VDI on VMware: On Premises vs. Cloud

Another guest post and another good one too! Thanks Gilad David Maayan.

Image Source: Pixabay

VMware Horizon is a popular virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platform. Deploying Horizon on-premises is a large undertaking for an organization—how does it compare with deploying on the public cloud?

In this article I’ll explain the basics of VMware Horizon and what is involved in on-premise vs. cloud-based deployment on three major cloud providers: Amazon, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud.

What Is VMware Horizon?

VMware Horizon is a VDI platform that makes it possible to manage a large number of virtualized desktops, and deliver them remotely to employees. VMware Horizon strongly supports Windows virtualized desktops, and also enables Linux desktops. Administrators can quickly create virtual desktops based on required location and desktop profile, with a single control plan providing full management and security capabilities.

VMware Horizon supports hybrid (local but cloud managed) and multi-cloud architectures, while supporting global authentication and management. Horizon can be deployed on AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, and across VMware’s ecosystem of partner cloud providers.

End users can access virtual desktops, or remote applications published to a remote desktop session host (RDSH), from any device—including corporate laptops, home PCs, thin clients, or mobile devices.

Deploying VMware Horizon On-Premises

The following diagram shows how VMware Horizon runs in your on-premise data center. The deployment can serve a large number of users, both within the corporate office or connecting remotely.

Source: VMware

The main components in the Horizon architecture are:

  • Horizon Client—runs on end-user devices such as laptops or mobile devices, allowing them to access virtualized desktops.
  • Horizon Agent—runs on a virtual machine (VM) or a physical machine running Remote Desktop Services (RDS). The Agent allows the VM or machine to be managed by VMware Horizon, allowing desktops and applications to be deployed to it.
  • Connection Server—receives connection requests from end user devices and brokers the connections to available Horizon Agents.
  • Unified Access Gateway—an appliance deployed behind the firewall, which can accept remote connections. It uses a reverse proxy to isolate the internal environment and improve security.
  • Horizon Console—an administrator interface that lets you deploy and manage virtual desktops and desktop pools.
  • Horizon Cloud Connector—makes it possible for an on-premise Connection Servers to deploy desktops via Horizon Cloud Service running on public cloud services (see more details below).
  • vSphere—the virtualization platform powering VMware Horizon. It includes the enterprise-grade ESXi hypervisor, and vCenter Server for managing virtualized infrastructure.

Local and External Access

There are two ways end users can connect to a virtualized desktop or RDSH host. Direct connections over a trusted network are supported by the Horizon Connection Server, which accepts connections directly from a Horizon Client, and reroutes it to the relevant Horizon Agent, as shown below.

Source: VMware

For remote access, which is becoming increasingly common in organizations, Horizon provides the Unified Access Gateway, operating as a reverse proxy. Horizon Clients connect to the gateway, authenticate with the Connection Server, and then starts a session with a Horizon Agent, with all communication passing through the secure gateway service.

Source: VMware

Deploying VMware Horizon in the Public Cloud

Deploying VMware Horizon on-premises is complex and expensive, requiring dedicated data center resources, configuration, testing and ongoing maintenance. Let’s look at an alternative—migrating to the cloud, by running VMware Horizon on dedicated infrastructure in a public cloud. We’ll review three public clouds that provide certified infrastructure dedicated to VMware workloads.

Running VMware Horizon on AWS

VMware Horizon for VMware Cloud on AWS provides a hybrid cloud that seamlessly integrates with virtual desktops and applications. It combines the enterprise capabilities of VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), available as a service on Amazon Web Services (AWS), with the VDI capabilities of VMware Horizon.

The AWS-based VMware Cloud solution enables organizations to increase capacity on demand, and provides built-in disaster recovery and high availability, without the need to purchase additional data center resources.

By deploying SDDC on VMware Cloud on AWS, you can deploy Horizon in Amazon just like your local vSphere environment, with the same deployment and management experience. This allows Horizon users to outsource SDDC infrastructure management to VMware. The infrastructure can be billed on an hourly basis, using the VMware Cloud on AWS pay-as-you-go option.


Horizon Cloud Service on Microsoft Azure is a cloud-native, multi-tenant solution, supporting elastic scalability and high availability. It provides on-demand infrastructure from Amazon, together with VMware Horizon in a constantly-updated, software as a service (SaaS) model. It provides a centralized administrator interface called the Horizon Cloud Administration Console.

The Horizon control plane, which provides orchestration for virtual desktops on virtual machines and the connection broker, is fully managed by the Horizon Cloud Service. It allows you to connect standard Azure infrastructure, such as Azure VMs, to the control plane, and deliver virtualized desktops and apps securely, alongside your other workloads on Azure.

IBM Cloud

The IBM Cloud solution for VMware simplifies and automates the VMware provisioning process. Administrators have full access to the VMware stack, with the same level of control as local VMware deployments.

VMware Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud provides virtual desktops on a dedicated cloud platform, which can scale across multiple deployment options, including:

  • IBM Cloud resources
  • Fully managed infrastructure from VMware
  • Microsoft Azure public cloud


We covered the basics of deploying a VMware VDI environment in your local data center vs. on the public cloud. In the bottom line, VMware Horizon on the cloud is not a fully managed offering. While it automates the underlying infrastructure, it still requires you to deploy servers, manage integrations and handle scalability. It reduces the complexity of a VDI deployment, but at the same time, adds a new layer of ongoing cloud costs, which can be significant in large-scale deployments.

When making your choice, consider your organization’s preference of capital expenditure (dominant in the on-premise model) vs. operating expenditure (dominant in the cloud model), and the level of technical expertise in your team. If you are short on staff and find it difficult to manage and monitor VDI servers, the cloud may be the best option.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.