VMware Horizon Virtual Desktop Session Collaboration

One of the biggest enhancements to the features of VMware Horizon Enterprise for quite a while has arrived with the version 7.4 release – Session Collaboration.

This feature allows a user to share their VDI or RDS desktop with upto 5 other users for the purposes of collaboration as opposed to serving a support function. Invites can be sent to colleagues via email, skype or by sharing a link with other users.

One place I expect the session collaboration feature to be especially useful is in high-end graphics scenarios - where multiple designers may wish to review an individual design together and make changes in real-time with the ability of the initial desktop owner being able to specify who is in control of the desktop at any given moment.

I must add that it’s not without limitations - but I don’t see these as being hugely limiting in comparison to the benefits that collaborative working offers, I’ve summarised the limits below for information:

  • Only a single monitor can be used for collaboration, the person initiating the collaborative working can still have more than one - but only one can be shared for the purposes of collaboration
  • Only virtual desktops support collaboration, published applications cannot be collaborated on – currently but my sources indicate this is likely to be a future capability which would extend the collaboration benefits even further and to more use cases.
  • H.264 encoding is not currently supported which may hamper outstanding performance when working collaboratively on graphical VDI workloads - but this functionality is expected to be added in future versions.
  • VMware Blast is the only protocol currently that supports Session Collaboration - which could limit older ThinClient users from taking advantage of the feature or mean they have to use a HTML browser rather than a the PCoIP Horizon Client but for newer devices supporting Blast it won’t be an issue.
  • Collaboration is currently only possible between named users with named users – anonymous collaboration is not possible – again this may be something we see in the future.

There are also some limitations with regards to the Horizon Features that are currently supported under Session Collaboration that you should be aware of - predominantly features that normally work on a 1-1 Client-VDI basis and most wouldn’t be practical or useful in a collaboration session scenario:

  • Linux desktops and published applications.
  • USB Redirection
  • RTAV – Real-time Audio Video
  • MMR – Multimedia redirection
  • Client-drive redirection
  • Smart-card redirection
  • Virtual Printing
  • Microsoft Lync redirection
  • File redirection and Keep in Dock functionality
  • Clipboard redirection

In summary an exciting new Horizon feature with many different use-cases to enable greater real-time collaboration between users that may not have been possible before.