So while I’ve been writing a blog post on getting Grafana and InfluxDB setup to monitor your homelab, VMware went ahead and announced the latest innovations for their End User Computing solution.

Instead of boring you with a repeat of the announcement, I’m going to briefly highlight what I think are some of the biggest announcements.

Instant Clones WUT?!

Here’s a quick intro into what Project Meteor (Just in Time Clones) is all about.

At the basic level, it’s a in-memory clone of a powered-on reference machine (it’s quiesced and cloned as required), a virtual machine that in other words you’d be using as your desktop pool golden image. Only now, when a new client desktop instance is requested, the newly created client desktop will use the parent memory and disk, from that point the newly requested client desktop will live on it’s own. However, this newly created client desktop will use the parent memory and disk for reads. At logoff the client desktop is destroyed, not refreshed just gone.

instant-clones

That’s a very simplistic explanation, but alas here’s the benefits JIT desktops bring to your individual deployments.

Note: Composer isn’t going anywhere at the moment

Instant cloning based on vmForking is bringing many benefits

  • Reference Image and Desktop Maintenance is virtually eliminated
  • High performance
  • Enhanced user experience

Desktop management

Desktop management and maintenance windows are the hardest and most time consuming part of any virtual desktop environment. The virtual desktop needs updating, software needs to be installed.

One of the biggest pains in the asses in dealing with “Gold Reference Images” are Virus Scanners and Windows updates. We all know the drill, they never stop and you have to weigh the man hours required to keep these things current vs your current business risk requirements. Not to mention that there’s never an ideal time to perform pool recompose. With JIT desktop clones, we’ve eliminated this problem entirely.

The “Gold Reference Image” can be updated anytime because the desktop your user has just requested is created from a living breathing virtual machine, not some copy that has been lying dormant for a week. So during the day you can allow your Virus Scanner server and the WSUS server to update the software on your reference image and when the user logs on to their machine, they get an always up to date desktop.

High performance

Before JIT desktops, our composer deployed pools provisioned desktops ahead of the user’s request often leading to boot storms and requiring architects to design storage subsystems around these brief but critical performance windows. With JIT desktops, an elastic pool consists of 0 or a miniscule amount of provisioned desktops, meaning our days of deploying hundreds of desktops upfront are gone, and likewise for our boot storms.  Additionally because we’re referencing reads from a single disk our login storms are markedly reduced as well!

Enhanced end user experience

As mentioned before the experience to the end user enhanced because we no longer have to interrupt sessions for Recomposes or application updates. When IT or the business decides it’s time to deploy an update company wide, we don’t have to worry about updating “The VDI Users”, everyone is on equal footing now!

JIT desktops are now a reality with the instant cloning functionality of Horizon 7, App Volumes and VMware UEM.

v1.0 Caveats

There are a few limitations with the v1.0 release. For example, only floating desktops are supported. No dedicated desktops as of now, but v2 should have it. Also no RDSH or Apps support. The scale is up to 2000 desktops with single vCenter, single vLAN only.

  • No Nvidia GRID and there is are limited SVGA options.
  • Storage options – there are VSAN or VMFS datastores

Blast Extreme Protocol

One of the other big announcements, next to Instant clones, was Blast Extreme. When VMware first announced Blast it was a nice feature to be able to access a desktop or with recent releases even applications through a browser in a pinch, but due to feature disparity it was never widely deployed at any of my customer installs.

Recent rumors hinted at VMware giving Blast a bigger role in a new version of Horizon. Looks like that day is today.

Blast Extreme brings a lot of features that were missing in the previous revisions.

  • Grid optimized
  • Better battery life
  • Built for the Cloud
  • Feature parity

extreme1

Probably the biggest single thing about the Blast Extreme Protocol is that it supposedly has complete  feature parity between both VMware protocols. 

Port sharing will ensure that Blast is ready on day 1 for existing installs by being the preferred protocol and failing back to PCoIP if required.

blast-extreme

Honestly it wouldn’t shock me to see VMware deprecate PCoIP entirely in the not to distant future.  PCoIP has always needed some love as far as tweaking performance with bandwidth constraints, and being that Blast is based on H.264, this is likely the final nail in the coffin. Also remember PCoIP isn’t owned by VMware, it was jointly developed with Teredici and they are the sole supplier of PCoIP chips for zero clients.  With this move, it opens up the hardware ecosystem to an entirely new set of manufacturers who are able to offer Zero devices with basic H264 decoding chips as opposed to licensing Teredici Intellectual Property.

Other goodies…

AMD Graphics support for vSGA

  • Enable multiuser GPU solution for Horizon via AMD graphics hardware
  • AMD SR-IOV support (single root I/O virtualization)
  • Native AMD driver support for OpenGL, DirectX and OpenCL acceleration
  • Solidworks, PTC and Siemens ISV certification planned

Intel vDGA Graphics support

With Intel Xeon E3 – Support for CPUs with integrated Iris Pro GPU and compatible with Intel Graphics Virtualization Technologies (Intel GVT-d), with support up to 3 monitors per user.

Flash Redirection

This is in tech preview (supports only server-side fetch of the flash content). It allows the redirection of flash content from the server to the client in order to be decoded and rendered locally.

Allows flash streaming content to play more smoothly with lower bandwidth and CPU usage at the server side.

Improved printing Experience

Local and network printing is up to 4x faster.

Windows 10 Improvements

Scan and serial port redirection are finally supported, where the scanner redirection supports TWAIN and WIA standards on Windows clients. Serial port redirection allows serial port redirection from the client to the server.

URL Content Redirection

Allows Horizon to redirect the destination URL from the virtual desktop to the local browser. Admins can configure policies to control whether user can access the content with application on the server or the client. Supports HTTP and HTTPs. Can be usefull for customers who need to separate internal browsing from external browsing domains. Allows admins to secure the environment where content which is potentially dangerous is executed on the client computer instead on the VDI desktop.

Admins can configure GPOs which does restrict the content that will be opened in a browser inside the virtual desktop vs the browser on the client’s PC.

Credit to Rob BeekmansVladan Seget for the heads up!