The HDX team’s mission is to deliver a high definition user experience that is as good as local — or better! We abide by that with every feature we develop.
Our graphics-remoting stack is constantly pushing the limit of what is visually possible, with innovations such as Adaptive Display, H.265 hardware encoding, and Build-to-Lossless for H.264 and H.265.
Our transport stack for ICA has been re-architected from the ground up with Enlightened Data Transport (our proprietary UDP-based protocol), and recent improvements like Adaptive Throughput maximize the bandwidth utilization over WANs.
Our devices stack supports the broadest set of peripherals so they can be mapped to the virtual desktop.
Our any device, any app, any network approach has been a successful one, giving users the choice to work how and where they want.
But there is one domain that could have been the Achilles’s heel for server-based computing: multimedia.
The process of decoding, rendering, re-encoding, and remoting an audio/video stream server side is expensive in CPU terms. If properly sized, a GPU-enabled VM with an MPLS network can, in fact, deliver an excellent multimedia experience (and we have many customers delivering server-side rendered video). Yet this can prove expensive for most organizations.
That is why over the years we pioneered numerous redirection technologies (known as HDX MediaStream), ranging from Windows Media to Flash to HTML5, that offload the server by leveraging the processing power of the user device.
But in the last few years, something else has happened in the multimedia domain.
There is an unstoppable force pushing an object in accelerated motion: WebRTC. An open project that provides browsers with real-time communications (RTC) capabilities via simple APIs, WebRTC promises to reshape the way we work, communicate, and share data.
A Brief History of WebRTC
What a fascinating journey it must have been for those pioneering WebRTC engineers who sat in a room and dreamed about an open and unencumbered web.
Those conversations must have ranged from spatial-temporal encoding to philosophy (after all, scientists are the best philosophers).
When I ponder the origins of WebRTC, there is one fact I can’t ignore: In the mid-2000s, patent-encumbered audio/video codecs (like H264 and AAC) and media players (like Flash) dominated the media world. And royalties slowed innovation down. Google and the browser community knew this, and the need for a free framework was imperative to construct a new media-centric web.
There were a few major pillars upon which this new web was architected.
In 2006, Google acquired YouTube, which at the time relied heavily on Adobe’s Flash plug-in. The site was already receiving 100 million video views per day.
In 2008, Google released Chrome to the public. (Maintaining a plug-in architecture must have been a nightmare for browser vendors, probably being the top contributing factor of crash rates).
In 2010, Google acquired On2, the developers of the VP6-VP8 codecs, which was open sourced three months later. A side effect of this was the release of WebM, an open, royalty-free, media file format designed for the web (VP8/VP9 video codecs and Vorbis/Opus audio codecs).
That same year, the HTML5 standard got a final blessing: Steve Jobs issued his memorable open letter “Thoughts on Flash,” effectively making Flash obsolete and passing the multimedia crown to HTML5.
YouTube started to support HTML5 playback in Chrome, a plugin-free solution (guess what codec they used?), four years before the W3C declared HTML5 in Recommendation stage.
Around that time, adaptive bitrate technologies like HLS and DASH debuted, enabling the quick and seamless adjustment of resolution and bitrate in the face of changing network conditions.
With all the ingredients in place, the WebRTC project was launched in 2011 to execute the grand vision and conquer the last frontier of multimedia: real-time communications in the web, everywhere, via simple APIs.
Fast Forward to 2019
WebRTC is used by billions of people and thousands of software vendors today building apps based on it (the last ones I used were Amwell for Cigna’s telemedicine, Uber, and WhatsApp to name a few in the consumer world).
But there is also growing interest in the use of the technology in business — particularly when it comes to optimizing WebRTC solutions in virtualization.
Take call/contact centers. Virtual agents are a reality in many of them around the world. But human beings like to interact with other human beings. And this is where WebRTC comes in.
The financial industry is the No. 1 vertical experimenting with in-browser real time audio/video in their contact centers. And not a week goes by where I don’t hear about a new WebRTC app or use case. Amazon Chime, BlueJeans, Avaya, RingCentral, Star2Star … even Salesforce. Yes, the CRM giant now partners with Amazon Connect to provide in-app VoIP capabilities for Contact Center agents.
How Citrix Can Help
You too can leverage these technologies to virtualize and transform your operations. And the Citrix HDX team can help.
Our strategy for web-based apps that require WebRTC capabilities is Browser Content Redirection (BCR). Last year’s CVAD release 1808 with CWA 1809 was the first step in this story. BCR redirects the entire viewport of the hosted browser to the endpoint, leveraging the Citrix Workspace app for local rendering thanks to its embedded browser engine.
BCR is an HDX Swiss army knife for web-based multimedia, and companies around the world are using it to optimize the delivery of web apps like Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Stream, Google Hangouts and more.
But … there is more coming!
What if there was a desktop app (e.g. Electron-based) using WebRTC?
Citrix is committed to continuing to deliver WebRTC redirection technologies. And because we know that true innovation is driven by collaboration, we’re extending an open invite to ISVs developing WebRTC apps (web, Electron, CEF or proprietary) to contact us if they have a business case that requires their software to run in a Citrix environment.
Together, we can remove the complexities of dealing with virtual channels, thin clients, peripherals, and server-based computing and power a better way to communicate and work — anywhere, anytime, on any device.
HDX is evolving for WebRTC. And our mission statement holds: as good as local — or better!
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