UPDATED 08:00 EDT / AUGUST 30 2016


VMware says its virtual desktops are looking more like the real thing

VMware Inc. is boosting its Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product line today with a series of new features that bring the performance and functionality of virtual desktops closer to those of dedicated PCs.

VDI is one of those technologies that seems to be constantly on the brink of going mainstream. The concept has a lot of appeal to IT organizations: They can deliver desktop-like experiences to users on a network while maintaining full control of tasks and documents. But VDI has struggled with perceptions of poor performance, limited customization and long setup times.

VMware hopes to change all that with a VDI focus on “making sure the user experience is as good as or better than what people get in a desktop environment,” said Courtney Burry, senior director of product marketing for end-user computing at VMware. “Traditionally, there have been a lot of moving parts on the back end; for organizations that don’t have a lot of resources it can be daunting to get started. We’re taking the cost and complexity out of that process,” she said.

Enhancements to VMware Horizon that are being announced today are intended to address a range of deployment and user experience issues. Customers have the choice of deploying VDI on-premises with Horizon 7, in the cloud with Horizon Air or through a combination of the two with Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode. Horizon Air customers can deploy desktops either on VMware’s vCloud Air cloud, IBM Softlayer or a combination of the two.

Blast Extreme, which is the networking protocol that Horizon uses to communicate between desktop and server, is getting performance improvements that the company said reduce bandwidth consumption up to six-fold. Blast now also supports Riverbed Technology Inc.’s Steelhead wide-area network (WAN) accelerator, a feature that is particularly useful in graphics applications.

Graphics support has been expanded to include the Skylark graphics processing unit (GPU) and the Nvidia Corp. GRID virtualization software and Nvidia Tesla M10 GPU. The latter enables administers to share a single GPU among as many as 128 users on a server. “We have done a lot of work with Nvidia to reduce latency,” particularly when used in combination with Steelhead, Burry said. Users of 3D graphics applications can expect to see a 24-millisecond latency reduction when used with GRID virtualization.

Another improvement that’s intended to make the VDI experience more PC-like is support for USB redirection. That means users can plug a device into the USB port on a remote desktop and have it recognized and managed from the server.

On the administrator side, a new “instant clone” feature lets admins quickly duplicate a live virtual machine image, cutting the time needed to deploy new desktops to a few seconds in some cases.

Server and desktop support has been expanded with the addition of hyper-converged infrastructure appliances from Dell Inc., EMC, Hitachi Data Systems Corp. and Quanta Computer lnc. Horizon 7 also now supports 65 thin clients with the addition of models from Dell Inc., HP Inc. and IGEL Technology GmbH, as well as those based upon the Raspberry Pi platform.

Horizon 7 also supports Windows 10 Anniversary Edition and Windows Server 2016. Other software productivity enhancements include the ability to use Microsoft’s Skype for Business over the network and to use SwiftPoint Ltd.’s mouse products for point-and-click access to Horizon sessions across devices.

Storage virtualization enhancements enable administrators to pair a cloud service with on-premise hyper-converged clients that are configured to use VMware’s VSAN software to create high-performance virtual storage. “We can un-box an EMC VxRail and get your first desktop up and running in under an hour,” Burry said. “For customers who have taken weeks to months to get going, this is game-changing.”

VMware is using VDI as evidence of its success in expanding its business beyond data center virtualization. Burry said the company has rolled out 54 releases of Horizon since 2014, adding 358 new features in the process. More than 63,000 businesses have purchased one or more VMware end-user computing products.

Image by Picography via Pixabay

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