VMware's Horizon View VDI product has a new remote display protocol. After years atop the market, Teradici's PC over IP has some serious competition.
The remote display protocol leaders are Microsoft Remote Desktop Protcol (RDP), PC over IP (PCoIP), VMware Blast and the new Blast Extreme, as well as Citrix's HDX technologies. So what should organizations use where? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each protocol and can organizations have just one protocol for all uses? The choice is really only between PCoIP and VMware Blast Extreme for VMware shops and the decision comes down to the devices users work with.
Microsoft's RDP is the lowest common denominator for View. It is the fall-back protocol when all else fails and it really doesn't work as well with View as other protocols. Companies should only use RDP with View when there is no other choice -- for example, when an organization has thin clients that only work with RDP or if users access desktops from a network that locks down internet access other than Secure Sockets Layer.
VMware Blast vs. Blast Extreme
The older Blast is the HTML5 client. It uses a web browser as a client, with no additional client components to install. The Blast HTML5 gateway is a feature of the Horizon View Security and Connection servers and is enabled as an option on a virtual desktop pool. The pool still needs a default display protocol; HTML5 is just an additional access option. It's a good access method because it lets users connect to multiple View deployments in different tabs and allows them to use anything, even a Chromebook, as a VDI client.
But using a web browser has its own challenges, in particular when it comes to consistency. There are also challenges with using additional client-side devices, such as client drives, printers and USB keys.
VMware Blast Extreme builds on the best capabilities of the Blast protocol and delivers them to a native client on users devices. It plays into the rise of mobile devices in the VDI world. Users work with smartphones and tablets as VDI clients far more frequently than they did when Apple iOS and Google Android first released their VDI clients.
One limitation with VDI on mobile devices is battery life. A key design principle with VMware Blast Extreme is to offload graphics processing from the CPU, which reduces the power consumption for accessing a desktop. Lower power consumption means longer battery life.
VMware Blast Extreme uses the H.264 video encoding standard which any modern mobile device can handle in its GPU, rather than CPU. Blast Extreme does not appear in the product user interface; rather the new protocol is still just called Blast.
To use the new protocol, users' desktops and View clients must have updated View agents. Admins can then configure virtual desktop pools to use Blast or allow users to change the protocol in their clients.
IGEL, Dell and HP Inc. all offer thin clients that support VMware Blast Extreme.
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.
PCoIP isn't dead yet
A lot of View users use PCoIP, and the protocol still does a great job. PCoIP works best with zero clients with Teradici chips. They are easy to manage and deliver the most PC-like experience for users.
The other key characteristic is that PCoIP usually builds a pixel-perfect, lossless image on the client screen. The same is not true for Blast Extreme because H.264 is a video encoding scheme susceptible to loss.
So, should View shops use PCoIP or Blast Extreme as the default remote display protocol? As always with VDI, it comes down to what users need. If they primarily access desktops with mobile devices, then VMware Blast Extreme is a great choice. If they work with many of the thin clients on the market, PCoIP is the de facto choice. Windows and Mac clients can use both PCoIP and Blast Extreme, so they are easy to satisfy. The challenge comes when multiple device types access the same pool. In that case, IT might just have to choose protocols for users.
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