We began testing with VMware View Version 3, but upgraded to Version 4 during the testing cycle. The big difference between the two is that View 4 adds a new transport protocol – PCoIP -- that speeds communications between hosted VMs and clients.
Like XenDesktop, View connects to an Active Directory, and optionally one can install View Composer. View requires ESX 3.5 with VMware's vCenter on a VM or another machine. An additional virtual machine is required to host View Connection Server and View Composer needs to be installed on the vCenter machine.
View Connection Server is the central console and administrative service for View, and links to the world via a Web browser connection. View Connection Server is the broker between clients and hosted VMs, which must live only on VMware ESX- or vSphere-hosted VMs — or other hosts so long as a compatible VMware View agent is installed on it.
Both versions of View were the most talented at creating and managing VMs. In View, there are three types of desktop provisioning methods: individual, Automated Desktop (in either persistent or non-persistent varieties), and a Manual Desktop pool (either persistent or non-persistent.) View can also broker a Microsoft Terminal Services pool of available VMs.
Automated provisioning is set by an administrator through a Web-based interface credentialed through Active Directory. The optional tool, View Composer, which needs VMware vCenter, can provision linked clones,VMs that share a common parent VM, from a snapshot that becomes the base of subsequent provisioned images.
When you want to update the linked-clone VM, another snapshot must be created so that subsequent VMs get the changes. In persistent VMs, snapshots take up storage space. It's also possible to make persistent VMs without using linked-clones and therefore without snapshots. There are lots of different combos available in View 3/4.
The client experience of VMware View was good on View 3, but becomes comparatively awesome on View 4, when using persistent or non-persistent VM access. Like XenDesktop, one accesses a Web page, presents Active Directory credentials, then gets a downloaded application that in VMware's case, runs from a Java-launched client applications to link to its desired VM. The PCoIP transport in View 4 makes YouTube usable even through two hypervisors.
View wasn't without its glitches, however. During initial provisioning or after snapshots, the VMware View Agent application wouldn't initialize, forcing us to reboot the specific non-connecting VMs administratively.
Like XenDesktop, VMware View can be used for access by other devices, like the Wyse and PanoLogic units we tested.
Despite occasional buggy behavior, the administrative ease of VMware View was strong, even if it's captive to VMware's comparatively expensive VM hosting platform. VMware customers looking for VDI and a compelling reason to upgrade to vSphere 4 will find the clientside speed of View 4 to be a good one.