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VMware says its Horizon 8 release gives IT teams more tools to manage virtual desktop infrastructure with expanded options for cloud deployment and new RESTful APIs. The new features, introduced on Thursday, reflect the all-remote reality of the coronavirus pandemic and challenges that come with it. VMware is also developing services to help companies reopen office spaces, if and when that time comes.

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Horizon 8 is designed to put more management tools for the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in one place and to make it easier to scale VDI deployments, VMware said. The new features include:

  • Expanded hybrid and multicloud deployment options: Customers can use the cloud or clouds of their choice to deliver VDI and application capabilities on managed infrastructure, with support for VMware Horizon on Google Cloud VMware Engine and VMware Horizon on VMware Cloud on Dell EMC available now and support for VMware Horizon on Azure VMware Solution (AVS) expected to be available upon general availability of that service.
  • New instant clone capabilities: Instant Clone Smart Provisioning allows the direct provisioning of instant clones without requiring a parent VM; two other new features are dynamic pool expansion and elastic distributed resource scheduler (DRS).
  • VMware Horizon REST APIs: New RESTful APIs help automate monitoring, entitlements, and user and machine management.
  • Unified communications and collaboration support: VMware Horizon now offers an optimized experience for Microsoft Teams video and audio, in addition to Zoom and Cisco Webex, for a better user experience from virtual desktops.
  • Linux-hosted applications: Linux applications can now be published directly from a Linux server in the VMware Horizon platform, helping reduce costs associated with licenses from other operating system platforms.

VMware Horizon 8 lets IT teams use the same control plane to deploy and manage hybrid environments that extend to VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure. VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure supports the features of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop, including Windows 10 Enterprise multisession, and recently added support for VMware App Volumes.

Shannon Kalvar, IT service management and client virtualization for IDC, in the IDC MarketScape “Worldwide Virtual Client Computing 2019–2020 Vendor Assessment,” wrote about VMWare that “Unifying physical device management (including PCs, Chromebooks, and phones), digital workspace creation/operations, and client workspace security into the overall platform is an attractive proposition for customers that are already invested in it.”

The new Horizon 8 features will be available by the end of October 2020.

Monitoring health and safety at the office

VMware says its new Workspace ONE Proximity and Workspace ONE Campus apps in the Workspace ONE platform will help office managers and HR professionals meet the requirements that the coronavirus pandemic has created. The Proximity app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to monitor how people interact at the office to support contact tracing and social distancing. The Campus app uses the same beacon infrastructure to allow people to reserve meeting rooms and desks. The services are in beta now and VMware is testing them internally as employees return to work at corporate offices. VMware has not announced a release date for these apps.