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).