May 2020 VMware officially closed its acquisition of Octarine, a SaaS security platform for protecting containers and Kubernetes. VMware bought Octarine to enable Carbon Black to secure applications running in Kubernetes.

Traditional security is no longer relevant for the security of Kubernetes, because Kubernetes is so powerful and hence risky, networking is very complex and a total different game, because static IPs and ports are no longer relevant. And you need a new security approach which is compatible with IT’s organizational shift from traditional to a DevSecOps approach.

VMware’s solution covers the whole lifecycle of the application from building the container to the app running in production. It is a two-part solution with the first one being “Guardrails“. It is able to scan container images for vulnerabilities and Kubernetes manifests for any misconfigurations.

Carbon Black Cloud Guardrails Module

The second part is runtime protection. When the workloads are deployed in production, the Carbon Black security agent is able to detect malicious activities.

Carbon Black Cloud Runtime Module 

Let’s have a look at the different features the Kubernetes “Guardrails” provide for each phase of the application:

  • Build: Image vulnerability scanning, Kubernetes configuration hardening
  • Deploy: Policy governance, compliance reporting, visibility and hardening
  • Operate: Threat detection and response, anomaly detection and least privilege runtime, event monitoring

And these were the key capabilities and benefits, which have been mentioned at VMworld 2020 for “Guardrails”:

Carbon Black Kubernetes Guardrails Features

For “runtime” security the following key capabilities and benefits were mentioned:

  • Visibility of network traffic
  • Coverage of workloads and hosts activity
  • Network policy management
  • Threat detection
  • Anomaly detection
  • Egress security
  • SIEM integration

Customers will be able to have visibility of all the workloads running in the local or cloud-native production clusters and how they interact with each other. They will also see which services are exposed to ingress traffic, which services are exiting the cluster and where this egress traffic is going to. It is also going to be visible which communication is encrypted and what type of encryption is used.

Note: The Carbon Black Cloud module for hardening and securing Kubernetes workloads is expected to be generally available until the end of 2020.

The launch of Carbon Black Workload was the first important step to let the intrinsic security vision become more a reality (after VMware acquired Carbon Black). Moving on with Kubernetes and bringing new container security capabilities is going to be the next big move forward, that VMware can become a major security provider. 

Stay tuned for more security announcements!

Additional Resources

If you would like to know more about Carbon Black Cloud Workload and security for Kubernetes, have a look at:

Introduction to Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution (ACVS)

Introduction to Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution (ACVS)

VMware’s hybrid and multi-cloud strategy is to run their Cloud Foundation technology stack with vSphere, vSAN and NSX in any private or public cloud including edge locations. I already introduced VMC on AWS, Azure VMware Solution (AVS), Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) and now I would like to briefly summarize Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution (ACVS).

VMware Multi-Cloud Offerings

A lot of European companies, this includes one of my large Swiss enterprise account, defined Alibaba Cloud as strategic for their multi-cloud vision, because they do business in China. The Ali Cloud is the largest cloud computing provider in China and is known for their cloud security, reliable and trusted offerings and their hybrid cloud capabilities.

In September 2018, Alibaba Cloud (also known as Aliyun), a Chinese cloud computing company that belongs to the Alibaba Group, has announced a partnership with VMware to deliver hybrid cloud solutions to help organizations with their digital transformation.

Alibaba Cloud was the first VMware Cloud Verified Partner in China and brings a lot of capabilities and services to a large number of customers in China and Asia. Their current global infrastructure operates worldwide in 22 regions and 67 availability zones with more regions to follow. Outside Main China you find Alibaba Cloud data centers in Sydney, Singapore, US, Frankfurt and London.

As this is a first-party offering from Alibaba Cloud, this service is owned and delivered by them (not VMware). Alibaba is responsible for the updates, patches, billing and first-level support.

Alibaba Cloud is among the world’s top 3 IaaS providers according to Gartner and is China’s largest provider of public cloud services. Alibaba Cloud provides industry-leading flexible, cost-effective, and secure solutions. Services are available on a pay-as-you-go basis and include data storage, relational databases, big-data processing, and content delivery networks.

Currently,  Alibaba Cloud has been declared as a Niche player according to the actual Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure and Platform Services (CIPS) with Oracle, IBM and Tencent Cloud.

Alibaba Gartner CIPS MQ

Note: If you would like to know more about running the VMware Cloud Foundation stack on top of the Oracle Cloud as well, I can recommend Simon Long’s article, who just started to write about Oracle Cloud VMware Solution (OCVS).

This partnership with VMware and Alibaba Cloud has the same goals like other VMware hybrid cloud solutions like VMC on AWS, OCVS or GCVE – to provide enterprises the possibility to meet their cloud computing needs and the flexibility to move existing workloads easily from on-premises to the public cloud and have highspeed access to the public cloud provider’s native services.

ACVS vSphere Architecture

In April 2020, Alibaba Cloud and VMware finally announced the general availability of Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution for the Main China and Hongkong region (initially). This enables customers to seamlessly move existing vSphere-based workloads to the Alibaba Cloud, where VMware Cloud Foundation is running on top of Aliyun’s infrastructure.

As already common with such VMware-based hybrid cloud offerings, this let’s you move from a Capex to a Opex-based cost model based on subscription licensing.

Joint Development

X-Dragon – Shenlong in Chinese – is a proprietary bare metal server architecture developed by Alibaba Cloud for their cloud computing requirements. It offers direct access to CPU and RAM resources without virtualization overheads that bare metal servers offer (built around a custom X-Dragon MOC card). The virtualization technology, X-Dragon, behind Alibaba Cloud Elastic Compute Service (ECS) is now in its third generation. The first two generations were called Xen and KVM.

X-Dragon  NIC

VMware works closely together with the Alibaba Cloud engineers to develop a VMware SDDC (software-defined data center based on vSphere and NSX) which runs on this X-Dragon bare metal architecture.

The core of the MOC NIC is the X-Dragon chip. The X-Dragon software system runs on the X-Dragon chip to provide virtual private cloud (VPC) and EBS disk capabilities. It offers these capabilities to ECS instances and ECS bare metal instances through VirtIO-net and VirtIO-blk standard interfaces.

Note: The support for vSAN is still roadmap and comes later in the future (no date committed yet). Because the X-Dragon architecture is a proprietary architecture, running vSAN over it requires official certification. 

Project Monterey

Have you seen VMware’s announcement at VMworld 2020 about Project Monterey which allows you to run VMware Cloud Foundation on a SmartNIC? For me, this looks similar to the X-Dragon architecture 😉

Project Monterey VMware Cloud Foundation Use Cases

Data Center extension or retirement. You can scale the data center capacity in the cloud on-demand, if you for example don’t want to invest in your on-premises environment anymore. In case you just refreshed your current hardware, another use case would be the extension of your on-premises vSphere cloud to Alibaba Cloud.ACVS Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery and data protection. Here we’ll find different scenarios like recovery (replication) or backup/archive (data protection) use cases. You can use your ACVS private clouds as a disaster recovery (DR) site for your on-premises workloads. This DR solution would be based on VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) which can be also used together with HCX. At the moment Alibaba Cloud offers 9 regions for DR sites.

Cloud migrations or consolidation. If you want to start with a lift & shift approach to migrate specific applications to the cloud, then ACVS is the right choice for you. Maybe you want to refresh your current infrastructure and need to relocate or migrate your workloads in an easy and secure way? Another perfect scenario would be the consolidation of different vSphere-based clouds.

ACVS Migration to Alibaba Cloud

Multicast Support with NSX-T

Like with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, an Alibaba Cloud ECS instance or VPC in general doesn’t support multicast and broadcast. That is one specific reason why customers need to run NSX-T on top of their public cloud provder’s global cloud infrastructure.

Connectivity Options

For (multi-)national companies Alibaba Cloud has different enterprise-class networking offerings to connect different sites or regions in a secure and reliable way.

Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN) is a highly-available network built on the high-performance and low-latency global private network provided by Alibaba Cloud. By using CEN, you can establish private network connections between Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) networks in different regions, or between VPC networks and on-premises data centers.  The CEN is also available in Europe in Germany (Frankfurt) and UK (London).

Alibaba Cloud Cloud Enterprise Network

Alibaba Cloud Express Connect helps you build internal network communication channels that feature enhanced cross-network communication speed, quality, and security. If your on-premises data center needs to communicate with an Alibaba Cloud VPC through a private network, you can apply for a dedicated physical connection interface from Alibaba Cloud to establish a physical connection between the on-premises data center and the VPC. Through physical connections, you can implement high-quality, highly reliable, and highly secure internal communication between your on-premises data center and the VPC. 

Alibaba Cloud Express Connect

ACVS Architecture and Supported VMware Cloud Services

Let’s have a look at the ACVS architecture below. On the left side you see the Alibaba Cloud with the VMware SDDC stack loaded onto the Alibaba bare metal servers with NSX-T connected to the Alibaba VPC network.

This VPC network allows customers to connect their on-premises network and to have direct acccess to Alibaba Cloud’s native services.

Customers have the advantage to use vSphere 7 with Tanzu Kubernetes Grid and could leverage their existing tool set from the VMware Cloud Management Platform like vRealize Automation (native integration of vRA with Alibaba Cloud is still a roadmap item) and vRealize Operations.

Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution Architecture

The right side of the architecture shows the customer data centers, which run as a vSphere-based cloud on-premises managed by the customer themselves or as a managed service offering from any service provider. In between, with the red lines, the different connectivity options like Alibaba Direct Connect, SD-WAN or VPN connections are mentioned with different technologies like NSX-T layer 3 VPN, HCX and Site Recovery Manager (SRM).

To load balance the different application services across the different vSphere-based or native clouds, you can use NSX Advanced Load Balancer (aka Avi) to configure GSLB (Global Server Load Balancing) for high availability reasons.

Because the entire stack on top of Alibaba Cloud’s infrastructure is based on VMware Cloud Foundation, you can expect to run everything in VMware’s product portfolio like Horizon, Carbon Black, Workspace ONE etc. as well.

You can also deploy AliCloud Virtual Edges with VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud.

Node Specifications

The Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution offering is a little bit special and I hope that I was able to translate the Chinese presentations correctly.

First, you have to choose the amount of hosts which gives you specific options.

1 Host (for testing purposes): vSphere Enterprise Plus, NSX Data Center Advanced, vCenter

2+ Hosts (basic type): vSphere Enterprise Plus, NSX Data Center Advanced, vCenter

3+ Hosts (flexibility and elasticity): vSphere Enterprise Plus, NSX Data Center Advanced, vCenter, (vSAN Enterprise)

Site Recovery Manager, vRealize Log Insight and vRealize Operations need to be licensed separately as they are not included in the ACVS bundle.

The current ACVS offering has the following node options and specifications (maximum 32 hosts per VPC):

ACVS Node Specifications

All sixth-generation ECS instance come equipped with Intel® Xeon® Platinum 8269CY processors. These processors were customized based on the Cascade Lake microarchitecture, which is designed for the second-generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. These processors have a turbo boost with an increased burst frequency of 3.2 GHz, and can provide up to a 30% increase in floating performance over the fifth generation ECS instances.

Component Version License
vCenter 7.0 vCenter Standard
ESXi 7.0 Enterprise Plus
vSAN (support coming later) n/a Enterprise
NSX Data Center (NSX-T) 3.0 Advanced
HCX n/a Enterprise

Note: Customers have the possibility to install any VIBs by themselves with full console access. This allows the customer to assess the risk and performance impacts by themselves and install any needed 3rd party software (e.g. Veeam, Zerto etc.).

If you want to more about how to accelerate your multi-cloud digital transformation initiatives in Asia, you can watch the VMworld presentation from this year. I couldn’t find any other presentation (except the exact same recording on YouTube) and believe that this article is the first publicy available summary about Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution. 🙂

VMware Cloud Foundation And The Cloud Management Platform Simply Explained

VMware Cloud Foundation And The Cloud Management Platform Simply Explained

I think that it is pretty clear what VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) is and what it does. And it is also clear to a lot of people how where you could use VCF. But very few organizations and customers know why they should or could use Cloud Foundation and what its purpose is. This article will give you a better understanding about the “hidden” value that VMware Cloud Foundation has to offer.

My last contributions focused on VMware’s multi-cloud strategy and how they provide consistency in any layer of their vision:

VMware Strategy

The VMware messaging is clear. By deploying consistent infrastructure across clouds, customers gain consistent operations and intrinsic security in hybrid or multi-cloud operating models. The net result is, that the intricacies of infrastructure fade, allowing IT to focus more on deploying applications and providing secure access to those applications and data from any device.

The question is now, what are the building blocks and how can you fulfill this strategy? And why is VMware Cloud Foundation really so important?

Cloud Computing

To answer these questions we have to start with the basics and look at the NIST definition of cloud computing first:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared
pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and
services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or
service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five
essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Data Center Cloud Computing

Let’s start with the three service models and the capabilities each is aiming to provide:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS). Centrally hosted software, which is licensed on a subscription basis. They are also known as web-based or hosted software. The consumer of this service does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure (servers, network, storage, operating system)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS). This application platform allows the consumer to build, run and manage applications without the complex building of the application infrastructure to launch the applications. Like with SaaS, the consumer doesn’t manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure, but has the control over the deployed applications.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS provides the customer fundamental resources like compute, storage and network where they are able to deploy and run software in virtual machines or containers. The consumer doesn’t manage the underlying infrastructure, but manages the virtual machines including the operating systems and applications.

Deployment Models

There are four cloud computing deployment models defined today and mostly we talk only about three (I excluded the community cloud) of them. Let’s consult the VMware glossary for each definition.

  • Private Cloud. Private cloud is an on-demand cloud deployment model where cloud computing services and infrastructure are hosted privately, often within a company’s own data center using proprietary resources and are not shared with other organizations. The company usually oversees the management, maintenance, and operation of the private cloud. A private cloud offers an enterprise more control and better security than a public cloud, but managing it requires a higher level of IT expertise.
  • Public Cloud. Public cloud is an IT model where on-demand computing services and infrastructure are managed by a third-party provider and shared with multiple organizations using the public Internet. Public cloud service providers may offer cloud-based services such as infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, or software as a service to users for either a monthly or pay-per-use fee, eliminating the need for users to host these services on site in their own data center.
  • Hybrid Cloud. Hybrid cloud describes the use of both private cloud and public cloud platforms, which can work together on-premises and off-site to provide a flexible mix of cloud computing services. Integrating both platforms can be challenging, but ideally, an effective hybrid cloud extends consistent infrastructure and consistent operations to utilize a single operating model that can manage multiple application types deployed in multiple environments.

Hybrid Cloud Model

Multi-Cloud is a term for the use of more than one public cloud service provider for virtual data storage or computing power resources, with or without any existing private cloud and on-premises infrastructure. A multi-cloud strategy not only provides more flexibility for which cloud services an enterprise chooses to use, it also reduces dependence on just one cloud vendor. Multi-Cloud service providers may host three main types of services IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

With IaaS, the cloud provider hosts servers, storage and networking hardware with accompanying services, including backup, security and load balancing. PaaS adds operating systems and middleware to their IaaS offering, and SaaS includes applications so that nothing is hosted on a customer’s site. Cloud providers may also offer these services independently.

Note: It is very important to understand which cloud computing deployment is the right one for your organization and which services your IT needs to offer to your internal or external customers.

Essential Characteristics

If you look at the five essential cloud computing characteristics from the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), you’ll find attributes which you would also consider as natural requirements for any public cloud (e.g. Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services):

  • On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities,
    such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without
    requiring human interaction with each service’s provider.
  • Broad Network Access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through
    standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client
    platforms (e.g. PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets).
  • Resource Pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple
    consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual
    resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.
    There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no
    control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be
    able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or
    data center).
  • Scalability and Elasticity. Capabilities can be rapidly and elastically provisioned, in some cases
    automatically, to quickly scale out and rapidly released to quickly scale in. To the
    consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited
    and can be purchased in any quantity at any time.
  • Measure Service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by
    leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the
    type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts).
    Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported providing
    transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

And besides the five essentials, you look for security, flexibility and reliability. With all these properties in mind, you would follow the same approach today, if you build a new data center or have to modernize your current cloud infrastructure. A digital foundation, or a platform, which can adopt to any changes and serve as expected.

5 Characteristics of Cloud Computing

This is why VMware has built VMware Cloud Foundation! This is why we need VCF, which is the core of VMware’s multi-cloud strategy.

To be able to meet the above characteristics/criteria, you need a set of software-defined components for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management in private and public environments – also called the software-defined data center (SDDC). VCF makes operating the data center fundamentally simpler by bringing the ease and automation of the public cloud in-house by deploying a standardized and validated architecture with built in lifecycle management and automation capabilities for the entire cloud stack.

As automation is already integrated and part from the beginning, and not something you would integrate later, you are going to be able to adopt to changes and have already one of the elements in place to achieve the needed security requirements. Automation is key to provide security through the whole stack.

In short, Cloud Foundation gives you the possibility and the right tools to build your private cloud based on public cloud characteristics and also an easy path towards a hybrid cloud architecture. Consider VCF as VMware’s cloud operating system, which enables a hybrid cloud based on a common and compatible platform that stretches from on-premises to any public cloud. Or from public cloud to another public cloud.

Note: VMware Cloud Foundation can also be consumed as a service (aka SDDC as a service) through their partners like Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and many more.

Why Hybrid or Multi-Cloud?

A hybrid cloud with a consistent infrastructure approach enables organizations to use the same tools, policies and teams to manage the cloud infrastructure, which hosts the virtual machines and containers.

Companies want to have the flexibility to deploy and manage new and old applications in the right cloud. They are looking for an architecture, which allows them to migrate on-premises workloads to the public cloud and modernize these applications (partially or completely) with the cloud provider’s native services.

Customers have changed their perception from cloud-first to a cloud-appropriate strategy where they choose the right cloud for each specific application. And to avoid a vendor lock-in, you suddenly see two or three additional public clouds joining the cloud architecture, which by definition now is a multi-cloud environment.

Now you have a mix of a VMware-based cloud with AWS, Azure and GCP for example. It is possible to build new applications in one of the VMware “SDDC as a service” (e.g. VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Solution, Google Cloud VMware Engine) offerings, but customers also want deploy and use cloud-native service offerings.

Multi-Cloud Reality

How you deal with this challenge with the different architectures, operational inconsistencies, varying skill sets or your people, different management and security controls and incompatible technology formats?

Well, the first answer could be, that your IT needs to be able to treat all clouds and applications consistently and run the VCF stack ideally in any (private or public) cloud.

But this is not where I want to head to. There is something else, which we need to transform in this multi-cloud environment.

We only have consistent infrastructure with consistent operations, because of VMware Cloud Foundation, so far.

  • How does your deployment and automation model for your virtual machines and containers look like now?
  • How would you automate the provisioning these workloads and needed application components?

With your current tool set you have to talk four “languages” via the graphical management console or API (application programming interface).

In an international organization, where people come from different countries and talk different languages, we usually agree to English as corporate language. VMware is following the same approach in this case and puts an abstraction layer above the clouds and expose the APIs.

VMware Cloud-Agnostic CMP

This helps to manage the different objects and workloads you have deployed in any cloud. You don’t have to use your cloud accounts anymore and can define a consistent and centralized team and permission structure as well.

On top of this cloud-agnostic API you can provide all means for a self-service catalog, use programmable provisioning and provide the operations (e.g. cost or log management) and visibility (powered by artificial intelligence where needed) tool set (e.g. application and networks) to build, run, manage, connect and protect your applications.

Your applications, which are part of the different main services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and most probably many other services (like DaaS, DBaaS, FaaS, DRaaS, CaaS, Backup as a Services, MongoDB as Service etc.) you are going to offer to your internal consumers or customers, are deployed via this cloud abstraction layer.

VMware CMP and Services

This abstraction layer forms the VMware cloud management platform (CMP), which consists of the vRealize Suite and VMware Cloud Services. This CMP also provides you with the necessary interfaces and integration options to other existing backend services or tools like a ticketing system, change management database (CMDB), IP address management (IPAM) and so on.

In short this means, that the VMware cloud operation model treats each private or public cloud as a landing zone.

VMware Cloud Foundation Is More About Business Value

Yes, Cloud Foundation is a very technical topic and most people see it only like that. But the hidden and real value are the ones nobody sees or talk about. The business values and the fact, that you can operate your private cloud with the ease like a public cloud provider and that you can follow the same principles for any cloud delivery model.

On-Demand self-service is offered through the lifecycle management capabilities VCF has included in combination with the cloud-agnostic API from VMware’s cloud management platform.

Broad network access starts with VMware’s digital workspace offerings and ends in the data center, at the edge or any cloud with their cloud-scale networking portfolio, which includes software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and software-defined application delivery controller (SD-ADC).

Multi-tenancy and resource pooling can only be achieved with automation and security. Two items which are naturally integrated into Cloud Foundation. The SDDC management component of VCF also gives you the technical capability to create your regions and availability zones. Something a public cloud providers let’s you choose as well.

Rapid elasticity is provided with the hardware-agnostic (for the physical servers in your data centers) approach VMware offers to their customers. Besides that, all cloud computing components are software-defined, which can run on-premises, at the edge or in any public cloud, which allows you to quickly scale out and scale in according to your needs.

Service usage and resource usage (compute, storage, network) are automatically controlled and optimized by leveraging some level of abstraction of all different clouds. Resource usage can be monitored and reported in a transparent way for the service provider and the consumer.

VMware Multi-Cloud Services

In addition to that, VMware provides their customers the choice to consume the VMware operation tools on-premises or as a SaaS offering, which is then hosted in the cloud. With perpetual and subscription licenses you can define your own pay-per-use or pay-as-you-go pricing options and if you want to move from a CAPEX to a OPEX cost model. The same will be true somewhen for VCF and VCF in the public cloud as well. A single universal license which allows you to run the different components and tools everywhere.

Customers need the flexibility to build the applications in any environment, matching the needs of the application and the best infrastructure. They need to manage and operate different environments as one, as efficiently as possible, with common models of security and governance.

Customers need to shift workloads seamlessly between cloud providers (also known as cross-cloud workload mobility) without the cost, complexity or risk of rewriting applications, rebuilding process or retraining IT resources.

And that’s my simple explanation of VMware Cloud Foundation and why it so important and the core of the VMware (Multi-Cloud) strategy.

Let me know what you think! 🙂

A big thank you to my colleagues Christian Dudler, Gavin Egli and Danny Stettler who reviewed my content and illustrations.

Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE)

Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE)

In June 2020 VMware and Google made the announcement that Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) is generally available. Almost exactly one year ago, the market received the information that VMware’s Cloud Foundation (vSphere, vSAN and NSX) stack will come to Google Cloud.

With this milestone VMware is now present on top of all the so-called “big three” hyperscalers.

GCVE has the same goals like the other similar offerings like VMware Cloud on AWS or Azure VMware Solution and belongs to the VMware multi-cloud strategy – to seamlessly migrate and run applications in the public cloud. In this case in Google Cloud! Run your applications in the public cloud exactly the same way as you already do now withh your on-premises VMware environment. With the very important addition, that you have high speed access to Google Cloud services like Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, big data or AI/ML services.

To be able to run VMware workloads on top of the Google Cloud global infrastructure, Google acquired CloudSimple (with which they partnered with already) last November 2019.

At the moment of writing, the VMware hybrid cloud experience on Google Cloud is sold, operated and supported by Google and their partners.

Many customers are already looking at this very interesting offer, which is going to be available in more regions until the end of 2020. But there are also already a few customers using the joint offering. Google just published a customer reference story about the “Deutsche Börse Group”, a large and international financial organization, which extended their on-premises environment to Google Cloud with Google Cloud VMware Engine. One of the reasons why Deutsche Börse went for this vSphere-based cloud approach, was, to keep migrations to the cloud easy. I expect we can hear more about this success story at VMworld 2020.

Cloud Migration and Workload Mobility

A lot of customers underestimate the amount of work, time and costs involved in refactoring or re-platforming applications and the overall challenges when it comes to migrations from on-prem to the cloud. To build this secure hybrid cloud extension with GCVE, you’ll need VMware HCX, which is included in the GCVE offering.

There are different options available to connect both worlds:

GCVE Connectivity Options

  • VPN Gateway for point-to-point connections, used for the secure admin access to vCenter. Useful for the initial setup of the GCVE environment.
  • Cloud VPN for site-to-site connections, a secure layer 3 connection over the internet. This is one of the lower cost options for use cases, that don’t require high bandwidth.
  • Dedicated Cloud Interconnect with a direct traffic flow to Google with 10Gbps or 100Gbps circuits with 50Mbps to 50 Gbps connection capacities. This direct connection is required for HCX and the preferable connectivity option for customers requiring high speed and low latency.
  • Partner (Cloud) Interconnect is another option of a Cloud Interconnect, where your traffic flows through one of the supported service providers (e.g. Colt, Equinix, BT, e-shelter, Verizon, InterCloud, Interxion, Megaport)

Note: One unique feature of GCVE is the ability to route between different GCVE environments in the same region, without the need for additional configuration. 

Use Cases

These use cases, if you made yourself already familiar with a hybrid cloud approach, shouldn’t be new to you.

Data Center extension or retirement. You can scale the data center capacity in the cloud on-demand, if you for example don’t want to invest anymore in your on-premises environment. In case you just refreshed your current hardware, another use case would be the extension of your on-premises vSphere cloud to Google Cloud.

Disaster Recovery and data protection. Here we’ll find different scenarios like recovery (replication) or backup/archive (data protection) use cases. You can also still use your existing 3rd party tools from Zerto or Veeam to replace or complement existing DR locations and leverage the Cloud Storage service. You can also use your GCVE private clouds as a disaster recovery (DR) site for your on-premises workloads. This DR solution would be based on VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) which can be also used together with HCX.

Cloud migrations or consolidation. If you want to start with a lift & shift approach to migrate specific applications to the cloud, then GCVE is definitely right for you. Maybe you want to refresh your current infrastructure and need to relocate or migrate your workloads in an easy and secure way? Another perfect scenario would be the consolidation of different vSphere-based clouds.

Application modernization. Re-architecting or refactoring applications is not that easy. Most customers start with a partial approach to modernize their applications and leverage cloud-native services (e.g. databases, AI/ML engines).

Interesting: Did you know that Google’s on-prem GKE (Google Anthos) is running on vSphere?

VMware Horizon on VMware Engine

The advantages of a public cloud like Google Cloud are the “endless” capacity, agility and high-bandwidth connections. These items are very important for a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and specially during disaster scenarios, when onboardings have to happen fast or if you look for on-demand growth.

Another regular example could be a merger & acquisition use case, where we the main infrastructure doesn’t have the necessary physical resources to onboard to new company and their employees.

Because something like this has always happen as easy and fast as possible. Running virtual desktops in Google Cloud VMware Engine can help in such situations. Together with VMware Horizon, organizations could install a VDI environment in GCVE and connect it to their Horizon on-premises infrastructure using the Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA). 

Note: When migrating applications to the cloud (GCVE), it is a best practice to keep the virtual desktop close to the application, which is a general use case we see when talking about application locality.

Horizon Global Pod GCVE

With the release of Horizon 2006 (aka Horizon 8) it is also possible to choose “Google Cloud” as deployment option during the connection server installation.

C:\\Users\\mrebmann\\OneDrive - VMware, Inc\\cloud13\\2020 - Google Cloud VMware Engine\\Horizon on GCVE.png

In case you need a load balancer (for your Horizon components and in general) for your on-premises environment and the public cloud, have a look at NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

GCVE Node Specs

When planning your GCVE resource needs, be aware of the following specifications and limits:

CPU: Intel Xeon Gold 6240 (Cascade Lake) 2.6 GHz (x2), 36 Cores, 72 Hyper-Threads

Memory: 768 GB

Storage (vSAN): 2 × 1.6 TB (3.2 TB) NVMe (Cache), 6 × 3.2 TB (19.2 TB) NVMe (Data)

Number of nodes required to create a private cloud: 3 (up to 64 hosts per private cloud)

Number of nodes allowed in a cluster on a private cloud: 16

3rd party tools compatibility: Yes, you can use existing tools (elevated privileges allow you to install 3rd party software)

Interesting facts: It only takes about a half hour to spin up your private cloud with three nodes! The addition of a new node takes approximately 15 minutes.

GCVE Elevated Privileges

Software License and Versions

Please find the current software versions and licenses below used for the GCVE offering (purchased with a 1- or 3- year commitment). The listed software versions are fixed and all updates are managed by Google. Google is responsible for the lifecycle management of the VMware software, which includes ESXi, vCenter and NSX.

Component Version License
vCenter 6.7 U3 vCenter Standard
ESXi 6.7 U3 Enterprise Plus
vSAN 6.7 U3 Enterprise
NSX Data Center (NSX-T) 2.5.1 Advanced
HCX 3.5.3 Advanced

Shared Responsibilities

Google Cloud VMware Engine is coming with all components you need to securely run VMware natively in a dedicated private cloud. Google takes care of the infrastructure (service) and their native service integrations. As a customer you only need to take care of your virtual machines or containers with your applications and data. Besides that, you also need to make sure that your configurations, policies, network portgroups, authentication and capacity management are properly configured.

GCVE Shared Responsibilities

If you want to know and learn more about Google Cloud VMware Engine, have a look at the following resources: 

Cross-Cloud Mobility with VMware HCX

Cross-Cloud Mobility with VMware HCX

Update 10th September 2020: vSphere 7.0 (VDS 7.0) and NSX-T 3.0.1+ are supported since the HCX R143 release which has been made available on September 8, 2020

https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-HCX/services/rn/VMware-HCX-Release-Notes.html 

Most people think that VMware HCX is a only migration tool that helps you moving workloads to a vSphere based cloud like VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Solution or Google Cloud VMware Engine. But it can do so much more for you than only application or workload migrations. HCX is also designed for workload rebalancing and business continuity across data centers or VMware clouds. Why I say “across VMware clouds” and not only “clouds”?

A few years ago everyone thought or said that customers will move all their workloads to the public cloud and the majority of them don’t need local data centers anymore. But we all know that this perception has changed and that the future cloud operation is model hybrid.

A hybrid cloud environment leverages both the private and public clouds to operate. A multi-cloud environment includes two or more public cloud vendors which provide cloud-based services to a business that may or may not have a private cloud. A hybrid cloud environment might also be a multi-cloud environment.

We all know that the past perception was an illusion and we didn’t have a clue where the hyperscalers like AWS, Azure or GCP would be in the next 5 or 7 years. And I believe that even the AWS and Microsoft didn’t expect what is going to happen since we observed interesting shifts in the last few years.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been launched 14 years ago (2006) to provide web services from the cloud. At AWS re:Invent 2018 the CEO Andy Jassy announced AWS Outposts because their customers have been asking for an AWS option on-premises. In the end, Outpost is just an extension of an AWS region into the own data center, where you can launch EC2 instances or Amazon EBS volumes locally. AWS already had some hybrid services available (like Storage Gateway) but here we talk about infrastructure and making your own data center part of the AWS Global Infrastructure.

Microsoft Azure was released in 2010 and the first technical preview of Azure Stack has been announced in 2016. So, Microsoft also realized that the future cloud model is a hybrid approach “that provides consistency across private, hosted and public clouds”.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers cloud computing services since 2008. Eleven years later (in 2019) Google introduced Anthos that you can “run an app anywhere –  simply, flexibly and securely”.

All the hyperscalers changed their cloud model to provide customers a consistent infrastructure with consistent operations and management as we understand now.

VMware is coming from the other end of this hybrid world and has the same overall goal or vision to make a hybrid or multi-cloud reality. But with one very important difference. VMware helps you to abstract the complexity of a hybrid environment and gives you the choice to run your workloads in any cloud infrastructure with a cloud-agnostic approach.

As organizations try to migrate their workloads to the public, they face multiple challenges and barriers:

  • How can I migrate my workload to the public cloud?
  • How long does it take to migrate?
  • What about application downtime?
  • Which migration options do I have?
  • Which cloud is the best destination for which workloads?
  • Do I need to refactor or develop some applications?
  • Can I do a lift and shift migration and modernize the application later?
  • How can I consistently deploy workloads and services for my multi-cloud?
  • How can I operate and monitor (visibility and observability) all the different clouds?
  • What if tomorrow one the public cloud provider is not strategic anymore? How can I move my workloads away?
  • How can I control costs over all clouds?
  • How can I maintain security?
  • What about the current tools and 3rd party software I am using now?
  • What if I want to migrate VMs back from the public cloud?
  • What if I want to move away/back somewhen from a specific cloud provider?

In summary, the challenges with a hybrid cloud are about costs, complexity, tooling and skills. Each public cloud added to your current on-premises infrastructure is in fact a new silo. If you have the extra money and time and don’t need consistent infrastructures and consistent operations and management, you’ll accept the fact that you have a heterogeneous environment with different technology formats, skill/tool sets, operational inconsistencies and security controls.

If you are interested in a more consistent platform then you should build a more unified hybrid cloud. Unified means that you provide consistent operations with the existing skills and tools (e.g. vCenter, vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations) and the same policies and security configuration over all clouds – your data center, public cloud or at the edge.

To provide such a cloud agnostic platform you need to abstract the technology format and infrastructure in the public cloud. This is why VMware built the VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) platform that delivers a set of software-defined services for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management for any cloud.

VMC on AWS, Azure VMware Solution, Google Cloud VMware Engine and all the other hybrid cloud offerings (IBM, Oracle, Alibaba Cloud, VCPP) are based on VMware Cloud Foundation. This is the underlying technology stack you would need if your goal is to be independent and to achieve workload mobility between clouds. With this important basic understanding we can take a closer look at VMware HCX.

VMware HCX Use Cases

HCX provides an any-to-any vSphere workload mobility service without requiring retrofit as we use the same technology stack in any cloud. 

VMware HCX Use Cases

HCX enables you to schedule application migrations of hundreds or thousands of vSphere VMs within your data centers and across public clouds without requiring a reboot or a downtime.

If you would like to change the current platform or have to modernize your current data center, HCX allows you to migrate workloads from vSphere 5.x and non-vSphere (Hyper-V and KVM) environments.

VMware HCX Migration

Workload rebalancing means providing a mobility platform across cloud regions and cloud providers to move applications and workloads at any time for any reason.

Workload mobility is cool and may be the future but is not possible today as the public cloud’s egress costs would be way too high at the moment. Let’s say you pay $0.05 per GB when you move data away from the public cloud to any external destination, this would generate costs of $2.50 for a 50GB virtual machine.

Not that much, right? If you move away 500 VMs, the bill would list $1’250 for egress costs. Evacuating VMs from one public cloud to another one is not so expensive if it happens three or four times a year. But if the rebalancing should happen at a higher cadence, the egress costs would get too high. But we can assume that this fact will change in the future as the public cloud computing prices will come down in the future. 

HCX Components and Services

HCX is available with an Advanced and Enterprise license. The Advanced license services are standard with HCX and are also included in the HCX Enterprise license. The Enterprise license is needed when you migrate non-vSphere workloads into a vSphere environment. This capability is called OS Assisted Migration (OSAM).

HCX Services

The HCX Advanced features are included in a NSX Data Center Enterprise Plus license. With a managed service like VMware Cloud on AWS or Azure VMware Solution HCX Advanced is already be included.

HCX Connector Advanced License

If you want to move workloads from a vSphere environment to a vSphere enabled public cloud, you don’t need the complete VMware Cloud Foundation stack at the source site:

  • On-premises vSphere version 5.5 and above
  • Minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth between source and destination
  • Virtual switch based on vDS (vSphere Distributed Switch), Cisco Nexus 1000v or vSphere Standard Switch
  • Minimum of virtual machine hardware version 9
  • VMs with hard disks not larger than 2TB

Depending on the HCX license and services you need, you have to deploy some or all of the HCX components. HCX comprises components and appliances at the source and destination sites.

HCX Manager Destination

The HCX Connector services and appliances are deployed at the destination site first before you are going to deploy the virtual appliances at the source site (HCX Interconnect appliance).

HCX Interconnect Appliance Download Link

After you deployed the appliances at the source site, you can create the site pairing.

HCX Site Pairing

As soon as you have installed HCX in both sites, you can manage and configure the services within the vSphere Client.

HCX in vSphere Client

After a successful site pairing, you can start to create the HCX Service Mesh.

The Multi-Site Service mesh is used to create a secure optimized transport fabric between any two sites managed by HCX. When HCX Migration, Disaster recovery, Network Extension, and WAN Optimization services are enabled, HCX deploys Virtual Appliances in the source site and corresponding “peer” virtual appliances on the destination site. The Multi-Site Service Mesh enables the configuration, deployment, and serviceability of these Interconnect virtual appliance pairs.

HCX Service Mesh

In the HCX site-to-site architecture, there is notion of an HCX source and HCX destination environment. Depending on the environment, there is a specific HCX installer:

HCX Connector (previously HCX Enterprise) or HCX Cloud. HCX Connector is always deployed as the source. HCX Cloud is typically deployed as the destination, but it can be used as the source in cloud-to-cloud deployments. In HCX-enabled public clouds, the cloud provider deploys HCX Cloud. The public cloud tenant deploys HCX Connector on-premises.
The source and destination sites are paired together for HCX operations. 

In both the source and destination environments, HCX is deployed to the management zone, next to each site’s vCenter Server, which provides a single plane (HCX Manager) for administering VMware HCX. This HCX Manager provides a framework for deploying HCX service virtual machines across both the source and destination sites. VMware HCX administrators are authenticated, and each task authorized through the existing vSphere SSO identity sources. VMware HCX mobility, extension, protection actions can be initiated from the HCX User Interface or from within the vCenter Server Navigator screen’s context menus.

In the NSX Data Center Enterprise Plus (HCX for Private to Private deployments), the tenant deploys both source and destination HCX Managers.

The HCX-IX service appliance provides replication and vMotion-based migration capabilities over the Internet and private lines to the destination site whereas providing strong encryption, traffic engineering, and virtual machine mobility.

The VMware HCX WAN Optimization service appliance improves performance characteristics of the private lines or Internet paths by applying WAN optimization techniques like the data de-duplication and line conditioning. It makes performance closer to a LAN environment. It accelerates on-boarding to the destination site using Internet/VPN- without waiting for Direct Connect/MPLS circuits.

The VMware HCX Network Extension service appliance provides a late Performance (4–6 Gbps) Layer 2 extension capability. The extension service permits keeping the same IP and MAC addresses during a Virtual Machine migration. Network Extension with Proximity Routing provides the optimal ingress and egress connectivity for virtual machines at the destination site.

 

Using VMware HCX OS Assisted Migration (OSAM), you can migrate guest (non-vSphere) virtual machines from on-premise data centers to the cloud. The OSAM service has several components: the HCX Sentinel software that is installed on each virtual machine to be migrated, a Sentinel Gateway (SGW) appliance for connecting and forwarding guest workloads in the source environment, and a Sentinel Data Receiver (SDR) in the destination environment.

The HCX Sentinel Data Receiver (SDR) appliance works with the HCX Sentinel Gateway appliance to receive, manage, and monitor data replication operations at the destination environment.

HCX Migration Types

VMs can be moved from one HCX-enabled data center using different migration technologies or types.

HCX Migration Types

HCX cold migration uses the VMware NFC (Network File Copy) protocol and is automatically selected when the source VM is powered off.

HCX vMotion

  • This option is designed for moving a single virtual machine at a time
  • There is no service interruption during the HCX vMotion migration
  • Encrypted vMotion between legacy source and SDDC target
  • Bi-directional (Cross-CPU family compatibility without cluster EVC)
  • In-flight Optimization (deduplication/compression)
  • Compatible from vSphere 5.5+ environments (VM HW v9)

HCX Bulk Migration

  • Bulk migration uses the host-based replication (HBR) to move a virtual machine between HCX data centers
  • This option is designed for moving virtual machines in parallel (migration in waves)
  • This migration type can set to complete on a predefined schedule
  • The virtual machine runs at the source site until the failover begins. The service interruption with the bulk migration is equivalent to a reboot
  • Encrypted Replication migration between legacy source and SDDC target
  • Bi-directional (Cross-CPU family compatibility)
  • WAN Optimized (deduplication/compression)
  • VMware Tools and VM Hardware can be upgraded to the latest at the target.

HCX Replication Assisted vMotion

VMware HCX Replication Assisted vMotion (RAV) combines advantages from VMware HCX Bulk Migration (parallel operations, resiliency, and scheduling) with VMware HCX vMotion (zero downtime virtual machine state migration).

HCX OS Assisted Migration

This migration method provides for the bulk migration of guest (non-vSphere) virtual machines using OS Assisted Migration to VMware vSphere on-premise or cloud-based data centers. Enabling this service requires additional HCX licensing.

 

  • Utilizes OS assisted replication to migrate (conceptually similar to vSphere replication)
  • Source VM remains online during replication
  • Quiesce the source VM for final sync before migration
  • Source VM is powered off and the migrated VM is powered on in target site, for low downtime switchover
  • VMware tools is installed on the migrated VM

Cross-Cloud Mobility

Most customers will probably start with one public cloud first, e.g. VMC on AWS, to evaluate the hybridity and mobility HCX delivers. Cross-cloud monility is maybe not a requirement today or tomorrow but gets more important when your company has a multi-cloud strategy which becomes reality very soon.

If you want to be able to move workloads seamlessly between clouds, extend networks and protect workloads the same way across any cloud, then you should consider a VMware platform and use HCX.

HCX Cross-Cloud Mobility

Let’s take network and security as an example. How would you configure and manage all the different network, security, firewall policies etc. in your different clouds with the different infrastructure and security management consoles?

If you abstract the hyperscaler’s global infrastructure and put VMware on top, you could in this case use NSX (software-defined networking) everywhere. And because all the different policies are tied to a virtual machine, it doesn’t matter anymore if you migrate a VM from host to host or from cloud to cloud.

This is what you would call consistent operations and management which is enabled by a consistent infrastructure (across any cloud).

And how would you migrate workloads in a very cost and time efficient way without a layer 2 stretch? You would have to take care of re-IPing workloads and this involves a lot of changes and dependencies. If you have hundreds of applications then the cloud migration would be a never ending project with costs you could not justify.

In the case you need to move workload back to your own on-premises data center, HCX also gives you this advantage.

You have the choice in which cloud you want to run your applications, at any time.

 

HCX and vSphere 7

At the time of writing HCX has no official support for vSphere 7.0 yet. I tested it in my home lab and ran into an error while creating the Service Mesh. At least one other colleague had the same issue with vSphere 7 using NSX-T 3.0 and VDS 7.0.

HCX vSphere 7 Error

I would like to thank Danny Stettler for reviewing and contributing. 🙂 Big kudos to you, Danny! 🙂

I hope the article has helped you to get an overview what HCX and a hybrid cloud model really mean. Drop a comment and share your view and experience when it comes to cloud strategies and migrations.

 

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 serious (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 almost the same as CVAD (formerly XenDesktop and XenApp).

Note: I’m not saying that VMware Horizon has reached feature parity compared to Citrix

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 on paper. 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).

Caution: Even if it’s technically possible to uninstall Citrix Virtual Desktop Agenda (VDA) and install the Horizon Agent after, this is not something a good consultant would recommend normally. Do it right and rebuild a clean image and test it before going in production. 

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.