What Is VMware Horizon?


Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever before. They need to be productive from their computers, tablets, and smartphones. That’s why many have deployed VMware Horizon, to allow IT departments to run virtual desktops and applications on-premises or cloud and remotely deliver these desktops and applications.

End-users can access their personalized virtual desktops or applications from company laptops, their home PCs, thin client devices, Macs, tablets, or smartphones. And IT can keep corporate data compliant and secure by keeping virtual desktops and apps on-premises or in a private or public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure, VMware Cloud™ on AWS, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, or other partner clouds. For IT that means that you can simplify management and control costs, while your end users get a great experience working anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

This introductory demo tells you more about how VMware Horizon can help you.

What are the key features of VMware Horizon?

So, what’s under the hood? You will find features that benefit both IT admins and end users.

Features that benefit IT admins

As an IT admin, you will find these features save time and costs, while supporting security and ease of management:

VMware Horizon offers virtual desktop and app management and monitoring for on-prem, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments.
  • Streamlined image management
    You can cut both time and costs of creating and maintaining virtual desktop and application images by centrally managing and distributing desktop images across Horizon environments, on-premises and in the cloud. Easily orchestrate updates or image roll-backs, track changes of images, and automate the replication of an image to multiple locations.
  • Application management
    You can simplify application delivery by packaging each app once and deploying it across multiple Horizon environments, both on-premises and in the cloud. You can reduce image count, maintenance and complexity of application packaging by managing applications separately from the image.
  • Centralized monitoring
    You can use a single user interface to reduce downtime with real-time health monitoring of the user session, virtual desktops, and apps across multiple Horizon environments, both on-premises and in the cloud. You can leverage a help desk service to quickly troubleshoot user sessions with detailed metrics.
  • Flexible hybrid and multi-cloud deployment options
    You can deploy and manage desktops and apps on-premises or in the public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure, VMware Cloud™ on AWS, Google Cloud, and IBM, and other partner clouds.
  • Multi-OS support for deployment of virtual desktops and hosted apps
    With Horizon, you can quickly deliver Windows and Linux resources at scale across multiple data centers. You can publish apps from Windows and Linux servers, or Windows desktops.
  • User-specific settings and smart policy options
    You can set policies to control what each user group can access, based on the user’s role, device, or location. With VMware Dynamic Environment Manager™, you can configure user-specific Windows desktop and application settings that are applied in the context of the client device, location, or other conditions. Policies are enforced when a triggering event occurs, such as logging in, launching an app, reconnecting, and so on. You can also configure options such as folder redirection for storing personal user data, including documents, pictures, and more.

Features that benefit end users

Your end users will find these features improve experience, provide consistency, and support ease of use:

  • Easy access from any device
    The software client app—VMware Horizon Client™—is available on your device of choice. To access your virtual desktops and applications, you can connect to your VM from a Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Chromebook, or Android device. Or you can use a web browser as an HTML client. Horizon Clients can be downloaded from my.vmware.com.

    VMware Horizon supports delivery of virtual desktops and apps on a variety of browsers and platforms.
  • Improved user experience
    When you deliver Windows as a service, and automate the delivery of resources, desktops, and apps each user gets, your users get a smooth, consistent experience. No matter what device they log in from, each user sees only what is assigned to them and nothing else. They have everything at their fingertips, all of the virtual desktops and apps they need to do their job.
  • Optimized experience with unified communication and collaboration
    You can achieve a better user experience and increase productivity with optimized audio and video support for Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco WebEx, and other communication and collaboration tools. Session collaboration allows multiple users to view and modify the same desktop in real time.
  • Streamlined access
    You can simplify the login process with the Single-Sign-On option, a feature of Horizon. Your end users log in only once, and get access to all the desktops and apps they need to do their jobs. No need to log in separately to each virtual desktop or app.
  • High-definition, graphically intensive display options
    You can deliver an immersive, feature-rich user experience with the Blast Extreme display protocol, a key component of Horizon. The Blast display protocol allows you to deliver rich 2D and 3D graphics and responsive, high-fidelity displays to your end users. You can integrate Horizon with NVIDIA, Intel, and AMD for even more high-end graphics and multimedia.

What is the architecture of VMware Horizon?

Now that you know what’s under the hood, let’s see how it works.

First of all, Horizon comes in a variety of flavors: on-premises, in the cloud, or as combination hybrid and multi-cloud architectures. The cloud version, Horizon Cloud, delivers the same services as the on-premises Horizon, but uses a slightly different architecture.

What are the key architectural components?

Let’s take a look at a hybrid or multi-cloud architecture, since it is a combination of both cloud and on-premises deployments so you can see both.

VMware Horizon uses a number of interactive components to deliver virtual desktops and apps across multiple platforms.


The Horizon architecture is made up of the following components:

  • VMware Horizon Console
    The UI that puts you in the driver’s seat, where you can configure the server, deploy and manage desktops, control user authentication, initiate and examine system and user events, deliver support to end users, and perform analytic activities.
  • VMware Horizon Client
    The software client app that allows your end users to connect to their VM from a device of choice, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome, and Android. Horizon Clients can be downloaded from my.vmware.com. Alternatively, you can use a web browser as an HTML client.
  • VMware Horizon Control Plane
    Unifies and simplifies management across pods (multiple instances of Horizon configured for the cloud), providing monitoring and management of images, applications, and lifecycles.
  • VMware Unified Access Gateway
    Provides secure remote access to Horizon for users who are outside the corporate network to access their virtual desktops and published applications, without using a VPN. For more information, see Introduction to Unified Access Gateway.
  • Horizon Connection Servers
    Authenticates end users through Active Directory and securely connects them to the Horizon Agent, which has been installed in the desktops and RDS Hosts. Manages sessions between users and their virtual desktops or published applications. These published applications are hosted on Microsoft Windows Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) virtual machines (VMs). The Connection Server also includes the instant-clone engine, which provides single-image management with automation capabilities.
  • Horizon Cloud Connector
    The Horizon Cloud Connector is an appliance that connects your Horizon 7 or Horizon 8 implementations to the Horizon Cloud Service. VMware Horizon can be delivered on-premises, or on a variety of public clouds built on both VMware vCloud Foundation and cloud-native platforms. For high availability and disaster recovery purposes, you can also take a hybrid approach and deploy on both on-premises and public cloud, and join the two.
  • VMware Horizon Agent
    Allows the VM to be managed by Connection Servers, and allows a Horizon Client to form a protocol session to the VM. VMs can be virtual desktops, Remote Desktop Session Hosts (RDS Host), physical desktops, or PCs.
  • VMware Workspace ONE® Access
    An identity and access management solution that is included with Horizon, and provides your end users with an app catalog to access Horizon desktops and apps, web apps, and SaaS apps through a browser. It is included with all versions of Horizon as either a VMware-managed SaaS solution or a user-managed, on-premises deployment.
  • RDSH servers
    Remote Desktop Session Host server farms and virtual desktop pools that are created from the golden image to provide published applications and session-based remote desktops to your end users.
  • VMware vSphere®
    The hypervisor that hosts the components of your Horizon architecture, including the server VMs, desktop VMs, RDSH server VMs, and so on.

5 key points

Watch this video to hear our Horizon Experts talk about the top 5 things you should know about how Horizon helps you.


Learn more

One of the fastest ways to learn about Horizon is to check out the following activity path:

You’ll also find a wealth of Horizon-related information on Tech Zone and VMware Docs, including:

Learn more about other VMware projects

If you are interested in other VMware projects, see the following introductions:




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