VMware released the Feature Pack 1 for VMware Horizon View 5.2 a week or so after the standard release. The feature pack comes with the HTML5 Access (Blast Protocol) and Unity Touch.
The new HTML5 client for VMware Horizon View 5.2 is something I was looking forward to trying out. Is it a pain to use a full client' No, but having the flexibility to roam around to different devices and not need to install an application is a nice mobility feature.Protocol Wars
The HTML5 client doesn’t use PCoIP, and instead uses VMware’s own Blast protocol. Using a different procol piques my interest because VMware does not own PCoIP, which is a Teradici product. Could VMware buy Teradici' They certainly could, but they haven’t in the past so it seems unlikely they ever will. The talking point response here seems to be that Teradici is a ‘hardware’ company and does not fit VMware’s portfolio which focuses on software. Maybe the goal is to keep using two protocols. Or maybe the long-term goal is to develop the Blast protocol to a point where PCoIP isn’t needed. That is 100% speculation on my part, obviously, and that would be far down the road.
The agent for the Blast Protocol is an additional application install from the feature pack, and must be installed into the virtual desktop image on top of the View Agent. The software must also be installed to the connection server, and the pool(s) must be edited to enable the ‘HTML Access’ checkbox, etc. The whole process is simple, and doesn’t require a reboot.
Gunnar Berger has created a video comparing the protocols on YouTube: VMware Horizon View – Blast protocol vs PCoIP. One thing that appears different in the release than in his video of the beta is that the shadowing “functionality” is actually removed. The behavior mimics PCoIP now in that if another client connects then it disconnects the original connection.
Protocol wars aside, I do like the Blast implementation. The video performance is very good, although not as good as PCoIP; the build-to-lossless functionality is relatively noticeable, for example. Watching video shows the real performance differences. Normal usage is solid and responsive, and is fine for a task worker that doesn’t require multimedia.
From testing the client on different platforms and browsers, I noticed that the client detects whether the connection is coming from a mobile or regular desktop OS and adjusts accordingly. This is very handy, as using Safari on an iPad gives the touchpad overlay option in addition to the other options the tablet interface provides. The below images compare the experience from an iPad with Safari, and MacOS with Google Chrome:
This is the first release, so there are going to be rough edges that need some polish. Below are some of the issues in the current release (Feature Pack 1 with Horizon View 5.2):
I tried using HTML5 client from my Droid Bionic running Android ICS, even though the documentation does not list Android in the supported platforms. The web page notifies the user of such:
Proceeding with the Android native browser fails outright, but the client does work in a degraded state with Chrome for Android. The only bug I noticed with Chrome for Android was that the client panel shows up in the middle of the screen, which results in a couple pixel tall line through the desktop when the panel is shrunk.
Unity Touch is a nice feature addition for tablet users, although using Windows 7 on a tablet is not exactly a pleasurable experience. Unity Touch does make it a bit more enjoyable, though. A panel is added to the left side of the interface that gives easy access to programs, files, and running applications:
Browsing Windows Explorer and the Start Menu aren’t really built for tablets, so moving these to a panel that is made for the tablet experience is perfect. This is a great start to making a full Windows OS (Win8 excluded) more accessible for a tablet.Thoughts
The features added by the Horizon View 5.2 Feature Pack 1 are great additions to the product, and really add functionality that competing products do not have. The Blast protocol is still a new feature and has limitations of such, but using a desktop inside a web browser is perfect when on a device without the ability to install applications, and it provides easy, quick access at that. Unity Touch is a great usability/experience additional for tablet users that make Windows on a tablet a little more more enjoyable.
It’s great to see VMware innovating in the VDI space.