Why VMware should build its PCoIP protocol into an RDSH-based offering

Now is the time for VMware to offer PCoIP RDSH for environments that don't want to support multiple protocols. Well, maybe VMworld is the time.

The groundwork is there for VMware to build its PC over IP (PCoIP) protocol into a Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH)-based offering, which would make support easier for existing multi-protocol environments.

VMware's new Chief Technology Officer of the Americas Chris Wolf commented on that prospect, and having spent the last several years as an analyst for Gartner, he knows as well as anybody how important that is for enterprises. I can't think of anyone better to get this task accomplished.

Why no PCoIP RDSH today?

For many years, VMware positioned View against RDSH and XenApp because it didn't have a product that directly competed with those technologies. VMware has supported brokering desktops to XenApp and RDSH, but that means supporting two remote display protocols -- VMware's own PCoIP protocol and most likely Citrix's HDX -- that are fundamentally different (though the end result is basically the same).

Supporting two protocols not only has implications on WAN optimization and security, but also on clients. If organizations have a single protocol, they can take advantage of zero clients or system-on-a-chip clients that are dedicated to a single protocol. Customers in that situation are most likely going to go with Citrix because they can use Citrix HDX to access both XenApp and XenDesktop.

More on the PCoIP protocol

Improvements to PCoIP in VMware View 5

VMware View 5 comes with PCoIP boost

Video: Apex 2800 PCoIP server offload card demo

Because VMware was pitching View against RDSH-based technologies, this shortcoming was more or less intentional, and there was plenty of marketing around how View with non-persistent images was better than using RDSH (despite our arguments to the contrary). But when VMware bought Desktone, its messaging started to change. It coined the term VDI 2.0 and started talking more about RDSH as a viable technology rather than making it seem like it was antiquated. The only thing was, VMware didn't have an RDSH-based offering that used PCoIP.

Teradici, the makers of the PCoIP protocol, created an RDSH offering called Arch a few years ago that used the View connection broker. Though VMware did nothing with this technology, it drew some interest from those organizations with multi-protocol environments. Arch has gone dark since an update in early 2013, and I suspect it's because Teradici has dedicated those resources to making PCoIP work on Amazon's WorkSpaces Desktop as a Service offering.

Oh, the possibilities for RDSH

What's great about that is the technology VMware needs to use PCoIP with RDSH exists in some form. While Amazon Web Services isn't using Arch specifically (since it's not technically using RDSH, just Windows Server), Teradici has already gone through the exercises to make PCoIP work in that environment. When combined with the View broker and any knowledge gained by integrating with Amazon at a massive scale, a VMware-Teradici PCoIP RDSH offering could be closer than you'd think. I'm very optimistic that we'll see something along these lines at VMworld 2014.

The end result will be protocol lock-in, which isn't so great, but it does mean the conversation can shift to determining the best platform for your use case, rather than weighing the pros and cons based on the protocols alone or accepting a technology that might not be the best for your environment because of protocol concerns. Citrix has had it easy in that regard over the past few years, but as soon as VMware launches an RDSH PCoIP offering, all bets are off. VMware has the hot hand right now, so we'll see how it plays out.

This was first published in March 2014

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