Horizon 7 from VMware – Is it all about Blast Extreme?

September 29th, 2016

Chris Minnis
Enterprise Architect

Anybody that takes time to look for what’s new in Horizon 7 will be faced with an introduction to their new high-performance access protocol, Blast Extreme. The normal who, what, when, where, and why questions often follow. Let me try to address a few of those.

Unlike PCoIP, VMware itself developed this protocol. Early in the days of VDI, VMware was playing catch up to Citrix, in terms of both mindshare and experience, really. Partnering with Teradici, to deliver and continue to develop PCoIP, was a smart move that benefitted both companies. Over time, some limitations have been discovered (especially for mobile devices), and it made sense for VMware to develop another protocol.

Blast Extreme is based on new standards for the current world we live in. These standards include HTML Access and H.264 video format coding. The push here was for a protocol that would work well on a wider range of devices and connections (especially higher latency), without the need for any additional chips or CPU-consuming decoding. Also, where PCoIP was UDP-based, Blast Extreme is TCP-based. Now you’ll have a high-performance option, where PCoIP would simply not work before.

Now, of course… but do keep in mind that Blast Extreme has been in development for a few years. This is no early-release situation. It is also important to realize development of PCoIP with Teradici continues as well.

You’ll have to test performance and make your own decision, however, I will say this: Generally, Blast Extreme should perform better, on mobile devices. Desktops and laptops will be a toss-up, but connecting over public connections (higher latency) should favor Blast Extreme. Thin Clients will begin adopting Blast Extreme, as an option, but for now it is PCoIP only.

That’s the real question, isn’t it? Simply put, its 2016, not 2008. In 2008, VMware could deliver a high-performance protocol, through partnership, far faster than by development. Partnership was good for the 4-year-old Teradici, as well. Over the last eight years, the world has changed (and will continue to do so at faster speeds). PCoIP falls short in some situations, and VMware can now take the time to develop Blast Extreme to meet those specific needs. Look for this development to continue and change, with the rest of the world.

We’ve worn out Blast Extreme. Is that really all Horizon 7 brings us that merits discussion? Is there nothing exciting? Are we just jaded? OK, maybe jaded, but there are some new things in Horizon 7 I think you should take a look at. The big one was known, for some time, by the (sorry North Dakota) less-than-sexy name, Project Fargo.

Just-In-Time desktops… that’s much better than the project name that evokes images of wood chippers. Just-In-Time Delivery is the name for the feature, and it employs VMware’s Instant Clone technology to make virtual desktop deployment almost instantaneous. This is a feature I heard about a few years ago, at a VMware Partner Technical Advisory Board event, and then there was a year or so of silence. I was afraid it was gone, but here it is. Deployment is like taking an online snapshot of a virtual machine (instead of a space-occupying clone). Coupled with the separation of the parent VM and the user’s delta disk, redeployment or updating becomes easier for administrators as well.

Horizon 7 also adds experimental Flash redirection. I recommend giving that a try yourself. You might even try that for a few employees, as well. The benefits are obvious, but support won’t be there until (hopefully) the next version.

Security and control are enhanced by Smart Policies and URL Content Redirection. Both features give administrators more control of the employees’ access to applications and data, both how and where that access happens.

So, Blast Extreme gets all the press. However, Just-In-Time Delivery is the feature I’m most excited about. Blast Extreme may be great for some and lost on others, but faster deployment and updates will make everybody happy!

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