What is the Horizon Cloud Connector and why is it so important?

July 22, 2021

The Horizon Cloud Connector is an appliance that connects your Horizon 7 or Horizon 8 implementations to the Horizon Cloud Service, but before we get into the details, let me give you a little backstory.

For many years now, VMware Horizon has helped organizations simplify and centralize their desktop delivery. In recent years, Horizon has matured as a platform to address almost every conceivable use case, and for many people, it was instrumental in enabling us to work from home during the worldwide pandemic.

As more people look to adopt cloud-first strategies or begin this journey with a hybrid cloud approach, Horizon has also stepped up to help meet these needs. VMware Horizon can now be delivered on-premises, or on a variety of public clouds built on both VMware vCloud Foundation and cloud-native platforms. For those of you wanting a hybrid approach, VMware Horizon even allows you to deploy on-premises and public cloud and join the two up for high availability and disaster recovery purposes.

The ‘Single pane of glass’

As your virtual application and desktop services become more dispersed across multiple clouds, locations, or even continents around the world, this adds complexity in the form of multiple management points to your solution. So, you need a single pane of glass that brings visibility and management of the overall solution regardless of where its various parts reside. Using this single pane of glass to manage and orchestrate everything, you can quickly identify and resolve issues, perform management tasks, and deploy new services—all from one administrative interface. This single management pane is called the Horizon Cloud Control Plane, which joins all the different Horizon deployments and services in a single web interface. It is included with subscriptions to the Horizon Universal service, which is a Horizon license that gives you the freedom to relocate and move around your Horizon desktops and apps when they require it.

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Subscription validation

Another trend has been the change in how services are purchased; subscriptions are rapidly becoming the norm for IT services. No longer do you have to pay large lump sums upfront for licenses, which then lock them into using the product for an extended period. Instead, you simply subscribe to the service for as long as you want. This means you can pay per user on the platform, and you can scale up and down if required.

Unlike a traditional perpetual license key that you own and can use indefinitely (providing you have active support), a subscription is active for a defined period, and like any subscription, after it expires, the service is restricted or stops working. For example, if you stopped your Netflix subscription, you wouldn’t be able to continue streaming media. VMware Horizon subscriptions work in a similar way. However, to avoid unintentional interruption of service, a 30-day grace period is permitted. During this grace period, alerts of differing severity will be surfaced in the different consoles telling you that service is at risk if the subscription issue is not resolved. Details of these alerts and where you can see them can be found here.

So, as VMware Horizon switches to a subscription model, your license validates that you are operating the services against an active subscription.

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Horizon 8 Connection Server showing it is successfully connected to the license server using the Horizon Cloud Connector:

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Horizon Cloud Control Plane showing Horizon Cloud connector is connected:

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Horizon Cloud Connector status page, showing all required services working as expected.

The Horizon Cloud Connector

If you want to use the Horizon Cloud Control Plane to see what is going on inside your Horizon environment and perform actions remotely, there needs to be some mechanism to allow this to happen. After all, the Horizon Cloud Control Plane is a SaaS-based web service. It has no access to Horizon environments that are secured from external management.

Also there needs to be a mechanism to monitor the environment and ensure there is an active subscription. These two requirements are where the Horizon Cloud Connector comes in.

The Cloud Connetor acts as a proxy between the Horizon service and the distributed Horizon environments, plus it checks at regular intervals to verify that you have an active subscription.

Is the Horizon Cloud Connector critical?

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Yes. The importance of the Horizon Cloud Connector should not be underestimated. If the Connector is down, that can impact service, depending on the functionality used.

First, If you are using the Connector only to validate a subscription, it is possible that it could go offline for a period of time without affecting the service. However, if a period of downtime is extended, alerts are displayed in the consoles to notify you that action is required. You can find additional details in the Horizon Cloud Connector Know-How Series.

Second, if you are using management features such as desktop assignments or the image management service, these will stop working as soon as the Connector goes offline, because the Horizon Service will lose connection with the Horizon environment.

Third, the biggest impact will be if you are using the Universal Broker. As soon as the Cloud Connector goes down, users are no longer be able to sign in to the service.

So, it’s critically important that all VMware best practices be followed when deploying and maintaining the Horizon Cloud Connector.

Updating of the Horizon Cloud Connector

As a bridge between the Horizon Connection Server and the Horizon Control Plane, the Cloud Connector is essential. It is important to keep it enabled and upgraded for rapid delivery of periodic updates and the latest Horizon Cloud features. And with the auto-upgrade option, maintenance is hands-free. When you deploy it, you specify a spare IP address, and the service is then able to perform a blue/green upgrade without affecting service.

 

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For further details on the auto-upgrade process, see Horizon Cloud Connector Know-How Series: Auto-Upgrade.

Performing a manual upgrade is an option, but depending on its use, this could impact service during the upgrade process. For more information, see Manually Update the Horizon Cloud Connector Virtual Appliance.

How do I set up the Horizon Cloud Connector?

There are several steps involved in deploying the Horizon Cloud Connector.

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The following video shows the deployment and pairing of the Horizon Cloud Connector with the Horizon service:

 

The following video shows how to replace the Horizon Cloud Connector self-signed certificates with CA-signed versions:

 

 

In conclusion, I hope you found this information about setting up, updating, and using the Horizon Cloud Connector to be useful. Keep an eye out for the latest new features in the next release, which is coming soon. Above all, remember that to get the latest features and updates, keep your Horizon Cloud Connector enabled and upgraded.

 

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Darren Hirons

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Darren has over 25 years of experience in IT and is knowledgeable in all VMware EUC technologies. In his role as a Solutions Engineer, he helps customers solve business challenges by utilizing and architecting VMware technologies.