Is Net2Display dead or just dying?

I was thinking about remote protocols today after reading about the funding that Teradici received, and it occurred to me that we haven't heard anything about Net2Display lately. Net2Display (link goes to article from 2007), a projected open standard display protocol from VESA, first showed up on the radar in late 2006 after a video engineering conference.

I was thinking about remote protocols today after reading about the funding that Teradici received, and it occurred to me that we haven't heard anything about Net2Display lately. 

Net2Display (link goes to article from 2007), a projected open standard display protocol from VESA, first showed up on the radar in late 2006 after a video engineering conference.  There was ample speculation in the following year, but since late 2007, we haven't heard anything new.  That begs the question, "Is Net2Display dead?" We don't even know where VESA left off with it, so it's hard to speculate whether or not it's tied up in politics, technological problems, or dead and gone.  Still, I'll try :)

The political tie-up reasoning:

While some will argue that an open standard is good for everyone, there's going to be a group of folks that don't agree.  In this case, that group consists of private companies that are either licensing or are really close to licensing their own product that would compete with that open standard. 

Net2Display has (had?) several companies on it's committee, namely IBM, Teradici, DeskTone, Avocent, and VMware.  Those names are the most recent list I can find, having come from an article by Brian from late 2007.  In fact, Brian pulled those names from a PDF from 2006!

Times have changed for a lot of those companies.  In addition to everyone feeling a bit more competitive in a slumping economy, new relationships have been formed - namely Teradici and VMware.  With two of the main proponents of Net2Display working on their own partnership that would isolate VMware's product as the best remote display solution (remember, Citrix says their working on something, but nobody's seen anything), wouldn't it be in their best interest to keep that solution close to their vest?

Would a VMware/Teradici co-op be better for those companies than an open standard...probably.  I could make an argument that everyone could benefit from it, actually.  With an adequate solution out there, Microsoft and Citrix will have to amp up their development efforts, and we could find ourselves surrounded by some really amazing protocols.

The technological problems reasoning:

VESA could have put the wraps on this protocol a while ago if they just decided they wanted to have a hand in the game, but the fact of the matter is that this is a tough problem to solve.  There are many limitations in the current technologies that are constants - no matter what you do to the protocol, they will always exist.  That means for a new protocol spec to be created, the wheel needs to be re-invented.

Other companies are working on solutions, but a broad local and remote, fast connection and slow solution does not yet exist.  If VESA is waiting for this, then that would explain the delay.  The complexities of a solution that robust are astounding.

The dead and gone reasoning:

Of course, it could just be that VESA decided to bag the whole thing and leave it alone.  Maybe they decided it was best to let the dust settle, then come back and choose a direction.  As I said, no solution currently exists that addresses all the needs of a next-gen remote display protocol, so they could be waiting to see if a new technology or approach emerges that they can use to build a foundation for a new protocol.  It's a great idea.  Hell, in 2006, it was revolutionary, but maybe it's a victim of bad timing from conception, through competition, and into a bad economy?

It's also possible that nobody "decided" anything.  The Net2Display initiative is being driven by a committee, since it's an open standard being developed, in part, by for-profit companies, there could be a lack of incentive to put noses to the grindstone in an effort to get something developed.  It could just be lingering in limbo waiting for someone to take the bull by the horns.

If not Net2Display, what will the next standard be?

At this point, it's hard to tell.  The relationship VMware has with Teradici could result in something, but something more pervasive might be necessary to become a "standard."  That's where Microsoft comes in.  With the inclusion of the Calista feature-set into RDP 7, it very well could become the new de facto standard.  Details are sparse as to what that feature set will be, but it stands to reason something will be included in the final release of Windows Server 2008 R2.  If Net2Display is going to be the standard, it better get something out to the community pretty quickly.

I could be 100% wrong about reasons behind the Net2Display silence.  I'd love to see it still around and moving along at a nice pace, but it's just been so long since any new information has surfaced.  If anyone has any information, or if anyone involved with Net2Display cares to share the status of the project, please feel free to email me or comment.

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Gabe,


In the context of this discussion it's worth noting that Microsoft has released the RDP specification to the public:


ericomguy.blogspot.com/.../microsoft-releases-rdp-specifications.html


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Certainly, but that's RDP 6, not RDP 7.  For all intents and purposes, it's pre-Calista, even though that acquisition happened in January of 2008, and Microsoft released the RDP spec in February.


Still, it's all we have to go on for now.


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Citrix should open source a version of ICA it's better than anything else right now. If not, let RedHat Open Source SPICE or VMWare PC-IP software version.....Just like the Hypervisor has become a commodity, so should the protocol.


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Mark Twain once said "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."  So it is also with Net2Display. Net2Display has been making substantial progress in the last year, incorporating many of the difficult features that you allude to in your article. Net2Display went through a VESA general membership review in the fall of 2008 and should be appearing as an approved standard this summer. Having an open remoting standard will spur cooperative innovation that will benefit both the market and end users.


As a VESA standards work in progress, specific information on the actions of the Net2Display task group or the participants are not publically released, which has added to the quietness of the Net2Display development. After approval, the Net2Display standard will be available for purchase by non-VESA members, opening it up to the general community.


If it would be beneficial, I could provide an article to the brianmadden site on the features and status of Net2Display remoting (with VESA approval).


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The next big thing is not going to be from Citrix, VMware, not Microsoft.


The potential might be the likes of www.onlive.com which no one from the commercial side is paying any attention.


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Hi Ken,


I'm glad to hear that development is ongoing.  I would definitely appreciate any information on the features/status of Net2Display.  This community is very aware of the need for a protocol with capabilities that Net2Display is reported to be working towards, so any information relayed to them would be wonderful.


Thanks,


Gabe


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As a member of the VESA Net2Display task group, I would like to add my support to Ken’s statements and emphasis the size of the effort necessary to define and document an extensive protocol of this nature. We are committed to releasing the spec and evolving it as we learn and the industry changes. Still, we could always use some help from others in the community who might care to join the group.


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The VESA Net2Display Standard Version 1.0 is now available free from the VESA site at www.vesa.org/.../2009_10b.htm.


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