As many of your know, one of the key elements of my job is to work with Partners and Customers around our Optimised Desktop story.  If you’re not familiar, it’s the idea that actually, believe it or not, VDI isn’t the right solution for everyone and that an optimised desktop, with associated benefits, can be achieved through a variety of ways, VDI being one of them.  Terminal Services, now replaced by Remote Desktop Services, RDS, is one area that always sparks a bit of debate.  Many people assume session-based computing has been superseded by VDI, and that it’s very much a one or the other type scenario.  I wonder who gave them that idea?  This couldn’t be further from the truth, with both Microsoft and Citrix still continuing to invest in the platform to provide the highest density, and greatest ROI for a remote working environment, especially suited to the task/knowledge workers.  Many of the Partners, and more specifically, the customers that see me demonstrate our RDS solution, typically follow up with ‘So does this mean I don’t need Citrix anymore?’.  One of the reasons they are asking this question, is because they’ve just seen me deliver a local, LAN-based RDS demo, utilising RDP 7.0 (soon to be 7.1…) and for all intents and purposes, the user experience is pretty darn good, and naturally, the tendency is to compare it with their, perhaps legacy, Presentation Server deployment that’s due for an upgrade.

It’s when we introduce the unpredictable WAN element that things begin to change.

Don’t get me wrong, RDP is leaps and bounds better than what it was, but it’s still designed primarily for the LAN, and hence the upcoming feature in Service Pack 1; RemoteFX, will only function over the LAN (with RDP anyway).  This is where protocols like Citrix HDX (High Definition eXperience), VMware PCoIP (PC over IP), Quest’s EOP Xtream, and Ericom Blaze all claim to streamline and enhance the connection to a remote environment over WAN links, but the claim is, some do it better than others…

This is where the interesting read comes in.

Over on Virtualization.info, Alessandro provides details on what I would describe as a lightweight test performed by Chris Wolf, at Gartner, where, at 200ms latency, in a real-world scenario, Citrix HDX outperforms VMware PCoIP.  It was a simple test, and by no means took into account all of the best practices that I’m sure exist for both platforms (as detailed on this blog, talking about the PCoIP performance in the scenario tested by Chris) but still, Citrix won out at 200ms, but both performed well at 120ms latency.  How would RDP compare here?  I wouldn’t like to say.  As the latency starts to creep up, inevitably the user experience will start to deteriorate more so than the other protocols discussed, but just remember what it;s designed for.  You can read more about the improvements in RDP 7 here.

So to answer my question from earlier – ‘Does this mean I don’t need Citrix anymore?’ – the answer is, if you’re doing anything over the WAN, with higher latencies, then Citrix, for the session based environment, will certainly provide you with a richer experience.  Don’t also forget the other benefits around increased scalability, manageability, USB device support, end-device flexibility (iPhone, iPad, Linux, Mac etc.) and this is just scratching the surface.  Citrix, along with Partners such as Quest, Ericom and more, will always offer value-add on top of the Microsoft platform – the key thing is, for many organisations, is working out what’s right for you, what functionality you need, and keeping it within budget!

No benchmark test will allow you to simulate your conditions, and your environment, hence gathering detailed user requirements and delivering a Proof of Concept is essential, but just from reading the article on Virtualization.info, and also across on Chris Wolf’s blog, you’d be inevitably leaning towards Citrix from a protocol perspective, however don’t write off others such as Quest, who with EOP Xtream may just surprise you!