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VMware Horizon Employee Experience

Boost video and graphics delivery in Horizon with VMware Blast and AV1 enabled on Intel GPUs

One of the biggest challenges of delivering virtual desktops and apps is creating a parity of experience for end users who are using a virtual desktop versus a physical one. Providing a high-quality experience is paramount because it leads to higher employee engagement and adoption, as well as long-term benefits of talent retention and acquisition. Thus, it is very important to deliver a satisfying and rewarding virtual desktop and app experience. 

The underlying remote display protocol of virtual desktops and apps is the crux of how to deliver a great user experience or, for a less robust solution, a poor one. The protocol manages how displays are delivered and controls the elements of data compression, network bandwidth, and frame delivery. The more robust the solution, the better your virtual experience.  

VMware Horizon uses the Blast Extreme display protocol, built by VMware, to deliver an immersive, feature-rich experience for end users across devices, locations, media, and network connections. Over the years VMware has continued to improve Blast, from introducing the homegrown Blast Codec to delivering High Dynamic Range (HDR) encoding. There’s even a DIY protocol tuning feature that provides excellent video and graphics while consuming much less bandwidth, vastly improving the end-user experience. Recently, we added several enhancements, including a single buffer capture path and a new CPU controller, to optimize protocol performance, making Blast Extreme one of the top-performing display protocols in the market.  

For organizations that work with high-end or 3D graphics and require powerful GPU processing, Horizon with Blast Extreme offers a cost-effective alternative to arming each end user with a GPU-enabled workstation. You can deliver a virtual GPU-powered workstation that offers the same experience as a local one. With a GPU-backed virtual machine (VM), end users have a rich media experience and improved performance with reduced latency, more consistent frames per second, lower CPU utilization, flexibility, and improved ROI and cost savings when using Horizon-based virtual desktops.  

The other factor that plays a role in ensuring the delivery of high-quality video and graphics with GPU-backed VMs is the codec — and how it engages with the GPU. One of the newest codecs available is AOMedia Video 1 (AV1). AV1 is only available when connecting to GPU-backed agent VMs, and it provides significantly higher compression efficiency than all multimedia codecs. The expectation is that AV1 GPU decode acceleration will continue to grow in popularity because it’s a free standard that delivers high-quality video with network savings.  

And now VMware is excited to announce that — in collaboration with Intel — we are providing media acceleration via AV1 encoding and decoding on Intel® Arc Graphics and Intel® Data Center GPU Flex Series optimized by the Intel® oneAPI Video Processing Library (oneVPL). Enabled through oneVPL, Blast will deliver fast hardware encoding and decoding on Intel GPUs using the AV1 codec. This next-gen multimedia codec offers more compression efficiency that uses less bandwidth for unprecedented performance gains. Blast also supports Intel GPUs (integrated and discrete), providing more choice, flexibility, and cost options on an open platform for customers. This open platform does not require virtualization license server setup, licensing costs, or ongoing support costs.  

For Horizon customers, adding this capability to Intel GPUs provides more choice for customers using GPUs in a virtual environment. “Our work with VMware to enable new, more powerful experiences for their customers demonstrates the momentum we are seeing for Intel GPU products. VMware’s latest support for AV1 encoding and decoding shows the value of building solutions on an open, standards-based software stack that provides more competitive solutions in the market. We look forward to further collaboration with VMware as our GPU products increase their footprint in data centers and enterprise deployments,” says Jeff McVeigh, Intel corporate vice president and interim general manager, Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics. 

VMware is pleased to be one of the first to market offering end-to-end AV1 support, both encoding and decoding on Intel GPUs and upleveling the end-user virtual desktop experience.  

Here are useful links to get you started: 

  • Systems featuring Flex Series GPUs will be available from providers including Cisco, Dell Technologies, H3C, HPE, Inspur, Lenovo, Nettrix, PowerLeader, Supermicro, and xFusion.