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VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure: Scaling for Remote Work

It’s been 5 months since support for the features of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop in Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure became Generally Available after months of collaboration and more than three years since VMware released its initial support for Horizon Cloud on Azure. For VMware, this marked an important milestone in our ongoing partnership with Microsoft that allows us to deliver incredible value to our customers with additional features and functionality beyond those of native Windows Virtual Desktop. With features like App Volumes, Dynamic Environment Manager, advanced power management and support for hybrid environments, we knew we had a powerful offering, but we didn’t know how popular it would be!

VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure Has Helped Customers Succeed with Work from Home

Within days of the Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure support for Windows Virtual Desktop becoming available, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increased interest in desktop and app virtualization in order to support work from home initiatives around the world. VMware joined Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop Remote Work Initiative program that provided an easy way for Microsoft 365 customers to deploy workloads using their Windows Virtual Desktop entitlements along with Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure. These efforts resonated, and as a result, VMware was named as a finalist for Microsoft Global ISV Partner of the Year. Today, we are supporting many mutual customers.

During this time, VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure helped hundreds of thousands of employees maintain productivity by enabling them to safely, securely and quickly transition to remote work. The largest recent project – enabling 35,000 insurance agents to work from home – was rolled out in just five days! Similarly, healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, government and education customers also took advantage of this program to enable remote work or remote learning, and we’re extremely proud to have been an integral and mission-critical part of continuation of operations and building business resilience during this unpredictable time.

Scaling Guidance on Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure

With all the interest in Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure, we’re often asked about capacity and tuning recommendations, especially after Login VSI’s VDI Performance Summit where they detailed the work they’d done determining benchmarks for Windows Virtual Desktop. We also recognize the value of standardized testing of desktop virtualization platform performance, so we set out to replicate those tests.

Since testing had already been completed, we decided that we should use the data from the VDI Performance Summit as a baseline for our own benchmark. The primary output of the Login VSI platform – VSImax – indicates the peak number of sessions running a specific workload on a given host before it becomes saturated. For our testing, we used the Login VSI Knowledge Worker workload on D16s v3 Azure instances, just like the original Windows Virtual Desktop testing. Using the VMware OS Optimization Tool (OSOT) to properly optimize the image, as well as the Blast Extreme Core agent with the Blast Codec, we attained a VSImax of 48 – on par with those of the Login VSI testing of Windows Virtual Desktop.

Best Practices for Testing and Benchmarking

For all customers, we recommend doing testing to determine the real-world impact on your environment, or at the very least only trusting independently verified third-party testing. As you go through this process, be sure to follow these guidelines:

Leverage vendor recommendations for VM optimizations: Obtain the best practices from each vendor you test and make sure your test incorporates them for the appropriate use cases. Don’t just accept the default settings and expect optimal results across different use cases.

Ensure consistent testing environments: Be sure to verify that your test environments are the same. For example, some Azure instances can include processors from different families even in the same instance type. It’s not a fair test if one Dv3-series instance uses a Haswell CPU and the other uses a Cascade Lake CPU (check out this list of processor families in the Dv3-series instances for more information).

Use industry standard tools: Industry standard tools like Login VSI help ensure consistent environments, use cases and test results across platforms, which is critical to valid, useful benchmarking.

Don’t take vendors’ competitive claims at face value: Don’t rely on vendor claims of performance versus their competition. They don’t necessarily have required information to properly build and tune competitive environments, which makes resulting claims difficult to validate. You want unbiased results to aid your decision making. This is why it’s important to rely on independent third-party testing of competitive platforms. Second, most vendors typically prohibit running tests of their products for publication without their knowledge and approval. Be mindful of vendors who violate these restrictions to make potentially biased claims, yet themselves have the same EULA restrictions in their own products!

Following these guidelines, you can experience a true apples-to-apples comparison that is of actual value to your organization. If you need assistance, there are many third-party companies that will do testing on your behalf with your workloads using industry-standard platforms and methodologies.

Azure Consumption is Just One Component of Cloud VDI Cost of Ownership

It’s also worth keeping in mind that, when using Microsoft Azure, raw consumption costs aren’t the only costs incurred by the customer. They are a large factor, but using VMware’s Value Realizer tool we can model cost savings and value beyond just the raw Azure consumption costs. With this tool, we can demonstrate additional customer value enabled by Horizon Cloud on Azure by extending the value of Windows Virtual Desktop via:

• Increased support, monitoring and admin capabilities

• Power management and reduced storage costs via application management

• Avoiding additional third-party user environment management platforms

• Productivity and user experience improvements

For example, for a 1,000-user environment, our Value Realizer model shows a conservative estimate of saving $508,500 over 3 years derived by Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure, in addition to the cost savings associated with Windows Virtual Desktop. As we continue to deliver new Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure features, VMware will capture the business benefits as part of Value Realizer to demonstrate additional ROI for our customers. We encourage customers to request their own Value Realizer analysis from their End-User Computing sales specialist to model their own prospective Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure with Windows Virtual Desktop deployment benefits and cost savings.

As we move into the next phase of Workforce Continuity, it’s important to keep in mind that the goal is to build a sustainable, cost-effective strategy to help keep our employees productive and our businesses functional. VMware is a strategic vendor and trusted partner in many organizations around the world. We have the modern platform that includes SDDC, digital workspace and hybrid desktop virtualization that can transform your legacy environment into a future ready platform that you can more securely and confidently use to keep your end users working regardless of from where they work going forward.

For more information, check out VMware’s Remote Work Solutions & Technology offerings.

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