These days, we’re all being challenged to do more with less. People are increasingly working with high-res graphics, full-frame videos and real-time audio with their business apps, while most IT budgets are shrinking.

The capabilities of cost-effective thin clients and repurposed PC solutions have continued to evolve and help keep pace with this challenge.

Why we want to support the Raspberry Pi2

With the explosion of new, low-cost devices like the Raspberry Pi, Arduinos and Onion Omega, at Citrix we are continuously working on ways to support these devices. A Raspberry Pi2 costs just $35 and we had a lot of customers asking us to produce a Citrix Receiver for such a device, for a range of use cases:

  • People looking for that $35 HDX accelerated endpoint – with a Linux VDA and OpenOffice you have a seriously cheap yet capable VDI solution
  • Finance/Federal – so cut down this is an ultra-secure endpoint with no memory on it and nothing significant to steal (the memory stick can be stored in a safe when not in use)
  • Large enterprises – because cutting $250+ off the cost of each thin client on a 10,000+ endpoint deployment makes sense ($2.5 million worth of sense!)
  • Healthcare – those kiosks nurses/doctors use etc. become easier to maintain – so cheap an endpoint that you can pull it out and replace it rather than spending time trying to fix it
  • Military – because cheap to replace if blown up/lost/needs to be destroyed
  • Thin-client refresh cycles are long, often 5 years or more, so you can afford to upgrade and refresh more often and a Pi used for 3 years will cost less than a dollar a month.

The history

One of our architects, Muhammad Dawood, took a keen interest in the Pi in particular and released a prototype Citrix Receiver for the Pi along with some hardware-accelerated plugins. His blogs generated phenomenal demand and reaction to the prototype.

Productizing this has been tricky, because producing a specialized Receiver for just one hardware device would have been inefficient. So, behind the scenes we’ve been working with the Pi Organization to ensure our existing Linux Receiver would work with their new Pi2 architecture and supported OS images.

With the release of XenDesktop/XenApp 7.6 FP3 and the new HDX Thinwire compatibility codec, we also had a codec that would perform efficiently on the Pi2 without the need for hardware accelerated plugins. This helps enable a full supported Linux Receiver on a $35 device.

Martin Rowan from our test team also took a keen interest and has published his results showing 19+ FPS with this setup on his blog. 

Even higher framerates – H264 hardware acceleration

Muhammad’s prototype included a basic H.264 plugin to leverage the System on a Chip (SoC) architecture of the Pi. These plugins are not something Citrix maintains or distributes as it is usually undertaken by the thin client manufacturer or third-party vendor. One such vendor, ThinLinx has now done this and is offering a supported operating system, complete with HDX hardware acceleration support and management software.

Introducing ThinLinx

ThinLinx produces the ThinLinx Operating System (TLXOS) for devices such as the Pi with the ability to deliver modern workloads using the Citrix HDX protocol. With TLXOS costing $15 per endpoint and providing a supported solution with client management software, we think this will be a great solution to use the Pi2 at scale.

ThinLinx already supported other low cost devices such as the Intel Atom NUC. In fact, we demonstrated frame rates of 55FPS+ on a $165 thin-client at Synergy 2015. We think it should be possible to obtain similar results on a $35 device now.

Citrix professional, Tobias Kreidl, of Northern Arizona University, recently did some testing with the low-cost Raspberry Pi2 running TLXOS. Impressed with the results, here is what Tobias had to say:

The new package installs and runs AMAZINGLY well on XenDesktop under Windows 8.1. There are NO SIGNS OF HESITATIONS at all at full screen resolution and 1080p! Unigine Heaven runs very well, with smooth displays…YouTube videos run very well…Audio synchronization is spot on.

View the video Tobias recorded to see the solution in action.

Check out these other great videos with ThinLinx and Raspberry Pi devices:

Have you used ThinLinx to deliver XenApp or XenDesktop workloads? Is a $50 thin client a game-changer? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

UPDATE: See Can the Raspberry Pi Disrupt the Thin Client Market.. And the PC Industry from Chris Fleck for his perspective and what’s in store for 2016.