Enterprise IT admins in search of a secure, reliable mobile management tool may find it in Horizon Workspace -- if they're willing to go 'all-in' with VMware.
VMware Inc.'s Horizon Workspace will provide users a central location to access their virtual desktops, data and apps. It also offers IT a single-server back end and admin console to manage it all.
Some consider the VMware Horizon Suite a sign that enterprise mobile management is no longer going to be a unique silo within organizations. Soon, management systems will extend from desktops and applications to mobile devices and bring your own device programs, said Chris Silva, a mobile analyst at the Altimeter Group, a research firm based in San Mateo, Calif.
More than that, however, Horizon Workspace signals that traditional desktops are being reimagined in the era of consumerization, Silva said.
"VMware wants to be the middle layer between whatever device and applications people end up using at work and the management and delivery of those services," said Benjamin Robbins, a principal at Palador Inc., an enterprise mobility consulting firm based in Seattle.
"Devices are always evolving," he added. "VMware is trying to remove the device from the management picture."
While the Horizon Workspace sounds promising, there is a catch: it is only for homogeneous VMware shops.
Organizations need VMware servers or appliances on the back end, they need View for virtual desktops, plus a few other VMware tools just to deliver Horizon Workspace, said Matt Kosht, an IT manager at a Michigan utility company.
The utility company uses VMware for its servers, Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenApp for delivering applications, and a product from Cisco Systems Inc. for doing light mobile management, he said
"We use different tools because we want the best tool for managing those various pieces," he added. "Suites are appealing to a degree, but the trade-off is agility. If I need a better mobile management tool, I just have to swap out that one tool instead of my entire infrastructure."
Once an IT department goes all-in with its mobile management tools they are at the mercy of that vendor from both a licensing and services perspective, Kosht reasoned.
Another potential problem is the initial reliance on HTML5 to deliver and access Horizon Workspace without a native View client. VMware has limited AppBlast to only 100 simultaneous connections to Web clients, said Dan Brinkmann, a vExpert and solutions architect based in Denver.
"The user experience is much more degraded than using a native View client and you might as well encourage people to not use the HTML5 app if you limit it to a hundred user connections," Brinkmann added.
Horizon Workspace: One piece of the puzzle
Workspace is just one part of VMware's end-user computing plans, which now include View and Mirage under the Horizon Suite banner. The three components can still be licensed separately, but will cost significantly less if licensed together.
Horizon Workspace requires View 5.2, the upcoming version of the virtual desktop tool, to be delivered to endpoint devices. For devices without a native View client, such as a Windows RT tablet, View 5.2 relies on AppBlast's HTML5 rendering ability to deliver Workspace through a modern browser.
"Windows applications aren't going away," said Ben Goodman, VMware's end-user computing evangelist. "The goal is to blur the line between these new computing and application environments and have a consistent user experience, while also providing the management and control IT needs."
To that end, legacy applications can be published via the corporate app catalogue using ThinApp. View now integrates with AppShift, which turns Windows legacy applications into a touch-friendly mobile interface in real-time via the Windows application program interface. Security Assertion Markup Language compatibility was added so Software as a Service apps can be aggregated within the Horizon Workspace portal and accessed via single-sign-on using Active Directory credentials.
Further, IT can set granular management policies for specific user access. "We really think the management and app brokering aspects of the Horizon Suite will offer IT and users something compelling," said Goodman.
Workspace costs $150 per user, per year, View costs $250 per concurrent user, per year, and the entire Horizon Suite costs $300 per user, per year. That pricing by VMware could drive adoption of the entire suite for shops already heavily invested in VMware, said Gunnar Berger, an analyst at Gartner, Inc., a research firm based in Stamford, Conn.
"If I'm a View shop without a Dropbox or mobile management tool in place, paying that extra $50 per year is probably worth it," he said. "How an organization gets its data synced across different devices is a real problem."
Where is Horizon Mobile?
VMware has previously announced plans to offer Horizon Mobile, a type-2 hypervisor for Android phones and a secured container for iPhones to deliver enterprise applications on mobile devices. The idea is to provide a dual container product on mobile devices that keeps email, contacts, calendar and enterprise apps separate from the personal apps.
Unfortunately, those pieces won't be released this time around, but could be delivered by the end of 2013, Goodman said. Whenever Horizon Mobile is released, the mobile server will be fully integrated into the Workspace backend and management console.
VMware could release its iOS container now, but awaits the cell phone carriers to finish its piece of the Android puzzle. Verizon was announced as an initial Android mobile virtualization partner.
The company wants to wait to deliver Horizon Mobile for all platforms at the same time, Goodman said.