Last week, Citrix finally announced a solution designed around HDX Connect, which enables direct connection to remote computers using HDX instead of connecting through a connection broker. HDX Connect technology is nothing new, and it's been around in one form or another since the days of Trinity and PortICA. PortICA was the basis for Citrix Desktop Server in 2007, which evolved to become XenDesktop in 2008.
The technology has always been hanging around, tantalizing admins who can think of countless ways to use it (you've heard of a "solution looking for a problem", I call it a "solution looking for a revenue stream"). Citrix hasn't come up with a way to license such a product, and they've said they don't want to make their most valuable IP available for nothing to the masses who could then roll their own VDI solution.
Still, Citrix has kept looking for ways to use HDX Connect, and last week they announced HDX Connect Demo. HDX Connect Demo is a tool being made available for free to partners and Citrix sales staff to be used as a demonstration of HDX technology without having to bring along an elaborate demo system or putting together a lab on site. It works by installing the host code on one machine (Windows XP or up) and then a Citrix Receiver on another machine, which takes about 10 minutes.
So wow...HDX Connect...free...what's the catch?
As I mentioned, it's intended only for sales, and to keep it that way Citrix has baked in some limitations. Namely:
- The host must run a "Pro" (i.e. not "Home") edition of Windows (XP and up)
- Aero is disabled on the host (although this wasn't put there on purpose, it's just a byproduct of the bits of VDA that are used on the host)
- Connections are limited to four hours, after which you'll be disconnected and have to wait five minutes to log back in.
- The console is blacked out on the host
- Closing the client brings up an advertisement for XenDesktop
- Only works on Windows receivers - no iOS, Android, or Mac yet.
Because of these limitations, partners and sales staff are able to leave the code behind in organizations without the risk of companies abusing the technology. It's a nice idea, for sure, but I'm not sure what it's actually going to show organizations. A huge part of HDX's advantage comes from it's performance over remote connections. This can still be experienced by adding WAN emulators in between the test machines, but it's far from a simple solution. Add to that the fact that only Windows receivers work with it for now, I can just picture the conversation at the client site going something like this:
"Ok, so, you see I've connected to this computer over here and I'm controlling it remotely. You'll just have to take my word for it that it works with your phones, Macs, and remote sites, or you can just stand up a real eval anyway."
After which, of course, the customer will simply stand up a real evaluation. It's because HDX Connect Demo is the kind of a thing you'd use in a trade show demo or a particularly long elevator ride. You'd spend ten minutes setting it up, three minutes showing it off, then 60 minutes downloading the eval bits of XenDesktop to get an actual look at it (which you could've started thirteen minutes ago).
The real gripe I have is that by only making this available to sales staff and partners, it doesn't solve any problems for organizations already using HDX. The connection broker is still a single point of failure in a XenDesktop environment, and making HDX Connect available to licensed corporate customers would provide a workaround (by directly connecting to the virtual desktops) in the event of a failure.
I understand Citrix's point of view that if people had access to HDX Connect as a standalone product, it would be easy for people to create their own broker and create their own VDI platform (actually, how in the hell did Kaviza license HDX, anyway?). My problem is that there are very real problems that can be fixed by this technology (don't forget the Citrix Online products), and they've yet to find a way to use it in that capacity. There simply has to be a way to tie the use of HDX Connect to the ownership of XenDesktop.
I know a lot of you feel the same way, so I'm going to throw out a suggestion, then anxiously await yours. Here's mine:
A setting/function in the VDA that allows HDX Connect connections if the VDA has communicated with the connection broker at least once in the last XX hours. 96 hours would allow for long weekends and such, and if a machine has never talked to the connection broker, it would not allow HDX Connect connections. I know it doesn't account for how the client side would know where to connect, but that part of the problem should be relatively easy to solve.
I know that Citrix is paying attention to posts about HDX Connect, so come one, come all...leave your comments below.