Configuring Universal Broker for Horizon

Horizon 7 on vSphere
Horizon 8 on vSphere

Purpose of this Guide

This guide explains the Universal Broker, a component of the Horizon Service, and how to start using it in your existing VMware Horizon® environment.

Horizon customers have been leveraging different methods to present a single UI to display all their user entitlements:

  • Single-pod brokering via a Connection Server or multiple connection servers.
  • Cloud Pod Architecture along with Global Assignments which are accessed either via the Horizon Client or the Web Client.
  • VMware Workspace ONE® Access™ through a web client or the Hub client.
  • A combination of the items in this list.

The introduction of Universal Broker enables a new, modern, cloud-based option to broker users to their entitlements. Depending on the configuration you already use, you may want to consider evolving your Horizon deployment to leverage the Universal Broker. This guide helps you understand the reasons for changing and the results of the changes.

If you are already a Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure customer, by default you can use Universal Broker. Universal Broker was enabled for all new customers of Horizon Cloud with Microsoft Azure staring with Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure 3.1 / Pod Manifest 2298 in July 2020.

Intended Audience

This guide is intended for IT administrators and product evaluators with existing Horizon environments. For example, Horizon administrators who are using the previously listed methods to present a single place to go to access desktop environments and Horizon administrators who are using Cloud Pod Architecture or perhaps have a single pod and are looking to expand it to a multiple pod configuration. Perhaps they have on-premises Horizon and want to try out Universal Broker without making significant changes to what they are doing today.

Familiarity with networking and storage in a virtual environment, Active Directory, identity management, and directory services is assumed. Knowledge of other technologies, such as cloud-based applications is useful.

What is a Connection Broker?

A broker is a component of a remote desktop solution that handles authentication, determines what assignments a user has, and presents them to the user. After the user selects a resource, the broker allocates and directs the user to that resource.

Horizon Connection Server or Horizon Cloud Pod Manager

Both the Horizon Connection Server and the Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure pod manager VM have brokering functionality built into each service respectively. Users can directly connect with either and get access to desktop or application resources. See Horizon Architecture Components for more details.

Horizon Components

Figure 1: Horizon Components

Cloud Pod Architecture

Cloud Pod Architecture is a brokering solution that can be used with Horizon 7 and Horizon 8 pods regardless of infrastructure type. Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA) introduces the concept of a global entitlement (GE) through joining multiple Horizon pods together into a federation. Pods can be in the same physical site or location or in different sites and locations. CPA allows a resource to span multiples sites for availability and load. The user sees a single global entitlement that points to federated pods. There is a global data layer that keeps the remote Horizon pods in sync. 

For more details, see Cloud Pod Architecture in the Horizon Reference Architecture.

Cloud Pod Architecture

Figure 2: Horizon Cloud Pod Architecture

One of the considerations when leveraging Cloud Pod Architecture is the potential for protocol traffic hair-pinning. See Protocol Traffic Hair-pinning for more information.

Horizon Universal Broker

The Horizon Universal Broker is a cloud-based brokering technology that allows you to broker desktops and applications to end users across all cloud-connected Horizon pods, regardless of the infrastructure that they run on. Users are presented with a single set of entitlements that can span multiple Horizon deployment types.

Figure 3: Universal Broker Architecture

The Universal Broker simplifies hybrid Horizon deployments with a few key features.

  • A single connection FQDN (fully qualified domain name) for all remote resources. Users can connect to a single FQDN to access any assignment in any Horizon pod.
  • The Universal Broker provides connectivity awareness of Horizon pods, which allows for redirection of requests for resources from an unavailable pod to another pod with sufficient resources to handle the request.
  • Smart Brokering functionality can deliver desktops from multi-cloud assignments to end users along the shortest network route.

The Universal Broker is aware of geographical locality and pod topology. Using this information, the Universal Broker can make better resource-matching decisions and deliver desktops from multi-cloud assignments to end users along the shortest network route.

See the Horizon Control Plane Services Architecture document for more details on Universal Broker.

Assign Resources with Universal Broker

Resources (Desktop and Published Applications) in Universal Broker are assigned to users with Multi-Cloud Assignments within the Horizon Cloud console. Multi-Cloud Assignments are managed within the Assign Desktops & Apps section of the Horizon Cloud Console. Cloud-connected Horizon 7 and Horizon 8 resources are assigned in the VDI & App Volumes section. After that is selected, select New | VMware SDDC to create assignments for Horizon 7 and Horizon 8 to be used with Universal Broker.

For more details, see VMware Horizon Cloud: Universal Broker and Multi-Cloud Assignments -Feature Walk-through.


image 106

Figure 4: Creating Assignments for Horizon 7 and Horizon 8 resources

Protocol Traffic with Universal Broker

Moving the brokering function from each individual pod to a broker that is aware of all deployments simplifies the network components of brokering. Universal Broker is a cloud-based brokering technology that has visibility into each Horizon pod and can make better brokering decisions based on that visibility. Instead of reaching out to a Unified Access Gateway to determine if the resource exists on a pod, the Universal Broker already knows which pod to direct the user to. 

Intelligent Brokering with Universal Broker

Universal Broker can make decisions on where to service user resource requests from using rules or policies built into Horizon components. Policies are configured with multi-cloud assignments. Metadata assigned to Horizon components helps Universal Broker make an intelligent decision on how best to broker a resource request to a user.

Example metadata:

  • Locations – Physical location setup to represent pods on the Dashboard map of the world.
  • Sites – Logical association for a group of pods to a physical location
  • Home Sites – Logical association for a group of users to a specific default site to be brokered resources from.

This metadata helps Universal Broker make decisions on where to broker a user request for a resource from. 

For example, suppose you want a user to access resources from their home site by default unless a specific location is not available because of an outage at a given site. You can configure a multi-cloud assignment to source resources from multiple pods, and then Universal Broker will automatically route a user from their home site to another site if the home site is unavailable. In addition, if the user is traveling and there is a closer pod available, Universal Broker will route the user to that pod.

How to start with Universal Broker?

There are two easy methods to try out Universal Broker that we cover in this section.

  1. Modify an existing Horizon pod to use Universal Broker.
    • Add a new pool or modify an existing pool.
  2. Add a new pod and configure it to use Universal Broker.

After you have decided on which method is right for you, then you need to follow the prerequisites, implement the Horizon Connector to gain access to the Horizon Service, and implement the Universal Broker for the desired Horizon environment.

Modify an Existing Horizon Pod

Implementing Universal Broker is non-destructive with your Horizon deployment. Multiple production Horizon pods set up with either Single-Pod brokering or Cloud Pod Architecture can be used to try out Universal Broker. To do this, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

  1. Existing users with existing entitlements can continue to use Horizon as before. The URL that is used to access the pod or the CPA assignments will continue to work even with the additional configuration of Universal Broker. Trial or test users can additionally use the URL associated with Universal Broker to access cloud-managed assignments as well (see point 2).
  2. The Universal Broker can only leverage cloud-managed assignments. Local entitlements are created in each respective Horizon pod tied to the multi-cloud assignment automatically but can only be managed from the Horizon Universal Console instead of the Horizon Console. For users that will trial Universal Broker, you must modify existing pools or create new local pools of infrastructure to entitle those users to. Follow the steps outlined in the product documentation to create new local pools, modify existing pools for existing infrastructure, and manage new cloud-based multi-cloud assignments tied to those pools. 

Set up a New Horizon Pod

Set up a separate Horizon pod that is cloud-connected and managed by Universal Broker. You can leverage the Quick-Start Tutorial for VMware Horizon 8 to help you set up and configure a new Horizon Pod for testing purposes. The Horizon Universal License allows you to implement as many Horizon pods as you want.

After you have set up a separate pod, you will need to create or import an image or images from another Horizon pod and use them to create VDI pools. Details on creating pools for VDI can be found in the Horizon 8 product documentation. After you create the pools in Horizon, you need to create a Multi-Cloud Assignment, to allow Horizon 7 and Horizon 8 users to access the resources through Universal Broker.

You can also create farms to host application entitlements. Unlike VDI assignments which can leverage pools of resources from multiple Horizon pods, application or shared desktop entitlements are single-pod only through the multi-cloud assignments. This feature must be enabled on the Horizon Control Plane before it can be used. When the feature is enabled, a Cloud Brokered option will be available in the settings for RDS desktop and application pools.

Graphical user interface, text, application</p>
<p>Description automatically generated

Figure 5: Requirements for Cloud Enabling an existing Horizon 8 Pool

Entitlement Prerequisites

To gain access to the Horizon Service, you must already be entitled via a Horizon subscription license. You cannot take advantage of the Horizon Service with the perpetual keys that may be in use from an existing Horizon environment. 

For details about our subscription offerings, review the VMware Horizon Subscription Feature Comparison guide. If you are not ready to purchase a subscription that entitles to the Horizon Service but still want to try it out, you can sign up for a trial.

Connect to Horizon Service and Domain Join

Before you can set up separate authentication configurations with Universal Broker, you must first connect to Horizon Cloud Services and join the domain.

To use Universal Broker, you must use the Horizon Service, and the pods must be “managed” by the Horizon Service.

For Horizon 7 or Horizon 8 pods, review the following topics in the Getting Started with VMware Horizon Service guide:

  • Adding a Cloud Connector to Horizon 8 Pod
  • First Login to Horizon Service
  • Adding a Pod to Horizon Service
  • Domain Join

Using Universal Broker with Horizon

The Universal Broker is a component of the Horizon Service. For an overview of Universal Broker and how it works, review the Horizon Control Plane Services Architecture guide. To use Universal Broker, you need to have a few critical environmental components prepared.

Universal Broker with Horizon in SDDC capacity or in a Private Data Center

First, you need to have the pods configured to use the Horizon Service. For Horizon deployments in an SDDC-based infrastructure or a private data center (running vSphere), you need to set up and configure a Horizon Connector Appliance. Each pod using Universal Broker must be “managed”. Currently, Universal Broker has been tested and certified to run in a private data center (vSphere), Azure VMware Solution, and VMware Cloud on AWS. 

Universal Broker is also certified and configured as the default broker for all Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure deployments.

The Horizon Service and Universal Broker use the Horizon Connector to communicate with each managed pod to match users to entitlements and to monitor capacity and availability of each pod. 

You must also install the Universal Broker plugin that runs within the Connection Server for every cloud-connected pod that participates in multi-cloud assignments. You must download and install the plugin on each Connection Server instance within a participating pod, as described in Horizon Pods - Install the Universal Broker Plugin on the Connection Server.

You can find complete details about connecting a Horizon pod to the Horizon Service on the Horizon Service Journey Page.

Set up Universal Broker from the Horizon Universal Console

Details, including a complete set of prerequisites and instructions for setting up and configuring to use Universal Broker, are found in Setting Up a Broker in the Horizon Service documentation. 

For a demonstration of a Universal Broker configuration, review the Two-factor Setup with Universal Broker - Basic video.

Select a Brokering Method

Your Horizon pod is now connected to the Horizon Service. Next, you can choose a brokering method.

Figure 6: Selecting a brokering method in Universal Broker

For details, see Select a Connection Broker for End User Assignments. There are several components to help you make this decision. After you have selected Universal Broker, then you can leverage it and multi-cloud assignments for your Horizon environment.

Note: If you are using Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure, you must choose either Single-Pod brokering or Universal Broker before creating assignments. This choice is made at the Horizon Service level and will impact all Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure Pods included in each Horizon Service account.

Single-Pod Broker

The single-pod broker is used for island configurations, distributed and localized users, and is supported on all Horizon deployments.

If you use a single-pod broker, you don’t have anything else to do. You may have chosen to use CPA, which also works with Single-Pod Broker on Horizon deployments.

<p>Description automatically generated

Figure 7: User Traffic flow for Single-Pod Broker configurations

Set up Cloud Pod Architecture

Setting up Cloud Pod Architecture is fully covered in the product documentation. See Administering Cloud Pod Architecture in Horizon for full details.

Horizon Universal Broker Initial Configuration

The following steps detail how to set up Horizon Universal Broker for on-premises Horizon environments.


There are several prerequisites to configure the Horizon Universal Broker for it to operate properly. Some critical prerequisites are listed in this section. 

You should double-check to make sure that the Horizon Cloud Connector appliance is compatible with each of the Horizon pods you want to leverage with Universal Broker. You can find a list of compatible versions at the VMware Interoperability Checker site. You should use the most recent / supported Horizon Connector version match for your pod deployment, as it will have the most up-to-date feature enhancements.

For a complete and up-to-date list of prerequisites, review and follow System Requirements for Universal Broker in the VMware Horizon Cloud Service Product Documentation. 

Install the Universal Broker Plugin to Horizon Pods

Make sure that the Universal Broker Plug-in is installed on each Connection Server. You should always update the Universal Broker Plug-in to match the release version of your Horizon Connection Server(s).

Configure Unified Access Gateways Tied to Horizon Pod

There are multiple ways to enable external access for your Horizon pods. You can find details on recommended configurations in the Horizon Architecture.  

If you are using Unified Access Gateway, follow the procedure outlined in Horizon Pods - Configure Unified Access Gateway for Use with Universal Broker to configure the JSON Web Token settings in each Unified Access Gateway instance to support the tunnel server and protocol redirection required by Universal Broker. 

Configure Sites for your Horizon Pods

A site is a collection of cloud-connected pods in the same physical location, typically in a single data center. 

You can use sites to help the Universal Broker service determine how best to broker remote resources to your end users. For more details, see Working with Sites in a Universal Broker Environment.

Each pod must be associated with a site before it can participate in multi-cloud assignments brokered by Universal Broker. When you select Universal Broker as the brokering method for your Horizon Cloud pods in Microsoft Azure, it creates a default site called Default-Site. Participating Horizon Cloud pods in Microsoft Azure are automatically added to the Default-Site. Later, you can configure new sites and move pods from the Default-Site to a configured site. 

You can use the Sites tab on the Capacity page to configure sites for Universal Broker. When you change a Horizon pod on a VMware SDDC-based platform from monitored to managed state, you are prompted to associate the pod with a new or existing site. For more details, see Configuring Sites in Universal Broker.

Configure Home Sites for your Users

You can also associate a user or a group of users with a specific site, called a home site. Home sites are the default site selected for each user or group of users that Universal Broker will try to service resource requests from. For more details, see Configuring Home Sites for Universal Broker

Sites can serve as a useful part of a disaster recovery solution. For example, you can add pods in different data centers to different sites and entitle users and groups to an assignment that spans those sites. If a data center in one site becomes unavailable, Universal Broker can identify desktops from an available site to fulfill user requests.

Set up Horizon Pods to be Managed

After you have set up and configured all the necessary prerequisites, you can select which Horizon pods you want to be managed by Universal Broker. Setting a pod to be Managed enables you to leverage more capabilities of the Horizon Control Plane Services, including Universal Broker and Multi-Cloud Assignments.

To change the pod to a Managed pod, see the instructions in Horizon Cloud - Change a Cloud-Connected Horizon Pod to Managed State.

Multi-Pod Entitlements

There are multiple ways to entitle users to resources from different Horizon pods. 

Multi-Cloud Entitlements are a feature in Horizon Service that allow you to entitle users to resources across multiple pods residing on the same infrastructure type. 

For example, you can set up an entitlement for users to leverage resources from multiple Horizon 7 or Horizon 8 pods. However, you cannot currently entitle users for cross-platform entitlements combining Horizon 7 or 8 and Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure pods in a single entitlement.

Multi-cloud assignments do not require multiple pods to work. You can set up a multi-cloud assignment to only leverage a single pod for capacity.

Remember, you cannot entitle users to resources from both Horizon and Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure in the same entitlement.

Global Entitlements for Horizon 7 and Horizon 8

Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA) introduces the concept of a global entitlement (GE) through joining multiple Horizon pods together into a federation. Pods can be in the same physical site or location or in different sites and locations. Global Entitlements allow you to provide users and groups with a global entitlement that can contain desktop pools or RDSH-published applications from multiple different pods that are members of this federation construct.

You can find more details on the use of Global Entitlements and Cloud Pod Architecture, in the Horizon Architecture document on Tech Zone.

Configure Horizon Pods to use Multi-Cloud Assignments

There are several steps you must complete to prepare your environment to use multi-cloud assignments. See Creating and Managing Multi-Cloud Assignments in Your Horizon Cloud Tenant Environment for details.

Multi-Pod Assignments with Horizon on vSphere-based Infrastructures

If you are going to leverage Universal Broker and multi-cloud assignments to provide end users with virtual desktops provisioned by cloud-connected Horizon pods, even from different, vSphere-based, cloud infrastructures, you create a multi-cloud assignment. Assignments created with the Horizon Universal Broker can be configured to leverage capacity from multiple pods to match resources to users. The desktop pools in an assignment can span one or more cloud-connected Horizon pods that are in a managed state. 

For a short demonstration of creating a multi-cloud assignment that spans two Horizon Pods, see Multi-Cloud-Assignment - Basic.

For step-by-step instructions, see Horizon Pods - Create a Multi-Cloud Assignment of VDI Desktops.

Multi-Pod Assignments with Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure

After Universal Broker is enabled for your Horizon Service account, all Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure pods, and only Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure pods, can create multi-cloud assignments that leverage capacity from multiple Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure pods.

Detailed instructions for creating multi-cloud assignments with Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure can be found in Horizon Cloud Pods in Microsoft Azure - Create a VDI Multi-Cloud Assignment in Your Horizon Cloud Tenant Environment.

Summary and Additional Resources

This guide covered the Universal Broker, a component of the Horizon Service, and how to start using it in your existing Horizon environment.

Additional Resources

For more resources, visit Digital Workspace Tech Zone, your fastest path to understanding, evaluating, and deploying VMware EUC products.


The following updates were made to this guide.


Description of Changes


  • Initial publication

About the Author and Contributors

This document was written by:

  • Chris Halstead, Senior Staff Architect, End-User Computing, VMware
  • Rick Terlep, Staff Technical Marketing Architect, End-User Computing, VMware
  • Hilko Lantinga, Staff Technical Marketing Architect, End-User Computing, VMware
  • Jim Yanik, Director, End-User-Computing Technical Marketing, VMware

To comment on this paper, contact VMware End-User-Computing Technical Marketing at

Filter Tags

Horizon Horizon Document Deployment Considerations Intermediate Design Deploy