My Top 3 Features In The Horizon 7.1 Release

vmware_horizon_viewThis week VMware released a major update to Horizon (View).

I’ve been using Horizon 7.1 for a few weeks and I wanted to share my Top 3 features with you. They are in no particular order.

1. VMware Horizon Virtualization Pack for Skype for Business (Beta)

This is something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. With the Horizon Desktop I use internally in VMware, this is the only thing that has been stopping me from going ‘all in’ 100% VDI. Until now, I’ve been making my Skype for Business calls via the client which is installed on my laptop. Now I can finally move everything inside the virtual desktop, including my voice and video calls.

Making Audio/Video calls in a virtual desktop has a long history of pain which goes back to my early days here at VMware. If you were to install the Skype For Business client into a virtual desktop environment and use it as if it was installed on your local PC/Laptop, you encounter an issue which we term ‘Media hairpinning’. What happens here is, all of your Audio/Video traffic gets streamed via the virtual desktop infrastructure, rather than going point-to-point or ‘end user’ to ‘end user’. For example, we might have two users on the West coast of the US. Their Horizon environment is located on the East coast. When they Skype called each other, User A’s  Audio/Video would travel from their end point on the West coast, to their virtual desktop on the East coast, to User B’s virtual desktop on the East coast and then to User B’s end point on the West coast. (See below)

media hairpinning

The distance that the traffic has to travel can cause Audio/Video performance to be really poor. What we ideally want is for the Audio/Voice traffic to got direct, from User A to User B, point-to-point.

No media hairpinning

And this is essentially what the VMware Horizon Virtualization Pack for Skype for Business does for us.

As mentioned above, this feature is currently in Beta. Do not let that deter you, I’ve been using it for a little while and it seems to be functioning really well. When testing it with my colleagues, they are unable to tell if I am calling from my laptop or within my Horizon desktop. From the end user perspective, there are a few things that I’ve noticed which have slightly different behavior from the native client. For example, my mute button on my headphone lead no longer mutes me in the client and when someone is talking in a group chat the little window which usually shows the profile photo of who is talking doesn’t seem to update. Honestly, this isn’t a problem for me.

If you use Skype For Business within your company, I highly recommend that you test it out even whilst it is in Beta. The requirements are very basic and configuration is very straight forward unlike the old LyncVDI Plugin.

You can read more about it here: https://blogs.vmware.com/euc/2017/03/vmware-horizon-virtualization-pack-skype-for-business-beta.html and download the software and documentation here: https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/beta/horizon-skype4business-beta/overview

2. Multi-VLAN Support for Instant Clones

FINALLY! For those of you who design or manage large desktop environments, you’ll appreciate this new feature. Until now, having desktop Pools that span multiple VLANs was really ugly. It was possible to do with a PowerCLi script, but I’m not really sure many actually attempted it. In Horizon 7.1 we now have an option to achieve this via the Horizon Administrator and it’s really nice!

When you are creating your Instant Clone Pools you now have a new option in the wizard (see below).

multi-vlan-2

By clicking ‘Browse’ you’ll see a new window (see below). Here you can either use the network that the Golden Master is already connected to, or you can uncheck a box and select multiple different networks to deploy your Pool of desktops to. Hopefully, the screenshots illustrate it well. In the example below, we are choosing to have our Pool of desktops deployed evenly across vLAN101 and vLAN201. In this new interface, you can also see how many available ports there are within each VLAN.

multi-vlan-3

Some important details that you need to be aware of when using Multi-VLAN Support for Instant Clones; You need to be using the Virtual Distributed Switch (vDS). This feature isn’t available with the Standard vSwitch. You will also need to configure the following on your desktop Portgroups:

  • Port Binding = Static
  • Port Allocation = Fixed
  • Number Of Ports = <Number of host IP Addresses available in your Subnet>

The reason I’ve called these out is because these aren’t typically what architects would configure for Horizon environments. However, these are required in order for Multi-VLANs to work. When changing these values in the vsphere Webclient, make sure you configure the ‘Number Of Ports’ to match the number of Host IP addresses in the subnet for that Portgroup. For example. if the subnet is a /24, you would probably look to configure around 250 Ports on that Portgroup.

multi-vlan-v1

Once you have Multi-VLAN enabled for your Instant Clone Pool, Horizon will begin to distribute desktops evenly across the selected VLANs.

I hope you agree, this is very cool!

3. vSphere Maintenance Mode Support with Horizon Instant Clones

For those of you who have already moved over to Instant Clones Pools, you’ll be aware of this operational headache in Horizon 7.0.*. Pre Horizon 7.1, when putting an ESXi Host into Maintenance Mode, the administrator must manually delete the ParentVMs before the Host can go into Maintenance Mode. Not a big deal if you only have a small cluster. At scale this becomes cumbersome.

In Horizon 7.1, the ParentVMs are automatically deleted when the ESXi Host is placed into Maintenance Mode. Happy Days!

NOTE: When you add the ESXi Host back into the cluster, the ParentVM is not immediately created. It is only created when a new Image is Pushed or a new Instant Clone Pool is created.

 
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