Ericom's True Media Experience, or Reverse Seamless Windows

"True Media Experience," which uses a technology developed by Ericom called Reverse Seamless Application (RS) technology is a feature that takes application windows from the client device and laces them in seamlessly with their virtual desktop session, even preserving the z-order of each window (even alt-tab works).

Earlier this week, I had a briefing with Ericom and came away with an interesting bit of information about their upcoming PowerTerm Webconnect release. "True Media Experience," which uses a technology developed by Ericom called Reverse Seamless Application (RS) technology is a feature that takes application windows from the client device and laces them in seamlessly with their virtual desktop session, even preserving the z-order of each window (even alt-tab works). By running certain applications locally and seamlessly integrating them with applications running remotely, Ericom believes that True Media Experience (I'm going to call it TME now) is a viable solution to poor performance by graphics-intensive or multimedia applications in VDI scenarios.

With TME, administrators can specify where applications should run--local or remote. The desktop and Start menu shortcuts for local applications are available in the virtual desktop, so when a user launches an application the experience remains familiar. Using TME to run, say, Windows Media Player locally (but still appearing to within the VDI session) will provide the user with a rich experience while avoiding performance, bandwidth, and resource concerns on the back end.

Administrators can also configure TME to behave differently for local or remote documents/URL's. For example, the users' Internet browsers could be configured to run off the local device, but exclusions can be made so that corporate intranet sites are presented through the remote session. This allows for users to work from home or in other locations without WAN/LAN/VPN access, yet still have access to all the features of TME and all the features of being at their desk.

True Media Experience and Reverse Seamless application technology are slated for a late Q1, early Q2 release as part of Ericom's PowerTerm Webconnect product. During the demo I saw, the administration components were not shown, and I was told that an admin interface is in the works. By the second release of the feature, they expect to have a full featured admin interface in addition to other new features such as the ability to tunnel document/URL requests for remote items through the RDP protocol, so that all documents or URL's can be accessed locally and securely without the need to maintain lists of local and remote addresses.

Some of you might be thinking "Haven't I heard this before?" If you've been paying attention, you have! Back in April, mixed in with all the LufLogix madness, Brian wrote about Citrix Project Alice--one of the research projects going on at Citrix's Advanced Products Group in Sydney, Australia. One of the features of Project Alice is called "Looking Glass" (catching the Alice in Wonderland theme?), and is an attempt to do the exact same thing that Ericom's TME is doing (well, maybe not exact. Ericom's reverse seamless method is patent pending). As yet, Citrix hasn't rolled the feature into any of the products, and to my knowledge nobody else has released anything like it, either.

I'm left wondering if other companies have given up on (or are looking past) the technology, and here's why: It seems to me that offloading processing of certain types of content or applications to the local device is more of a stop-gap than a be-all, end-all solution. It doesn't really solve any of the protocol performance issues that are preventing VDI from providing a local experience, it just relocates some of the processing to the local device. So what if you're using a thin client? You can't offload much of anything to the local client, unless you're running embedded XP. TME is sharp enough to pick up on the fact that the client doesn't have the capabilities to run things locally, so the user will still be able to access the applications on the remote side (assuming they're installed, of course), but we're right back to where we started with the user experience.

So what about those other companies? I'm hoping that they're working on is the next-gen remote desktop protocol. Rather than focus on stop-gap measures, maybe Citrix is focusing on a solution. Please don't get me wrong - Ericom's solution is really cool, and it's something that can help get you over the hump until the next-gen protocol comes through, but in a few years I hope we'll have a complete solution that can provide a local experience with little or no client side involvement. That's the only way to get to Any (device) Any (connection) Any (application).

 

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RES Powerfuse has been doing this fro years but they aren't an application and desktop delivery company like Ericom is.


People that wanted it used it in conjunction with Citrix which makes it an insanely expensive solution.


Quest is also working on a solution like this, with a Q2 timeframe Ericom, Quest, Citrix might all have it at the same time...


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Besides Ericom, Login Consultants was working on reverse seamless windows years ago. We presented the first results of our project "Scheveningen" at PubForum 2005.  Brian wrote about it in an article earlier this year: www.brianmadden.com/.../citrix-project-alice-reverse-seamless-windows.aspx. The thing is that RES has a patent application pending for reverse seamless since 2001. If you want, check out the details at the European Patent Office under the application number 01202210.9. In order to not getting into trouble with the future owner of the patent, we decided to stop any further development and marketing of reverse seamless -- until an other company besided RES released an implementation of reverse seamless. This will leave it to RES and this first mover to sort out if the patent application applies or not.


In this case, the pending patent kills creativity and probably prevents a wider range of reverse seamless implementations. But this is only my personal opinion about the matter.


Benny


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Your second to last paragraph hits the nail right on the head. I think maybe we have to go through this area of experimentation as part of the development of desktop visualization strategies, but it seems like a dead end. The only way VDI makes sens e for me is if the device on the user's desk is as dumb as possible. Distributing processing to where it is easiest to execute, by the nature of a fat client, doesn't really solve anything. In fact, from your description, it actually makes it sound worse - what about the management overhead of deciding where and how applications should execute? Not a problem if you've got 20 or 30 apps; more of a problem if you've got 3000+ !


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@Benny


I had similar thoughts about that patent, but Ericom told me that they are patenting the method and not the concept.  I'm sure there's a fine line there, but it does leave an opening for others to do something similar via a different method.


Even if there is only one way to do reverse seamless windows, that might be a bonus because it will force other companies to focus development efforts on a better protocol.


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Gabe,


Thank you for the nice analysis. I'd like to take this opportunity to add a few more highlights and detail:


First, as you correctly pointed out, for Reverse Seamless to be used the appropriate application must be present on the client side. It is important to note that most end-point devices these days have a browser, and many also support Flash. As a result, at the very least, a local browser can be used instead of a remote one hosted within the virtual desktop on the server. Also, in our upcoming release we are introducing integration with Microsoft App-V for application streaming. This means that you will be able to stream applications on-demand to the client and have them seamlessly integrated into the virtual desktop.


Also, while Ericom's True MultiMedia Experience capability may not be a "be-all, end-all solution", it is a solution that will shortly be generally available for a problem that might otherwise not be solved for a long time. I wholeheartedly agree that remoting protocols need to be improved - in fact Ericom is introducing several RDP performance enhancements in the same version of our product, and they will work in conjunction with this feature. Moreover, as Ericom's Reverse Seamless mechanism is an extension of RDP, it will work with Microsoft's upcoming RDP 7 with all its performance enhancements.


It is important to note that Reverse Seamless is not just about improving the end-user experience, it's also about reducing load on the servers. Offloading processing of applications to the client can free up server resources such as memory and CPU. This enables hosting more concurrent sessions on your hardware and running more application instances. It also results in improved performance of those applications that are hosted on the server.


The reduced load provided by our True MultiMedia Experience is not only on the servers, it's also on the network. High quality remoting protocols currently being developed often consume a very large amount of bandwidth. This can make them unsuitable for WAN and even problematic on LAN. With reverse seamless the bandwidth utilization is lower than that provided by any remoting protocol because the application window is rendered completely on the client side.


We are currently working on preparing a couple of cool videos demonstrating True MultiMedia Experience. We will be uploading them to the net in the near future. I will also provide more information about this feature on my blog.


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Hey Dan, thanks for weighing in.


I know this is intended for VDI, but I think that freeing up server resources could also be very valuable for traditional SBC desktops as well.  Will Reverse Seamless work when connecting to an SBC box, or is it VDI only?  


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Hey Gabe,


Yes indeed - we use the exact same seamless and reverse seamless implementation for VDI, SBC (TS) and also Blade PCs. This means that our True MultiMedia Experience as well as regular seamless windows work with all these platforms.


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I'm with Ewen.


What I'm seeing is that IT wants the simplest non-Windows OS at the client, connected to a virtual desktop, so they're only managing one instance of Windows per user.  I think this freverse-seamless eature is really "cool", but I'm not entirely sure of the business use case unless it works for Linux clients as well as Windows.


Since we already have multimedia redirection for Windows & Linux clients, I'm not sure exactly where this fits, but am open to the possibilities.  Once again, cool stuff, and the more deployment options the better.


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Patrick,


This feature will be available for Linux and Mac clients as well as for Windows. Also, while reverse seamless can address many of the same scenarios as multimedia redirection it can address other scenarios as well. For example it can be used with Voice over IP clients.


From your comment I understand that contrary to what Michel Roth wrote Quest is not developing this feature.


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I honestly don't know, Perhaps Michel is working with specific customers that asked for this feature and it's being developed.


If it works for non-Windows clients it definitely has value.


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