It continues to amaze me how often people have such a poor understanding of what it takes to deliver real world remote user experience for desktop use cases. Often much of this confusion is a result of thinking that all you need is a protocol for internal LAN use with lot’s of bandwidth and a staged demo to impress the uninformed. Lacking understanding and experience with respect to the desktop, VMware continue to sponsor fud in their desperate attempt to remain relevant in desktop virtualization and lock in customers to expensive commodity virtual infrastructure. So let’s take a look at some of this fud and also talk about where Citrix is innovating next with HDX Nitro Technologies.

The VMware protocol story continues to flip flop

First they were RDP friendly, then Net2Display and now the stable favorite is PCoIP which is from a tiny company in Vancouver Canada, called Teradici. Teradici make hardware based solutions (complete custom lock in from tiny company = risk) and VMware offers a software version of PCoIP that only works with the ESX Hypervisor. PCoIP is not a desktop user experience solution. It is only a protocol and not usable in the real world except for very niche use cases.

PCoIP does not offer printing solutions or profile solutions. VMware has partnered and acquired options to address these gaps. These are still not integrated in View 4 and View 4.5 seems to be suffering from all the integration complexity of bolt on baggage. VMware have had to embarrassingly delay their latest release, see here. Irrespective it’s clear, native PCoIP does not provide these basic features for real world use. Therefore, I find it rather amusing when I hear claims like PCoIP is designed from the ground up to deliver desktops. It just demonstrates a lack of understanding of the desktop and frankly is a naive claim.

If you want to use a HTTP-SLL web front over the internet to access your View environment, it’s not supported with PCoIP. You have to revert to RDP with View to accomplish this. Something VMware likes to sweep under the rug, as it represents more bolt on 3rd path baggage for alternatives that force you to change your access infrastructure. This is basic stuff, if you understand that a core value proposition of VDI is the ability to connect from anywhere. HDX technologies with XenDesktop handle this today.

Let’s extend the connect from anywhere thought. We’ve already established that you can’t connect for a key use case with PCoIP, but even if you could how would you manage policy? How would you prevent data leaving your organization from your central desktops? PCoIP has no understanding of this. HDX provides Smart Access policies integrated with Access Gateway technologies.

Now let’s pretend for a second that all these problems could be solved. Then comes the issue that PCoIP is purely UDP based. Anybody who has worked in any marginally complex environment knows that the ability to inspect UDP traffic is a nightmare on a network and requires opening up more firewall ports. I am sure this is going to result in plenty of interesting conversations between View PCoIP customers and their respective security teams. Additionally, if you want to accelerate traffic over the wire, you will have a fun time using your existing WAN accelerators which typically focus on TCP optimization, just like Citrix’s own Branch Repeater technology which is part of HDX. Now despite all this, I do believe that UDP is great for delivering some rich media content types, but to use it exclusively to deliver user experience is just plain dumb for real world application.

PCoIP consumes plenty of bandwidth. Don’t believe the fud, see here. Page 8 tables 2 and 3 provide a good dose of reality and shows you what happens when you start to provide richer resolutions and move to multi monitor environments. I shudder to think what happens when you put multiple users in a branch office on a shared link! Now I am sure the fud police at VMware will quickly point out recent improvements and upcoming enhancements in View 4.5. But do they really expect people to believe they have performed a miracle? It’s not just me pointing these things out, as you can see here. As a technologist, I think it’s interesting that they may be improving things over time, but I also know from experience that this stuff takes years to get right if you really understand the difference between just a basic protocol vs. delivering rich user experience, hello….

It starts to get even worse

I am editing this blog on a flight to Citrix Synergy San Francisco connected over wireless on my Mac and using my XenDesktop. My iPad also connects just fine to a published Powerpoint 2010 presentation at 35,000ft. Currently I am using my iPad as a second screen to view the presentation as I type on my main laptop screen. Try doing that with PCoIP. Even if PCoIP could handle the bandwidth, securely traverse a firewall etc, it still won’t help. PCoIP is only able to support Windows clients. I would hate to be a MAC user at a company where some genius in IT thought that just because they virtualized a few servers on ESX that PCoIP would solve all their client diversity needs.

PCoIP only works on ESX. Are you kidding me? Why will people keep spending obscene amounts of money on a commodity infrastructure? Hypervisor diversity is going to be the norm. If you don’t believe that, then you believe that as the cloud matures everybody will use a single hypervisor. Nonsense! It’s like saying everybody will use one hardware vendor for all servers….

At desktop scale the cost of the virtual infrastructure with VMware will just keep on growing. What is the benefit for the desktop? I bet in most cases that the number of desktops in an organization is far greater than servers. So the economics should be clear, even if VMware keep giving away View as part of ELAs to lock you in. Why will you continue to pay $$$$ fees for vSphere/ESX when Hyper-V and XenServer are essentially free minus the advanced management capabilities which are still a lot cheaper. Do you really believe that the Hypervisor as it stands today is cost effective at desktop scale? Why would you lock customers out of all other Hypervisors with just a protocol? I can certainly understand if it’s certain features, but a complete lock out, it’s ridiculous!

You also miss out on all the flexibility of having desktop virtualization options as opposed to VDI alone. How’s VMware doing in terms of flexibility? Well, they are rapidly back peddling on CVP and still only offering a VDI only model. With no sign of View 4.5, it’s empty promises all around.

It is no wonder that customers are choosing Citrix XenDesktop so often and why we are the leaders. It’s why smart customers are running from the fud and not wasting time with View or PCoIP. They get that it in the real world you need more than a protocol and flexibility.

HDX Nitro technologies

However, this does not mean at Citrix we have been sitting on our hands amusing ourselves at the fud. HDX continues to be the most widely deployable user experience technology across devices and networks. We understand and believe that our 20 year history and know how of how to deliver real world user experience needs continued innovation as content continues to get richer. We are not here to pretend that toy Lan use cases represent solutions for diverse customers.

To further raise the user experience bar. We are announcing HDX Nitro technologies. Our next generation of Citrix HDX technologies focused on increased performance and efficiency. We have broken this down into 5 key areas of focus. More details will follow but here are some of the highlights.

Mach 3- 3x faster performance (Breaking the speed barrier with high-definition virtual computing)

  • Advances in Citrix Receiver deliver radically faster end user performance
  • Matches the speed of your network with zero overhead
  • Dedicated, parallel processing of virtual channels yields efficient performance

Zoom- 2x Instant app startup (Instant startup of on-demand apps)

  • Advances in HDX broadcast technologies deliver unprecedented launch speeds
  • Connect to session in half the time
  • Silent session pre-loading produces unparalleled responsiveness

Laser- High speed printing (Faster printing at at fraction of the bandwidth)

  • High speed printing from anywhere
  • Advances in HDX Plug-n-Play reduce print data and increase performance
  • Automatically discovers and creates printer connections in real-time
  • Use 10% of current bandwidth requirements

Mercury- Faster WAN performance (Breakthrough WAN speed and efficiency)

  • Faster HDX performance over the WAN
  • Advances in HDX WAN Optimization and HDX MediaStream optimize HDX traffic
  • Highly responsive up to 300ms network latency
  • Compress, caches and prioritizes traffic

Dynamo- Adaptive HDX performance (Dynamic sense-and-respond rendering)

  • Adaptive HD performance
  • Advances in HDX Adaptive Orchestration sense & respond to the user’s environment
  • HDX RichGraphics enhancements render a crystal clear, 3D Windows 7 experience
  • Intelligent Quality of Service (iQoS) provides prioritized, policy -driven performance gains

User experience will remain a continued area of focus for us

With HDX, no need to lock into hardware, no need to lock into a hypervisor, any device, any network, secure, everywhere far beyond just VDI. PCoIP is a protocol only. It is disingenuous for VMware to continue to spread PCoIP fud to customers when they don’t understand what it takes to deliver real world desktop user experience. Sure you can use VMware in a small environment, on a LAN with high bandwidth, perhaps even risk a WAN with a tiny number of users and assume nobody will ever want to connect externally…..

Ask your friendly VMware field rep next time, how much quota they accept for View. That’s the dirty little secret that nobody tells you. If there is one thing that has been abundantly clear since I moved from being a customer to a vendor, it’s listen to what the field team sells and what they are willing to take quota on. This will tell you where a company is investing. Then ask yourself is VMware serious about the desktop, or is this just a game to monetize vSphere with ESX until they can figure out how to monetize vSphere with their recent acquisitions of SpringSource (Java) and Zimbra (Email). Still want to handcuff yourself to VMWare View and PCoIP fud for the desktop?