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What to know about remote display protocol technology

For organizations using virtual desktops, it's important to understand the features behind the remote display protocols in different desktop virtualization platforms.

Similar to the point guard on a basketball court, the remote display protocol acts as the playmaker for virtual desktops.

The remote display protocol creates a specific set of rules -- or plays -- for data to follow as efficiently as possible. The better the point guard is at controlling the play, the easier it is for the team to score. That is why it is important to understand what each desktop virtualization platform's remote display protocol specializes in. Virtual desktops use the remote display protocols to run the same configurations, patches and applications as physical desktops, while allowing remote accessibility.

What is a remote display protocol?

A remote display protocol is the bridge over the network between the desktop host and remote client's screen that uses data transfer rules to deliver information to the user.

It is now up to the business to select a display protocol for their specific needs, as all three of the top options are well-equipped for business.

The three top dogs in remote display protocol technology are Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. Each desktop virtualization vendor has its own protocol features that differ in support for encryption, smart card authentication, bandwidth reduction and resource sharing. It used to be that Citrix HDX was the favored remote display protocol because of its graphic capabilities, multiple user accessibility and support of mobile devices. Citrix later gained two main competitors in Microsoft and VMware.

As enterprise mobility technology continues to grow, remote display protocols have advanced as well. Mobile devices often use touchscreens, application programming and high-resolution graphics, and a remote display protocol is responsible for transferring those capabilities. It is now up to businesses to select display protocols for their specific needs.

Microsoft plays to the masses

Microsoft first developed its Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to go along with the release of Terminal Services with Windows NT 4.0 Server. Now, it is combined into its RemoteFX suite of display technologies. At first, RemoteFX's major features were the ability to virtualize a physical GPU and redirect USBs for Windows 7. With the release of Windows Server 2012, Remote FX capabilities grew with better graphics, multi-touch and the ability to create a GPU when one is not available.

Microsoft also acquired iTap IP, and has since updated its RDP clients often, providing Mac, iOS and Android with solid remote display protocol performance. Windows Server 2016 brought a major update in graphical support using the OpenGL and OpenCL applications. This has helped keep Microsoft in the game among the top remote display protocols.

Remote display protocol pop quiz: How much do you know?

There are a lot of different remote display protocols out there, and keeping them all straight isn't easy. Take this quiz to see how much you know.

VMware adds options

VMware View uses a remote display protocol called PCoIP, developed by Teradici. The company has also built its own protocol called Blast, which uses an HTML5 web browser as the client. VMware Blast Extreme, an upgrade from Blast, brought VDI users a better experience on mobile devices because it is based on the H.264 video encoding standard. Blast Extreme also helps save battery life by offloading graphics from the CPU.

VMware has been continually adding capabilities to PCoIP, however. These capabilities include a new kernel-mode webcam driver that provides better compatibility with browser-based video apps and other third-party conferencing software, USB 3.0 support for client devices, support for Linux desktops, 3D vDGA and Nvidia GRID vGPU graphics solutions and support for hosted apps.

Citrix wins for user experience

Citrix developed its remote display protocol system, HDX, using its older independent computing architecture as a stepping stool. HDX is specifically designed for the XenDesktop and XenApp virtualization platforms. It is dependent on the Transmission Control Protocol, but it can also use the User Datagram Protocol to fall back on.

HDX aims to unclog traffic on the network by minimizing duplicated data and using caches for data patterns. This protocol uses DirectX graphics, and it supports 3D graphics applications with HDX 3D Pro. Citrix also adjusted the remote display protocol to work for mobile devices with HDX Mobile, which can resize an image depending on the screen size, among other things.

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