Virtualizing Defense Connect Online/Adobe Connect Pro

Customers in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) consistently ask about the compatibility of Defense Connect Online (Adobe Connect Pro) with our virtualization products XenApp and XenDesktop. In order to provide a higher level of confidence on what this compatibility boils down to, I have conducted a series of tests to determine the optimal configurations with Citrix products.

XenApp 6 and XenDesktop 4/5 leverage the newer Citrix HDX-based audio-/video codecs which were purpose-built for collaboration environments. The updated audio codecs provide a higher fidelity experience while reducing bandwidth consumption by approximately 50%. The video codecs provide webcam compression allowing video to be used in collaboration sessions with minimal bandwidth over WAN connections. While the compatibility of HDX webcam compression is currently limited and promoted only for Microsoft Lync / Office Communicator, my testing verified it to be compatible with Adobe Connect Pro/DCO.

The older XenApp 4.5/5 on W2k3 and XenApp 5 on W2k8 platforms are not recommended for hosting DCO (Adobe Connect) for audio/video collaboration. This is due to the fact that both of these platforms are bound by legacy audio codecs, which limit audio mixing and bi-directional communication. This can result in poor audio quality, mixing issues (participants cannot hear each other) and low scalability.

Backend Environment

  • XenDesktop 5 VDI environment hosted in a XenServer-based SoftLayer Cloud. A Xen virtual machine with 2vCPU and 2GB RAM was allocated running Windows 7.
  • XenApp 6 server farm hosted in a XenServer-based SoftLayer Cloud. A Xen virtual machine with 2vCPU and 2GB RAM was allocated running W2k8R2/XA6.

This Backend Environment is part of a public Cloud-hosted demo environment; it is not by any means a “lab environment” with dedicated physical resources. The results are indicative of what this solution would look like in a Virtualized production environment with production workloads running alongside it.

Endpoints

  • 3 x Wyse Xenith “zero clients” (Build v1.5.007)
  • 2 x Bare metal Win7 endpoints (using v12.1 Plug-in)
  • 1 x XenClient virtualized Win7 endpoint (using v12.1 Plug-in)
  • 1 x HP c5730w XPe-based Thin client (using v12.1 Plug-in)
  • 1 x Macbook / Macbook Air (using v11.2 Plug-in)

USB Accessories

  • Logitech USB Headsets
  • Logitech Analog Headsets
  • USB Mic
  • Microsoft USB LifeCams

Other Constraints

  • Defense Connect Online (DOD Hosted Adobe Connect Pro v703_r25) was used
  • All tested were conducted in a WAN scenario (typical latency between endpoints and backend was <100ms)

XenDesktop 5 Scenario (Win7 hosted VDI VMs)

Multiple users each in their own XenDesktop session were able to successfully connect to the same DCO-hosted meeting room and perform basic tasks, such as screen sharing, white-boarding, chat, note-taking, audio communication, and webcam broadcast.

XenDesktop 5 performance is excellent in regards to bi-directional audio when using both Win-based clients as well as the Wyse Xenith “zero clients.” XenDesktop webcam performance is very good in regards to video when using Win-based clients with either Flash Redirection or HDX Webcam Compression enabled.

XenDesktop webcam performance is good when using the “zero clients” as well. The HDX Webcam Compression was enabled during this test by disabling Isochronous USB (this only works well on the LAN).

Although these tests leveraged a Win7 hosted VM, the same performance can be expected from a Win Vista hosted VM, since the VDA-HDX components are identical. (x86 or x64) Also the Win-based Citrix client was only tested with Win7 endpoints, but the same level of performance can be expected from Vista, WinXP, WinXPe and Win7e Win endpoints. (x86 or x64)

The Citrix Receiver for Mac does not currently support HDX remoting of the audio/video with a Virtual Desktop session therefore users were only able to view and hear audio/video from other participants but were not able to participate themselves.

Since each user of a XenDesktop virtual desktop is utilizing dedicated backend physical resources in a 1 XenDesktop: 1 Adobe Connect User ratio, the scalability is only limited by physical server resources and the DCO application.

XenApp 6 Scenario

All of the endpoints were able to simultaneously logon to the same XenApp 6 server, each with their own published desktop session and access the same DCO-hosted meeting room and perform basic tasks, such as screen sharing, white-boarding, chat, note-taking, audio-communication and webcam broadcast.

XenApp 6 performance is excellent in regards to bi-directional audio when using both Win-based clients as well as the Wyse Xenith “zero clients.” XenDesktop webcam performance is very good in regards to video when using Win-based clients with either Flash Redirection or HDX Webcam Compression enabled.

XenDesktop webcam performance is good when using the “zero clients” as well. Local HDX Webcam Compression on the Wyse zero clients was enabled during this test.

The Win-based Citrix client was only tested with Win7 endpoints, but the same level of performance can be expected from Vista, WinXP, WinXPe and Win7e Win endpoints. (x86 or x64).

The Citrix Receiver for Mac does not currently support HDX remoting of the audio/video from with a Virtual Desktop session therefore users were only able to view and hear audio/video from other participants and were not able to participate themselves.

The use of DCO on a XenApp6 server is not limited to just a published desktop, there should be no functionality difference between a published desktop and a seamless published-IE running DCO.

XenApp 6 has proven itself to be a multi-user platform to host multiple DCO sessions simultaenously.

All in all, the results are impressive for hosting a multimedia based application such as DCO (Adobe Connect Pro) in a Virtual Desktop. Keep in mind that Citrix can offer two different virtual desktop solutions for hosting DCO (Hosted-VDI and Hosted-Shared).

Please keep in mind that this was a simple validation test to ensure functionality without any formal test parameters or scalability analysis. This is not to be used as a substitute for load or scalability testing when planning a production environment.