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May, 2009

VMware View and those graphic intensive apps…

We’re seeing a major rise in interest for VMware View and VDI in general.  We all joked last year that everyone was talking about it and expected people to really start doing it in ’09 and boy were we right.  Big, medium, and small organizations are looking very heavily in to virtualizing desktops.  Is it the economy?  Technology has finally matured?  Learning that they can do it?  I think it’s a combination, and it’s a good thing.  For most environments virtualizing the desktop just works.  No real problems with apps or the user experience, but there are always exceptions.  What do you do then?  Do you limit the deployment to the simpler requirements or look for answers to meet more demanding needs?

There are several options out there to overcome application requirements when virtualizing the desktop.  A major sticking point for some applications is graphics.  While the RDP and ICA protocols do a good job with many graphical applications they still fall short for some, such as engineering and high-end statistics and especially when multimonitor support is required.  So what do you do about these?  One answer is Teradici.  Teradici has been offering hardware solutions to this problem for a while.  They do this via a method known as host rendering, which is different from the client rendering method that RDP and ICA currently use.  With RDP and ICA the server, or in our case the virtual desktop, sends the rendering information to the client and the client renders the screen.  This is the most efficient method for the server.  The idea is to put the load on the client, not the server, since the server is the one servicing multiple clients.

The downside to the Teradici solution is that it has required specialized hardware.  A video card with a Teradici chip was required in the server and a Teradici client system was required on the desk.  The nice thing about this configuration is that Teradici does everything over IP.  It’s called PC-over-IP remote display.  Other solutions were requiring direct connections from server to client and used proprietary analog signaling.  This was a hassle since it required tuning and configuration for each host and would vary by distance.  PC-over-IP gets rid of all that.  IP is IP, no matter the distance.

But all that has changed…or will be changing soon.  It’s no secret that VMware is working on a better remote display protocol than RDP.  VMware and Teradici have agreed to co-develop a software-based implementation of the PC-over-IP technology currently in use in the Teradici hardware.  With this we’ll all be able to enjoy the benefits and support for more graphic intensive applications.  The only real downside is that you won’t be able to scale as many clients per server as you can with the hardware solution.  All of the host-side rendering will be done by the server’s CPU, but as we all know server CPUs continue to get faster with more cores.

In the end I think we’ll end up with a VDI solution that can virtualize almost any application.  It will help to close that last gap and really take away all excuses to not virtualize your desktop environment.  If you haven’t looked at VDI you should.  The numbers and ease of management make sense.  Why are you still imaging desktops?

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