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PCoIP performance problems push IT toward VMware Blast Extreme

VDI shops looking for better virtual desktop performance and graphics rendering want to test out Blast Extreme in Horizon 7 after encountering issues with PCoIP.

BOSTON -- VMware Blast Extreme intrigues VDI administrators who aren't happy with the virtual desktop experience...

on PCoIP.

VMware used Teradici's PCoIP as its remote display protocol until the vendor added its own -- Blast Extreme -- as part of Horizon 7 in March. Now, IT pros have the option to choose between PCoIP and Blast Extreme for delivering virtual desktops in Horizon. IT pros here at the VMware User Group meeting expressed interest in switching to Blast Extreme, citing performance issues they've experienced with PCoIP.

Those PCoIP performance issues include application-delivery lag, slow screen refreshes and poor user experience, in general, said Tom Rasmussen, IT manager and instructor at Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, a trade school and VMware Horizon customer in Dorchester, Mass. Rasmussen plans to test out VMware Blast Extreme in hopes that VMware delivers on its promise of better performance.

"Those issues make me want to see what else is out there," he said. "I'm curious in what's new in Blast and if it has improved user experience."

VMware Blast Extreme is optimized for wireless and other higher-latency networks, which helps when delivering virtual desktops to mobile devices. The protocol uses the advanced video compression standard H.264, which any device can easily decode in its graphic processing unit (GPU), putting less strain on the CPU. Battery life is an issue with VDI on mobile devices, but offloading graphics processing from the CPU requires less power, which means less drain on the battery.

Plus, VMware Blast Extreme supports NVIDIA Corp.'s GRID virtualized GPU technology, which allows IT to provide VDI users on thin clients or mobile devices with better performance for graphics-intensive applications. For example, applications such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks for 3D imaging typically don't run well on those kinds of lightweight endpoints. NVIDIA's integration with Blast Extreme, however, helps applications render high-resolution images and video on less expensive clients and mobile devices.

Graphics-intensive applications often wouldn't render correctly, if at all, without accelerating the GPU through Blast and NVIDIA GRID, said Robert Young, research analyst at IDC.

I'm curious in what's new in Blast and if it has improved user experience.
Tom RasmussenIT manager and instructor at Joint Apprenticeship

"Prior to this, it wouldn't work, or the performance would be horrible," Young said. "This really is a game-changing technology."

Complex images and graphics are becoming a regular part of everyday applications, Young said. That trend was evident in Microsoft's recent announcement of the Windows 10 Creators Update, for instance, where Windows 10 and Microsoft Office will feature high-resolution and 3D graphics.

When it comes down to deciding between VMware Blast Extreme and PCoIP, the user experience is the most important factor, said Bill Lesler, senior endpoint solutions engineer at Eaton Vance Management, an investment management firm and Horizon customer in Boston.

"I never thought the viewing experience [on mobile devices] was as good as the client, but maybe this will be better," Lesler said. "The user experience ... has to be better, or no one will want to switch."

Eaton Vance Management plans to test Blast Extreme with Horizon 7, but plans to wait for the next update.

"You typically don't want to go with the first version of a release," Lesler said. "That's with anything, not just with VMware."

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