VMware Horizon Cloud Horizon Control Plane

Horizon Cloud Connector Know-How Series

Why cloud connectivity?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a powerful tool that enables IT administrators to deliver seamless virtual Windows desktop experience to the end users on any device, anytime and over any network. While VDI was always popular, it has received a shot in the arm during the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With employees not having physical access to offices, VDI has come to save the day. The above event has not only sharply driven immediate adoption of VDI but also accelerated the plans by almost all the IT admins. This pretty much aligns with the VMware philosophy of accessing any device from anywhere. 

VMware Horizon suite provides VDI solutions both on-premises and on the cloud. Recently in August 2020, we announced the General Availability of Horizon 8, the next evolution of the Horizon product line. Kiran Rao, my colleague on the product management side of the world, recently penned an in-depth blog on how Horizon 8 simplifies hybrid cloud VDI delivery and is accessible here. Multi and hybrid cloud is one of the key pillars of VMware’s product strategy and Horizon 8 expanded support for new deployment options. While earlier on-premises deployment preferred a perpetual licensing model, the modern VDI deployments require administrators to be agile with deployments being both on-premises and on the cloud with a flexible cost model. As the business strategies of the organizations evolve at a much faster pace, these administrators would not like to be weighed down by their deployment decisions and would prefer to move user’s desktops across both on-premises and cloud deployments. This requires agility not just in terms of licensing, but in terms of a single pane of controls across all their deployments. One way to achieve this is connecting the Horizon deployments to the cloud and exploiting the benefits of a common management plane that can bring the much desired uniformity to administration. 

Learn more about the universal licensing here.

What is Horizon Cloud Connector? 

Horizon administrators are keen to start adopting the benefits of a hybrid cloud connected solution. As a first step, these administrators will need a mechanism to connect the existing deployments to the cloud. The Horizon Cloud Connector is a virtual appliance that enables just that. Its primary function is to enable connectivity of a Horizon Connection Server to the VMware Horizon Control Plane, a cloud management console that consists of a set of management services shown below. The connector is shipped as a VMware virtual appliance so that administrators can easily deploy it into their existing capacities. 

Figure 1: Cloud Connector placement in the overall Horizon Enterprise Architecture

The salient features of the cloud connector are listed below:

• The Cloud Connector is a pure add-on appliance and doesn’t require any changes on the Horizon infrastructure.

• It pairs the Horizon infrastructure with Horizon Control Plane.

• It allows Horizon Control Plane to interact with the infrastructure using the Horizon APIs including the View APIs and the REST APIs.

• It provides a platform to run components as docker images so that optional cloud-based features can be enabled on the existing Horizon infrastructure.

• The lifecycle of the Cloud Connector itself can either be managed fully from the cloud or by the Horizon infrastructure administrator .

What does the Cloud Connector look like inside?

As specified above, the Cloud Connector is available as a virtual appliance that can be deployed on any vSphere-based infrastructure. What does the Cloud Connector actually contain? How does it provide connectivity?

Figure 2: Block design of the Horizon Cloud Connector

• The appliance uses the open source Photon Operating System. More information is available at https://vmware.github.io/photon/.

• On the appliance, we incorporate the Docker Container Platform.

• On the above platform, we ship the various modules as Docker images.

• Each module is registered as a service that can be controlled using the “systemctl” command. More information on how photon services work is available here.

• The modules provide the required features to pair the Cloud Connector with both the Horizon infrastructure and the Horizon Control Plane.

• One of the modules is a user interface module using which the above pairing and other management operations can be performed.

Next steps

This blog entry provides an introduction to cloud connectivity using the Cloud Connector and also looks at the internal architecture of the connector. The next steps are:

• Get started with the Cloud Connector by visiting the online page.

• Deploy the Cloud Connector appliance using vSphere/vCenter.

• Prepare for pairing the connector with the Horizon infrastructure and the Horizon Cloud Configuration Portal. This usually involves connectivity pre-checks and identifying the necessary proxy settings (if any).

• Performing the actual pairing and validations.

• Enabling auto update capabilities such that the Cloud Connector life cycle can be automatically managed from the cloud.