Details about Microsoft Calista start to emerge, but much is still unknown

It's been almost a year since Microsoft bought Calista Technologies, a non-shipping set of technologies that leverages host and client-based GPUs for 3D and multimedia remoting. Since the acquisition, Microsoft has been mum about the technology.

It's been almost a year since Microsoft bought Calista Technologies, a non-shipping set of technologies that leverages host and client-based GPUs for 3D and multimedia remoting. Since the acquisition, Microsoft has been mum about the technology. Nevertheless, we've still learned a few things about it over the past year. So of the Microsoft folks at BriForum talked a bit about it, Tad Brockway posted a blog entry about it earlier this week, Microsoft demoed a Calista preview at WinHEC last week, and there's this obscure Yahoo video demoing it.

So what do we know about Calista?

  • The Calista team is in the Bay Area, being led by Tad Brockway. Tad moved down there from Seattle, where he worked with the Terminal Services group for years. (Many of you remember Tad from his BriForum 2006 presentation about how Terminal Services came to be.)
  • Calista is specifically meant to help with 3D and multimedia applications. It does that by leveraging the GPU running on the host and the client.
  • Microsoft has NOT announced the "delivery vehicle" for Calista. In other words, we don't know when it's coming out. Tad's post had a sentence which read "When we launch RDS (Remote Desktop Services) in Server 2008 R2, and eventually Calista..." So we can guess Calista will be after R2.
  • The Calista demos at WinHEC were running on Windows 7 preview code running Hyper-V preview code. We don't know if Calista will specifically require Hyper-V on the host.
  • In the past, the talk was that Calista required a real Windows OS running on a real computer. But one of the Calista demos at WinHEC used a prototype thin client device. We can assume this device had a full GPU.
  • Server 2008 R2 will have many new RDP features, including "real" multi-monitor support, a connection broker that can be used for VDI or TS/RDS sessions, and DirectX remoting. These are all separate from Calista.

The more I learn about Calista, the more it seems that it's a bit like Teradici, except that Calista is based on existing GPU chips, whereas Teradici has their own. Of course Teradici does the whole DVI signal, not just 3D and multimedia, and Teradici also handles client-side USB and security and stuff... but as far as a general concept of leverage host and client-based special chips, these two seem similar.

Now that I'm living in the Bay Area, I'm hoping to visit the Microsoft office where Calista is being developed to record some videos of it in action. (Oh, by the way, I moved to San Francisco.) Until then, if anyone has any more information or video links, please post them. Calista can potentially fulfill one of the four technical needs for the "VDI+ 2010 vision," so I'm very interested in watching it evolve.

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