Thoughts on Citrix's Linux VDA, plus a video demo from Citrix Synergy 2015

One of the more surprising things in a relatively unsurprising Citrix Synergy was the round of applause created by the announcement of the Linux VDA Tech Preview. I think it’s great, but it’s not the kind of announcement you’d think would garner much more than a murmur, let alone get a larger reaction from the audience than the iBand’s rendition of “Hey Ya!"

I count myself among the camp that wants Citrix and VMware to put effort into a Linux VDA, while others can make a case for Citrix and VMware to redirect those development efforts back on to the core Windows platform. In the past I’ve called the Linux VDA a “niche of a niche” because desktop virtualization is already a niche, and Linux is just a small portion of desktop virtualization. In spite of that, I like the idea because it eliminates the need to have two remote desktop platforms (up until now it’s been Citrix/VMware and something else like NoMachine or something SPICE-oriented), but it’s not exactly something the industry at large has been clamoring for. 

(Yes, you can use a NoMachine or SPICE-based platform to remote Windows too, but I have yet to find one that outperforms Citrix/VMware. Let’s just admit you’re not likely to throw away one of those platforms in favor of NoMachine or SPICE for Windows alone.)

Citrix beat VMware to the market with their Linux VDA, but you could argue that they had a head start. For many years, Citrix has sold MetaFrame for Unix, (which I believe is still technically available) and it served as a rudimentary base for the Linux VDA. Most of the code had to be rewritten from scratch, though, since MFU is around 15 years old. Much of the VDA is written in .NET, which had to be rewritten to run in Linux. The end result is a Linux virtual desktop that can be accessed from old and new clients.

The first version of the Linux VDA is designed to remote hosted shared Linux full desktops (so, RDSH for Linux). They currently support both Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6 Server and Workstation as well as SuSe 11.3 (64-bit only). Since it’s so new, Citrix has only included the basic virtual channels that you’d expect (keyboard, mouse, clipboard, graphics), but will be adding more features like audio and seamless applications as time goes by. The current version is expected to be released in Q2, with additional features like multi-monitor and policy support coming in subsequent releases.

Citrix focused on enterprise Linux builds, which was smart, but I think that it might be a good idea to expand to a more accessible Linux flavor like Ubuntu. RHEL and SUSE are great for users that currently use Linux, and their companies are going to be the first to use this so it makes sense that they went that route. Still, if there are companies out there that are thinking about getting away from Windows altogether, something like Ubuntu that’s a little more user friendly to a first timer might be a more attractive option.

Brian was able to record a video demo of the Linux VDA at Synergy, which you can view above. You can download a Tech Preview of Linux VDA today, and they expect it to be released by the end of the month. I’d love to hear your feedback on what you think about the product in general, and what features should be added next, so let us know in the comments. 

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I am running this on CentOS 6.  Tried going the OpenSuse route, but haven't been able to get it working 100%.  Works great.  And I am pretty much a Linux newbie, all administration I do includes hefty google searches, and I was able to get it running quite easily.


I think this will be a good fit for the following roles.


1> Security Teams.  Often they have a lot of tools running on Linux on local machines, putting this hosted will allow those tools to be contained within the datacenter.


2> Schools.  Removal of the MS tax.  Yes, you will need CALs to access AD and file shares, but no VECD or Desktop OS license, and no RDS CALs reduces that price nicely.


3> Kiosks.  Browser only kiosk needed?  Done.


4> Scientific/Medical.  Lots of those HPC tools are going Linux, so by placing all those tools in a Hosted Linux session they can keep the MS or OSX local and just access these tools remotely.


Will this be used in all organizations?  No.  But it will expand the type of resources you can serve up from the datacenter.


Now....if Apple will let them do it with Darwin and OSX.  That would be the killer app.


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Linux in VDI can be a niche in a niche, and if you add one more qualifier of professional graphics you are getting quite specific.  But that is one market that HP Remote Graphics Software (HP RGS) has been leading for many years. I’m surprised there is no mention of it in this article.  I work for HP and as you can tell by my sign in name, I’m kind of a fan of RGS.  That said, RGS runs on VMware or Citrix with graphics pass through or virtual GPU where supported by the hypervisor and gives solid performance with multiple displays, high resolution monitors and very fast frame rate.  Many of the world’s leading companies in automotive, aerospace, animation, special FX, Oil and Gas exploration, product design and development, architecture and defense use HP RGS for their remote and virtual workstation needs.  And Linux often coincides with some of the most demanding applications. It’s probably time for the folks at Brian Madden to kick the tires of the latest HP RGS 7.1.  It can deliver solid remote 3D CAD on 4k displays, or 60 fps on HD displays.


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While I understand the, albeit extremely geeky, excitement around Linux VDA, it has such a limited use case that I cannot personally get excited about it. You know what would be exciting though? Delivery Controller virtual appliances. That would have been a very bold move by Citrix.


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RGS deserves a mention, and you're right, we should get a look at it. Specifically as it pertains to this article, I'd like to see how it works with VMware and Citrix, because while I readily admit that there are solutions that work with Linux in the world, that usually means that you're running it alongside whatever you're doing for Windows. Having a single protocol across all platforms means a more streamlined environment from top to bottom (management, protocols, clients). They're not there yet, but they're building that way.


Also, to be fair, when we talk to HP at events, nobody pulls us aside to show us the latest awesome advancements in RGS and how it has all these features. RGS is definitely not top-of-mind tech in this community. It sounds like you think it should be, so shoot me an email and lets get something set up! gabe@brianmadden.com


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Hi Gabe, have you ever looked at the company called Listeq ? They have a VDI solution (CloudDesktop) which can run all types of Linux Desktop's in VDI enviroment. They have clients for Windows, IOs, OSX, Ubuntu and Android.


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Hi Gabe, We will reach out to get you up to speed so you can take a look at RGS 7.1 on VMware, Citrix and Red Hat KVM.  I'm not too surprised that the HP folks at the events you are at have not pulled you aside for RGS.  As you know, HP is a pretty big and diverse company.  In years past the high end workstation business (even the remote workstation business) and the VDI world were quite separate. Today you find them overlapping a lot more and that, in a sense, brings HP RGS into the VDI world.


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These two demos are on Windows, but you could see similar performance on Linux.


HP RGS 7.1 4K demo video: https://youtu.be/JaJJdQzudz0


HP RGS 7.1 60 fps demo video: http://youtu.be/9bdsehiqs5I


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