HDX is all about providing a superior user experience and delivering flexibility that enables you to work however or wherever you choose. HDX spans multimedia, unified communications, graphics acceleration, printing, peripherals, and our ICA protocol with intelligence to dynamically optimize your users’ virtual sessions. It’s the secret sauce that separates Citrix from the competition.
We just celebrated the launch of Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops 1811 – our final release of 2018 – and it includes key HDX innovations. As the New Year is almost upon us, we are counting down the days until 2019 and doing some reflection on years past. Take a trip down memory lane while we count down the top 10 HDX Innovations over the past two years.
Enlightened Data Transport
Enlightened Data Transport (EDT) is one of the biggest HDX innovations of the past few years. EDT is a new transport layer for ICA built on top of UDP. Compared to TCP and UDP, EDT delivers a superior user experience on challenging long-haul WAN and Internet connections, dynamically responding to changing network conditions while maintaining high server scalability and efficient use of bandwidth. Performance improvements are realized across all virtual channels including up to 10x faster file transfers, 5x faster print times, and 2x more session responsiveness with improved audio and video, providing a better user experience. But don’t take my word for it. See what other Citrix admins have to say:
“Citrix Adaptive Transport Technology with EDT delivers an amazing user experience over connections with high latency. Now, we can put more users through the same bandwidth, at the same time. Even when delivering virtual desktops from the Netherlands to as far away as Mexico and China, Citrix EDT ensures our users have a responsive desktop experience.” — Rody Kossen, (former) Senior Systems Engineer at AWL Techniek
You can check out the full story — “3D CAD over 9,000km? With Citrix, It’s No Problem” — on how Citrix helped AWL Techniek grow from a regional supplier into a global player.
For a more in depth look at EDT, check out Fernando Klurfan’s blog post, HDX Adaptive Transport and EDT: ICA’s New Default Transport Protocol (Part I).
HDX Adaptive Throughput
Most of the time, when we talk about HDX and ICA optimization, we are talking about reducing bandwidth. But, what about using more bandwidth for better performance when it is available? In the 1808 release, we added enhancements to increase our peak throughput consumption to 4 Mbps, measured at 300ms round trip latency network — compared to 2 Mbps in the previous release. In 1811, we added further improvements to ICA throughput performance and added intelligence to monitor interactivity in the user’s session performance — with the ability to dynamically scale back throughput consumption, if needed, to maintain session interactivity. These adaptive throughput enhancements deliver better session interactivity, better multi-media playback, better throughput consumption (a 400 percent improvement since the 7.15 LTSR), and an overall better user experience. It can even save customers money by requiring less server-side resources such as GPUs.
Check out Miguel Contreras’ blog Turbo Charging ICA – Part 1 for more details on our throughput enhancements.
ICA Bandwidth Reductions
With each release, the HDX team continuously delivers ICA improvements and bandwidth reductions. Over the past two years, we’ve made drastic improvements with graphics efficiency of our HDX Thinwire remoting technology, resulting in massive bandwidth reductions. Since the 7.15 LTSR, we’ve delivered up to 20 percent improved bandwidth savings for graphics consumption. This can cut your bandwidth consumption costs while enabling you to put more users on your existing network links and improving your overall server scalability.
“The performance of Citrix is unbelievable. With the latest version of Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, the hardware footprint for a virtual desktop will be cut in half. Even without GPUs, we are measuring 60 fps with no loss of frames of video playback at 1080p. This upgrade will enable us to provide more virtual desktops to new areas in the business whilst minimizing the need to procure additional compute resources.” — Neil Bailey, Head of IT Infrastructure Enterprise Architecture and Innovation at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Browser Content Redirection (BCR)
As an admin, you want a superior experience for your users; however, a high-performance user experience is typically correlated to server scalability. As admins, we are required to balance user experience and our budget for computing resources — until now. Browser Content Redirection just made that balancing act much easier, especially with app and desktop virtualization.
BCR, in a virtual session, enables the full contents of a web browser to be rendered on the client device, not the server, for select webpages. You can configure URLs that you want redirected to the user’s endpoint, such as resource-intensive or multimedia sites, including YouTube or work-related training videos. To the user, this appears seamless. The browser’s viewport is rendered locally by leveraging a media engine in Citrix Workspace app (previously Citrix Receiver). To the user, it will appear as if the webpage is being rendered within their virtual session, seamlessly within a tab of their browser. The user can even switch between tabs within their virtual browser, where some tabs are rendered on the VDA, and some rendered on the endpoint — all completely transparent to your end users.
Offloading the rendering and processing of HTML5 or WebRTC websites ensures you are getting the most out of your server hardware investments, while providing your users with an optimal user experience. By redirecting WebRTC websites, this enables you to offload sites with real-time communications capabilities, such as Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts.
Check out this blog post from Fernando Klurfan, HTML5 Multimedia Redirection: State of the Union Part II, outlining the differences between HTML5 Video Redirection and Browser Content Redirection — as well as his recent blog post Browser Content Redirection 2.0 will help you maximize your multimedia.
H.264/H.265 Build to Lossless
Build to Lossless is another new enhancement to our HDX Adaptive Display technologies that was introduced to optimize the interactivity for graphics-intensive workloads with the view to a final lossless image. The idea is simple: use lossy compression while things are moving and once the screen settles, apply a lossless overlay in a progressive manner.
Up to (and including) XenApp & XenDesktop 7.17, Build to Lossless has always been JPEG-based. The JPEG codec can produce distorted results when bandwidth is low. From XenApp and XenDesktop 7.18, Build to Lossless now prefers the H.264 or H265 codecs over JPEG. H.264/H265 offers superior image quality and better frame rates over JPEG at the same bandwidth, especially over poor network conditions. This feature is available on both Windows VDAs and Linux VDA to ensure that users working with graphics or 3D images over challenging connections maintain productivity.
Check out this video of Build to Lossless in action, showcasing the improved user experience working with Google Earth over a poor network connection.
HDX RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business on Google Chromebooks
Along the same lines as Browser Content Redirection, redirecting multimedia – such as Skype for Business – to your users’ endpoints helps you get the most out of your server-side resources while providing the best possible user experience. Centralizing Skype for Business – along with the rest of your applications – in a cloud or data center reduces the operational overhead of maintaining local installs on each user’s endpoint. Keeping your staff’s chat logs, shared files, and contact lists off the endpoints and behind your security layers in your data center or cloud further enhances your security profile. Our HDX RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business was co-developed with Microsoft and has over 750,000 daily active users. With the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack 2.6, we brought this industry’s first innovation for Google Chromebooks. It works with both virtual desktops and with Skype for Business as a virtual application. You get the device flexibility and choice of low-cost endpoints while improving your users’ productivity and collaboration.
This capability requires HDX RealTime Media Engine 2.6, Citrix Workspace app 1809 for Android, and Intel-based x86 Chromebook devices that can run Android apps (ARC++), as well as access to the Google Play store.
Check out this video of optimized Skype for Business on Google Chromebooks in action!
Centralizing your apps and data within your data center, behind your security layers, keeps your data within your control – which is why Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops is part of many companies’ security strategies. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops provides a great barrier to information theft from outside attackers. But how can you protect from inside attackers? How can you prevent users with access to your critical and confidential information from simply taking a picture of the screen with their cellphone and leak your intellectual property to external sources? How can you trace a breach back to who, when and where it first happened?
Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops offers Session Watermarking. Session Watermarking provides an additional layer of security to deter theft from inside users or contractors. It adds traceable information, such as username, IP address, hostname, and connection time — as text — on top of the virtual session. This can be configured for the user’s entire virtual desktop or select published applications. The session watermark is added to the ICA graphics virtual channel on the server-side. That means there is no process on the endpoint a savvy user could kill to disable the watermark and no way to remove the watermark without killing the entire session. To clarify, session watermark is not a security feature that can prevent theft.
Session Watermark delivers a deterrent to dissuade people from stealing the screen content and provides a traceable source in case of a data leak. This is just one more way we are innovating to keep your most critical asset safe.
Check out this video of Session Watermarking in action!
High Efficiency Video Encoding (H.265) and NVENC
Citrix has been a leader in graphics-accelerated remoting capabilities, and this year we delivered additional industry-firsts. The new H.265 video codec is coming onto the scene as a way to deliver high-quality, 3D visuals with up to a 40 percent bandwidth savings compared to H.264. HDX 3D Pro sessions with compatible NVIDIA GPU hardware and H.265-capable endpoints can now leverage H.265 compression within their Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.
We introduced full-screen H.265 to virtual desktops with the 7.16 release, and with 7.17, we delivered selective H.265 as part of our HDX Adaptive Display technologies. We have supported NVIDIA’s NVENC for a few years now with our VDI solution, and we were the first to bring the H.265 codec to VDI with 7.16. With the 1808 release, we brought NVENC and H.265 capabilities to Server-based virtual applications and desktops. NVENC and H.265 for Virtual Apps delivers better image quality, reduced latency, and better overall graphics performance. Now, only Citrix delivers H.265 to virtual desktops and only Citrix delivers NVENC and H.265 support to virtual applications.
Virtual Display Layout and DPI Matching
We are seeing a new emerging cost saving strategy of replacing multiple monitors with a single large, high-resolution monitor. We recently delivered two features that enhance your experience when using high-resolution displays with your virtual desktop. Virtual Display Layout is a new feature that allows you to split your physical monitor into 8 or fewer logical monitors. This means when you maximize your virtual desktop over your physical monitor, Citrix Workspace app will treat the virtual session as if it has spanned across multiple physical monitors, as defined by you. Virtual Display Layout provides a multi-monitor experience for users replacing multiple monitors with a single large high-resolution monitor.
Additionally, we are delivering DPI Matching on Windows 10 with this release. Previously, Windows would determine the best scaling for text and apps on your virtual desktops based on your monitor size and resolution (the same way Windows determines DPI scaling natively on physical endpoints). In some cases, there would be a scaling mismatch between your endpoint and virtual desktop. Now with DPI matching, your DPI scale on your virtual desktop will exactly match the settings on the endpoint, which improves the image and text sharpness.
Roberto Moreno, our graphics PM, sheds light on high-resolution displays with Citrix graphics remoting in his blog post earlier this year.
Business today takes place on a global scale, and employees need to connect into their mission-critical apps and data on a daily basis from various network conditions. Employee access scenarios may span from oil rig workers, to campus police connecting from their squad car, to any remote locations around the world, and many others. We continuously deliver features to ensure an optimal and interactive experience, even when network conditions are less than ideal. Progressive Display is a new enhancement to our HDX Adaptive Display technologies that intelligently adapts to your users’ network conditions to maintain session interactivity.
Progressive Display leverages network analysis capabilities to detect instances of high latency or low bandwidth and intelligently reduces image quality to improve user interactivity and responsiveness. It will continue to monitor network availability to dynamically enhance image quality once network conditions have improved. This enables your workforce to continue to be productive and maintain a high-level of session interactivity, despite challenging network conditions.
Check out this blog post from Muhammad Dawood, HDX Graphics Goodies in 7.18, for a deeper dive into Progressive Display and Build to Lossless.
While we tend to focus on user experience when talking about HDX, there is a less obvious COST SAVINGS aspect — which I have briefly touched on in some of the sections above. Server scalability and reducing resource consumption are top of mind from our HDX team when delivering new features and innovations. Redirecting multi-media to increase server scalability, packing more users on your existing bandwidth, and the ability to choose low cost devices — gives you cost savings (or cost avoidance), all while proving the best possible experience to your users. The increased server scalability is huge when you consider running your workloads in the cloud, which can drastically reduce your cloud computing bill.
We have some exciting things on the HDX roadmap for 2019; expect to see more innovations based on feedback from you!
Download Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops 1811 today to get started with the latest HDX innovations. Citrix Cloud customers running the Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service can leverage the 1811 VDA to get all the latest HDX Innovations.
What’s your favorite HDX feature! Leave a comment below or tweet us @Citrix to let us know!