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Monthly Archives: March 2010

What Kind of “Rescue” is it when You’re Trading Down to Drown in a Sea of Complexity?

By Raj Mallempati – Director, Product Marketing

Recently Microsoft and Citrix launched something called a VDI Rescue Promotion targeted at VMware View customers.  By combining the Microsoft VDI Standard Suite and the Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition, they are claiming to have comparable capability to VMware View.  When you look at the fine print, you will see that this promotion is a “trade down” for VMware View customers. 

Using the classic bait and switch tactic, the VDI Rescue Promotion does not rescue the customer from anything, instead it downgrades the View customer to a virtual desktop offering that is years behind VMware View in scalability and functionality.  Customers will have to trade down to the entry level VDI editions from both Citrix and Microsoft, leaving them holding the bag when they have to pay for edition level upgrades, additional third party solutions, infrastructure to support the environment and time to deploy and manage.  

Adding to the complexity is the overlap between the Microsoft and Citrix components. One might wonder why you need two similar components to do a third of the job that VMware View does.  VMware View is an integrated enterprise class solution that can scale to thousands of users, it’s easy to deploy, provides a single pane of glass for desktop management and delivers the lowest total cost of ownership of all solutions. 

So what’s really in this “trade-down”?

  • The trade-down includes two different product suites from two different companies with overlapping components.  Both solutions come with a hypervisor platform and connection broker.  This creates confusion leaving the customer asking which components to use when?
  • A set of non-integrated products marketed as a solution with no reference architecture for deployment
  • The included licenses are actually only free for one year (on the Citrix side) and then you’ll need to pay for that license + SA in subsequent years.
  • Hidden costs of more infrastructure, more time and increased complexity to deploy and manage

The lackluster nature of the promotion is not lost on those in the industry. One desktop virtualization integrator, Tony Wilburn at IT services company Betis Group, called the promotion a "desperate" attempt to generate buzz. He also said it has the added effect of elevating VMware. "Has Microsoft ever before had to partner with another company in order to take on a rival?" Wilburn said. "When the No. 2 and No. 3 companies in the industry have to team up to take on the No. 1 player, doesn't that make the one player look even stronger?"  More from the article Microsoft, Citrix lure VMware customers with cutthroat promo.

Conversely, the VMware trade up program for Citrix XenApp which we introduced in January has been very successful in North America (Currently available in North America via Arrow).  This program actually provides a valuable upgrade to the View Premier bundle and additionally offers customers an assessment to aid with their desktop virtualization migration to help ensure success.

Microsoft Finally Recognizes the Importance of Desktop Virtualization with VECD Licensing Change

By Raj Mallempati – Director, Product Marketing

At long last, Microsoft publicly recognizes a shift in IT computing trends as indicated in their recent announcements around desktop virtualization and their changes to VECD licensing to support the adoption of virtual desktop environments.  By loosening up the restrictive desktop virtualization license policy (VECD), Microsoft has finally bowed to intensive customer pressure.  This validates the acceleration in demand in the desktop virtualization industry that VMware helped start and continues to lead.  Microsoft’s move here is extremely positive for the industry. 

This decrease in Microsoft licensing costs will decrease the overall CAPEX cost, thus building a better business case for VMware View.  Starting July 1, 2010, VECD is going away for customers with Software Assurance (SA) and for those without SA, Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) is available for purchase to allow for VDI environments.  Here are the details:

  • PCs covered under SA will no longer need a separate VECD license, instead this usage right will be included in SA thus eliminating the separate $23 per device fee. 
  • PCs not covered under SA, thin clients or other clients that cannot run a full Windows OS, customers can purchase VDA for $100 per device/year, a $10 decrease from the previous VECD license price.
  • Roaming use rights allows users to be able to access their virtual desktops from secondary devices like home PCS, kiosks and internet cafes without additional licensing costs.

What to Make of Microsoft’s Protocol Announcements

As most of you probably heard Microsoft and Citrix made some pretty big announcements yesterday. There was news related to some great changes (finally) to VECD as well as more information on the former Calista technology – now being dubbed “RemoteFX” (RFX).

I’m not a licensing guy, I leave those sort of discussions to others – however, I am a technologist, and wanted to offer up my take on RFX.

Microsoft implicitly acknowledges that VMware has the right strategy with PCoIP
As almost anyone knows a high performance, adaptive display protocol is critical for a compelling user experience.  With the “build to lossless” capability of PCoIP, users can access their remote desktop over LAN or WAN connections from a variety of devices, including “zero” clients.

  • With the release of RemoteFX, Microsoft has acknowledged that the best way to deliver a rich user experience is via a protocol, like PCoIP, designed for effective host side rendering. 
  • Citrix joins in the acknowledgment by agreeing to support RemoteFX alongside their own “HDX” and in turn points to some of the deficiencies of ICA.
  • With optimized host-side rendering IT administrators don’t need to worry about having to update to the latest software on both end-node devices and VMs (as you do with solutions such as Citrix’s Flash Redirection).  Host side rendering greatly reduces the complexity of server-hosted desktop administration. 

The Platform is Critical to Success for Desktop Virtualization
VMware understands the importance of having a high-performing display protocol…that’s what PCoIP is about.  However, this is just one of the components needed to provide a robust, enterprise-class desktop virtualization solution. Customers also need a production proven virtualization platform and a set of management tools that reduce the effort associated with administering virtual desktops.

  • VMware vSphere is the undisputed platform of choice for desktop virtualization with over 90% of desktop virtualization customers choosing VMware vSphere/ESX to host their virtual desktop environments.
  • On the management side, only VMware View offers a single centralized management solution. Other vendor solutions, such as Citrix XenDesktop and Microsoft RDS, use a myriad of non-integrated tools, consoles, and wizards to perform even the most basic tasks.

In the end the combination of the industry’s leading virtualization platform, simplified management, and the PCoIP display protocol make VMware View the clear choice for desktop virtualization.

What about RFX?
Ok – I’m sure some of you are thinking enough of the marketing flag waving, what about the RFX? The reality is that VMware definitely sees the value in host-side rendering (as I said above),  and the direction Microsoft outlined is nearly exactly the same of the vision we’ve been talking about for quite awhile.  However, there are some key areas where we think RFX falls down:

  • RemoteFX will be a LAN-only solution (much as RDP is today). This is more limited than the PCoIP protocol which was designed to provide a great user experience on both local and wide area networks.
  • While Microsoft spoke of vendors providing both RFX enabled thin clients and server offload cards, so far all that has been provided is a reference design – no vendors have publicly committed to delivering these components. By contrast, there are already a number of vendors delivering PCoIP zero clients and PCoIP monitors including Dell, IBM, Samsung, and Wyse (a complete list is available at www.teradici.com). Furthermore, Teradici has had hardware-enabled solutions on the host side for more than 2 years.
  • RemoteFX does not treat the desktop as a composition of multiple types of content. Instead it treats each element of the desktop exactly the same. An advantage of the PCoIP protocol is that it has different CODECs to handle different image content such as text, graphics, and video. Since RemoteFX cannot recognize and transmit the desktop by content type, end-users need to settle for a lowest common denominator experience versus the high-definition environment the PCoIP protocol can deliver.
  • One of the key features of VMware View with PCoIP is the ability for the display protocol to dynamically adjust to changing network conditions. PCoIP can “build to lossless” , which means that the user will receive the best experience possible as network conditions change. Both ICA/HDX and RDP/RemoteFX “dial in” the user experience when a user first connects and have limited ability to dynamically adapt to changing network conditions or user interactions.
  • The idea of virtualizing physical GPUs is quite compelling, but unfortunately it’s a “chicken and the egg” type of problem. Most of today’s enterprise class servers are not designed to accept high-end graphics cards. Additionally, the cost of the GPUs can be quite high (upwards of $4,000 each) while only supporting a small number of users per card.

With PCoIP, VMware has delivered the first protocol ideally suited for virtual desktops delivery over both the LAN or the WAN.   Additionally, VMware is committed to a roadmap that optimizes the balance between end-user experience, ease of administration, and cost of implementation.

As I mentioned above, Microsoft’s strategy they outlined To get a better understanding of how VMware sees the future of remote desktop experience, check out Warren Ponder’s  Remote Desktop Experience session from VMworld 2009.

The Art and Science of Remote Display Protocols

Recently Miercom published a report that was commissioned and paid for by Citrix. VMware did not participate in these tests they, and we have no knowledge around how Miercom/Citrix set those tests up, how they configured VMware View 4, or how they arrived at some of their conclusions.

All that being said, we would gladly welcome the opportunity to take part in unbiased, apples to apples comparison with Citrix as we're confident that VMware View can stand on its own.

As we’ve previously announced, VMware has sold more than 1M VDI seats and leads the virtual desktop market. View 4 has experienced strong uptake since its release in Q4 2009 and customers are reporting excellent results with their desktop virtualization implementations and  PCoIP – they like the superior user experience that comes with the industry’s only protocol that features dynamic bandwidth allocation, the ability to have a superior experience across rich media as well as standard office applications, and enjoying this experience in both LAN and WAN environments. Our customers are our best references – and we’d be happy to connect you with them so you can hear from them first hand.

With all that being said, I'd like to comment on some of the specific points made in the Miercom report:

In a comparison of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) implementations, Citrix XenDesktop 4 provided better overall performance when compared to VMware View 4

It appears that the Miercom report did not consider the image quality of office applications.  XenDesktop 4 uses lossy client side image caching compared to VMware View 4’s lossless techniques, which favor the View 4 user experience.

Many customers insist on lossless image delivery – image compression artifacts are totally unacceptable to them.  The PCoIP protocol provides network efficient progressive image refinement that builds the desktop image to a lossless image.  As a result, View is consistently chosen to deliver a high-quality desktop experience.

XenDesktop 4 used 64% less bandwidth than View 4 with PCoIP for typical tasks

In our testing utilizing the Sysmark benchmark View 4 used 40% less bandwidth when run on a 1Mbps network compared to running the same test on a 100Mbs network.  However, XenDesktop 4 used essentially the same bandwidth in both cases – pointing out the weakness of a fixed quality system – Citrix cannot take advantage of additional network resources when available.  Miercom used 100Mbps as their ‘WAN’ for the single user test which skews the results and is not a real deployment scenario.

To reiterate – the PCoIP protocol dynamically adapts the image quality based on the available network resources – thusly View 4 favors the best user experience when operating on an unconstrained network.  So using a single user session to measure bandwidth performance is not a valid testing scenario.  A more realistic scenario would be to compare View 4 to XenDesktop 4 on a constrained network supporting multiple users – this would result in significantly less bandwidth used by each View 4 session, while giving the best experience possible for the concurrent users.

On the other hand, Citrix HDX uses a fixed quality (set by IT) that cannot adapt to available network resources (even if more bandwidth becomes available) and does not allow them to efficiently use/share the total bandwidth therefore not giving the best user experience. 

Dynamic adjustments in display compression quality result in the best and most consistent user experience for a given network environment.  The PCoIP protocol will fairly share the bandwidth across the active users for a given network segment. 

Flash video was delivered with an average of 65% less CPU usage, 89% less bandwidth, and excellent Quality of Experience by XenDesktop 4 compared to View 4

Part of the strength of PCoIP is the fact that it adapts to the network. So, if you were to test a single desktop, as an example running multimedia, then you would observe that PCoIP consumed whatever bandwidth was available at the time.  If bandwidth is available, it will use it to deliver the highest quality experience.  If bandwidth is restricted, as is recommended in constrained environments, PCoIP "throttles down" to consume less bandwidth and is a “good citizen” in the network.  Our customers report that PCoIP has been game changing for them and enables the delivery of a desktop environment that is secure, scalable, and easy to manage.

For environments where bandwidth is a concern, PCoIP can be configured to limit the amount of bandwidth it consumes. Customers have found they can limit bandwidth and still have a strong user experience.

With regards to the flash video test, this is not an apples to apples comparison – since the tests were conducted running Flash redirection with an unrealistically high packet loss of 0.5 to 5%. 

A correctly provisioned network will have packet loss of 0.1% or less which would result in great video performance.

A 100Mbps “WAN” link is an unconstrained network environment (again, single user test on an unconstrained network is not a "real world" test).

Finally, the PCoIP protocol has no reliance whatsoever on client side driver compatibility, however that is not the case for Citrix’s Flash redirection (in addition to mandating a locally installed Flash client, the Citrix solution also requires more powerful client hardware and increases the operational cost of the client).  Because the Citrix solution only works with Adobe Flash they chose to ignore various other video cases – such as Microsoft Silverlight, Google’s On2 etc. With the PCoIP protocol, current or future versions of Flash, QuickTime or other CODECs/plug-ins will just work.

Overall, XenDesktop 4 uses system resources more efficiently and is capable of scaling more effectively

Enterprises have an investment in their networks and by not dynamically adjusting the user bandwidth to take advantage of the available network resources real dollars are wasted and the user experience is impacted.

Depending on multi-media redirection (MMR) solely does not provide real scalability.  It does not handle the case of common office applications and requires constant investment (by Citrix and the resulting increased IT management) which translates to real cost to IT.  It also does not cover other video options like Apple Quicktime, Microsoft Siliverlight, and Google’s On2 (expected to replace Adobe flash on Google websites including Youtube).

Interesting that Miercom/Citrix does not call out the management costs of HDX Flash optimization/redirection.  In addition to requiring a more powerful (and costly) client, the client media CODECs must be constantly updated as Adobe, Microsoft etc update their media protocols. 

Only VMware View 4 supports a true zero client on the desktop to provide the lowest operation cost, highest security and future-proof scalability (supports any media or graphics).

In closing, we really do believe that VMware View is the only desktop virtualization product that has been designed from the ground up to deliver and manage virtualized desktop environments as a service. And, we do that with less cost and complexity than any other solution on the market.