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Desktop as a Service

DaaS with VMware: Making Sense of VMware Horizon Components and Features

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The VMware Horizon platform provides virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) management controls for VDI backend and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) users. Typically, DaaS providers manage the backend side, and DaaS customers use Horizon’s user-friendly interface to deploy and monitor virtual desktops, using a wide range of capabilities.

In this post, we’ll explain basic VMware Horizon components, such as the view agent and composer, and VMware Horizon deployment options in the cloud and on-premise. We’ll also show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help simplify DaaS VMware management for any deployment type, including multi-clouds and hybrid architectures. 

In this article, you will learn:

What Is VMware Horizon?

VMware Horizon is a platform for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that you can use to manage and serve desktops to end users. It is commonly used by desktop as a service (DaaS) providers as a platform to serve managed desktops to customers.

With this platform and the DaaS services it enables, IT teams can centrally manage and monitor desktop environments from servers on-premises or in the cloud. Users can access virtual desktops on a variety of clients from nearly any location with the same capabilities as a traditional desktop.

Using Horizon and Horizon-based services, teams can enable easier remote working, increase security by eliminating vulnerabilities created by lost or stolen devices, and extend the life of client hardware. Organizations can also transform capital expenses to predictable operational expenses.

The VMware Horizon DaaS Platform includes several features designed to help providers deliver desktops smoothly. These include: 

  • Multi-tenancy—enables providers to create secure, isolated environments and resources for individual customers.
  • Multi-datacenter—includes portals for service providers and end customers that enable centralized administration across data centers.
  • Role separation—includes separate and targeted management applications for customers and providers.
  • Grid-based architecture for elastic scalability—enables unlimited scalability across data centers and geographic regions.
  • Single platform for every workspace model—supports delivery of self-contained desktop sessions and individual applications.
  • Lowest cost of delivery—based on open source technologies with no third-party software or additional licensing fees.

Learn more about the difference between VDI and DaaS in our guide: VDI vs DaaS

VMware Horizon Components

The Horizon platform contains numerous components that work together to enable the delivery of services and to ease administration.

VMware vCenter Server
The vCenter Server provides a centralized management system for vSphere. You can deploy it to a virtual or physical machine from a preconfigured or custom open virtualization appliance (OVA) template.

Deployment to virtual machines (VMs) running on ESXi hosts are preferable since this enables you to benefit from virtualization advantages. You should also create new vCenter deployments for Horizon, rather than reusing existing vSphere appliances for easier licensing.

ESXi Hypervisor
ESXi Hypervisor is a host server for your VMs. You can manage this server through your vCenter Server.

VMware Horizon View Agent
The View Agent is a program that you need to install on any VMs you plan to manage with Horizon View. Through these agents you can monitor your connections, and enable single sign-on, virtual printing, and USB support.

Horizon View Connection Server
The View Connection Server is used to authenticate your users. It connects with Active Directory (AD) and allows you to tie desktops to users and enable single sign-on. When this server is configured, your AD lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) database is copied to the server to enable seamless use.

Horizon Client
Horizon Client is a program that is used to connect user clients to the View Connection Server. This enables you to deliver desktops and applications to the client. The Horizon Client is compatible with Linux, MacOS, and Windows systems.

View Composer
View Composer is a component that enables you to manage your VMs through your vCenter server. It also ensures rational storage consumption through the creation of linked clones. These clones enable you to store only that data that differs from a parent disk resulting in up to 90% savings in storage.

Horizon Administrator
Horizon Administrator provides a web interface for managing your Horizon deployment. This interface is tied to your Connection Server and enables you to add or configure vCenter Servers or View Composers as needed.

VMware Horizon Deployment

When deploying Horizon, there is a general set of steps you need to follow. To start, you need to have AD configured and available. Then, you need to connect your Horizon platform to your infrastructure.

Once connected, you can create your virtual desktops. These desktops can exist in a single host’s resources or across multiple providers. With your desktops defined, you can then use the Horizon Administrator to configure your environment, manage your control plane, and set up a user access gateway.

VMware Horizon on-premises vs in the cloud
Before your deployment, you need to determine whether you want to deploy to the cloud or on-premises resources. This involves evaluating your security requirements, administration, support and management costs, how many desktops you need, and your expected growth.

If you choose to deploy to the cloud, such as Azure or IBM Cloud, you can access managed infrastructure in exchange for limited options and control. Deployment to the cloud can make it easier to monitor your environments and enables you to outsource infrastructure management and updates. However, you are limited in the VM sizes you can use, and you do not have full control over your data storage location.

In contrast, deployment to on-premises or hybrid infrastructures grants you greater flexibility and control in exchange for more responsibility. It also typically costs more, at least upfront, to deploy on-premises since you are responsible for purchasing, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure hardware.

Learn more in about the main differences between DaaS providers and platforms in our guide: DaaS in cloud computing.

Using VMware Horizon Performance Tracker
After deployment, you need to monitor your environment performance and your end user experience. You can do this using the Horizon Performance Tracker. This utility can expose system health, session context, and protocol specific data for troubleshooting and performance optimization.

In the tracker, these metrics are broken down into Session Properties or At a Glance segments. Session Properties surfaces specific details, including information about devices, locations, and peripherals. At a Glance, aggregates general information, including CPU usage, frames per second, and bandwidth usage. It also includes data visualization in graph or grid views.

DaaS VMware Optimization with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports up to a capacity of 368TB, and supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.

To find out more about DaaS and how Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help you run virtual desktops on cloud resources, download our guidebook on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in the Cloud. You can also learn about case studies of major companies who turned to Cloud Volumes ONTAP to make their DaaS deployments cost-effective, highly available, and easy to orchestrate with the flagship NetApp cloud solution.

NetApp’s Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) is a global control plane for virtual desktop management that functions as an extension of the cloud. VDS supports Remote Desktop Services (RDS) on Azure, AWS, GCP as well as on-premise environments. It also provides native support for Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) solution in Microsoft Azure. To learn more visit the NetApp VDS solution page.

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Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager