How long can Ericom's HTML 5 client dominance last?

Ericom AccessNow is the default HTML 5 RDP client, but other desktop virtualization vendors could cash in on the appeal of HTML 5 clients by building their own.

Ericom was one of the first companies to deliver an HTML 5-based RDP client for accessing Windows applications

via a Web browser. Now, that product -- Ericom AccessNow -- is the go-to HTML 5 client for a variety of virtual desktop offerings, though I'm not sure how long that will last.

HTML 5 RDP client
The difference between a normal client and an HTML 5 client is that normal clients require software to be installed and executed locally to receive and render the remote protocol data. HTML5 clients, on the other hand, execute everything inside a Web browser using JavaScript and a communication technology called WebSocket.

What's interesting about Ericom is that they're not just using AccessNow to HTML 5-enable their PowerTerm WebConnect or Blaze products, they support HTML 5 desktop and application delivery for VMware View, LeoStream and now Quest vWorkspace. Citrix isn't on that list -- potentially because they are close to releasing their own -- but more likely because Ericom has made a living calling PowerTerm WebConnect the "alternative to Citrix."

The fact that you can keep using View or vWorkspace and their protocols for most of your environment and then plug in Ericom AccessNow when you need an HTML 5 solution is fantastic. Users will still access the same desktops and applications, just with a different protocol.

The LeoStream offering is a bit different, since they leverage AccessNow to deliver desktops as part of their Mobile Desktops offering, as opposed to in-house desktop virtualization solutions. In that instance, AccessNow is a critical part of the infrastructure, so it says a lot that a company like LeoStream decided to partner with Ericom instead of rolling their own solution.

This is good for Ericom, which has never cracked the top three in the desktop virtualization space. The company has put a lot of muscle behind AccessNow over the past six months and it's the product they're talking about the most about right now.

But Quest and VMware could make AccessNow a PowerTerm WebConnect-only solution by releasing their own versions of HTML 5 clients. The overall experience of using Windows desktops and applications via HTML 5 client isn't as nice as using native protocols. There is a transcoding going on from the native protocol to one that the client's Web browser (WebSocket and JavaScript) can work with. This means that in almost all cases, any protocol-level enhancements are stripped away or negated by the transcoding and the overall experience suffers.

For many companies in this situation today, HTML 5 clients are "good enough," but you'd be hard pressed to find someone that preferred the experience to native PCoIP, Quest's Experience Optimization Protocol (EOP), Remote Desktop Protocol or even Ericom's own Blaze.

Sound is not yet supported by any HTML 5 remote desktop solution, although that's slated to change. So, is the degree of transcoding necessary to render the screen in the browser, which should increase performance as the client packages and browsers are modified to support these new changes?

While we wait for the improvements, AccessNow is a solid offering in an infant market. As more mobile- and browser-oriented devices become available, the technology will grow in importance.

Read more from Gabe Knuth

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabe Knuth is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

This was first published in December 2011

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