Excerpt: VMware Horizon View is a powerful virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platform. In this post, we take a look at the prominent Horizon View components.

When thinking about VMware vSphere infrastructure, our minds tend to gravitate toward server virtualization. However, a huge trend in end-user computing today is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Many VDI concepts overlap with server virtualization. Basically, VDI is virtualization technology that hosts virtual desktops or client operating systems on a centralized server.

In the realm of vSphere VDI, VMware's product to deliver VDI to organizations is VMware Horizon View. The product has many different components that take care of the various aspects of desktop virtualization. In this VMware Horizon View VDI overview, we will look at the various components of VMware Horizon View and the role each plays in VMware's VDI infrastructure.

The VMware Horizon VDI infrastructure has several core pieces. The cornerstone is VMware vCenter Server. This is the central administration point for VMware vSphere administration and is a required component. However, this is not unique to Horizon, as vCenter is required for most of the enterprise functionality with other key VMware solutions. The VMware Horizon View Connection Server, which we will describe below, makes connections to vCenter web services APIs and uses vCenter to deploy virtual desktops.

VMware Identity Manager

VMware Identity Manager provides Identity-as-a-Service. In connection with Horizon Cloud Pod architecture, it sits in front of the Horizon View infrastructure and allows users to access desktops and applications. By connecting and authenticating to Identity Manager, users are able to see all of their available desktops and applications.

Horizon View Connection Server

The Horizon View Connection Server is an integral component to the VMware Horizon View infrastructure. It is known by other names in the Horizon View infrastructure as the Connection Broker and View Manager. It provides the core functionality of Horizon View. The Connection Server has the role of authenticating the user then assigning that user to the virtual desktop provisioned in vSphere according to the user profile and user entitlement.

Users can access the Connection Server in a couple of ways. There is the full-blown View Client, which is installed on an end-user device. Users can also make the connection from a web browser. This is a configurable option.

VMware Horizon View Connection Server install with HTML access

VMware Horizon View Connection Server install with HTML access

After installing the Connection Server, you can browse out to the IP/DNS name of the Connection Server and pull down the full Horizon Client install or access the web portal.

VMware Horizon View Client and HTML Access links

VMware Horizon View Client and HTML Access links

Horizon View Replica Server

The Horizon View Replica Server is essentially an additional Connection Server and once installed, is the same as the Connection Server. It serves the purpose of providing High Availability and load balancing in the environment by replicating an existing View Connection Server instance. After replicating the instance, it is exactly the same as the Connection Server.

Horizon View Composer Server

The Horizon View Composer Server is the piece of the Horizon infrastructure that allows the rapid deployment of virtual desktops including "linked clones" as well as the new "instant clones." The composer server reduces the amount of disk space required for the VDI clone technology. It also requires either an Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server database to store Horizon View Composer data.

You make the connection from the Horizon Connection Server to the Composer Server when configuring the vCenter Server connection information. There you can configure the connection to Composer.

Configuring the Horizon View Composer link in the Connection Server vCenter properties

Configuring the Horizon View Composer link in the Connection Server vCenter properties

To reiterate, without Composer, you can still run the standard implementation of Horizon VDI but will not be able to take advantage of the advanced cloning technology found with linked and instant clones.

Horizon View Security Server

The Horizon Security Server serves the purpose of allowing external users coming from the Internet or other untrusted networks to access the internal Horizon network. It seems to be more of a legacy technology for allowing external access, as the Unified Access Gateway (formerly Access Point) is preferable. The Horizon Security Server is a Windows Server that typically sits in the DMZ network and has firewall rules that allow communication with the internal Horizon Infrastructure.

Horizon Unified Access Gateway

The Horizon Unified Access Gateway (formerly Access Point) is a Linux appliance that allows connections from external clients on the Internet to access the internal Horizon infrastructure. The newer Unified Access Gateway is a more streamlined approach to setting up external access, as there is no requirement to pair internal Connection Servers. Additionally, Blast Extreme Adaptive Transport (BEAT) starting in Horizon 7.1 and newer releases only works with the Unified Access Gateway as opposed to Security Server. It can also be preferable not to seat a Windows Server in the DMZ in the case of the Security Server as opposed to the Unified Access Gateway.

Horizon View Persona Management

If organizations are not using Horizon View Enterprise version, View Persona Management handles user profile management. Persona Management preserves user profile data and synchronizes with a remote profile repository. It is very efficient in its operation in that it only downloads the files required for login. When requested files are needed, it pulls the files from the stored user persona. The performance is much better than using Windows roaming profiles.

Horizon View User Environment Management

The Horizon View User Environment Manager (UEM) is VMware's more powerful offering that manages personalization and policy configuration across virtual, physical, and cloud-based Windows desktop environments. This component allows you to manage user profile data in the Horizon environment. UEM is only available for those using Horizon View Advanced.

VMware's new User Environment Manager for profile and policy management

VMware's new User Environment Manager for profile and policy management

VMware Horizon ThinApp

The Horizon ThinApp allows for virtualizing applications. This is an extremely slick way of being able to run applications without having to install them in the traditional sense. Also, you can update applications provisioned with ThinApp on the fly or replace them, and so on.

Horizon View Agent

The Horizon View Agent is installed within the virtual machine guest operating system, a physical, or a terminal server. It allows those clients to interact with and be managed by Horizon View. The Horizon Agent installation is required for Horizon to deliver the resource as a VDI resource. Additionally, the Horizon Agent provides the functionality for virtual printing, USB support, and single sign-on (SSO).

Horizon View Agent download

Horizon View Agent download


VMware Horizon View VDI is a powerful means to implement virtual desktop infrastructure. It includes various components that each serve out part of the infrastructure's functionality. Some of the more prominent functionality includes external access, user allocation, resource provisioning, fast cloning capabilities, user profile management, and application virtualization. By building on top of the VMware vSphere architecture including ESXi server and vCenter Server, organizations are not only able to virtualize server resources but also create a powerful desktop virtualization platform.

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In my next post I will cover VMware Horizon View Connection Server.


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