Is VMware thinking about ditching PCoIP? If so, they should look at Framehawk.

Every BriForum finds a few recurring themes, and this year I had a handful of conversations with people about a rumor floating around that VMware was thinking of parting ways with Teradici (or vice versa) and the PC-over-IP protocol.

Every BriForum finds a few recurring themes, and this year I had a handful of conversations with people about a rumor floating around that VMware was thinking of parting ways with Teradici (or vice versa) and the PC-over-IP protocol. Nobody could speak as to why either company would make such a move, but hearing it from more than one person is enough to trigger an investigation or, at the very least, some thought cycles.

Bear in mind that I'm not writing here that this is happening right now and all those zero clients you've bought over the years are worthless. This is just some healthy speculation into the relationship between VMware, it's protocol of choice, and the company that creates it.

One one hand, VMware and Teradici are a match made in heaven. Teradici makes the hardware and the protocol, and VMware integrates it into one of the top desktop virtualization platforms on the market. Both companies are doing what they do best, and nobody is extending into areas where they shouldn't be. The PCoIP protocol itself is fine, although at this point they pretty much all are, broadly speaking.

If you being looking for reasons to back up the rumor, though, you don't have to look far. When the relationship was first forged, VMware was 100% focused on VDI desktops. Today, they also have solutions for managing physical desktops with Horizon Mirage. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but indicative of a shift in desktop philosophy (a shift that I agree with) that doesn't make any money for Teradici. 

Still, when it comes to virtual desktops, VMware is focused only on VDI, disregarding RDSH-based solutions. Sure, they've added the ability to connect to XenApp and RDSH environments into their solutions, but at the end of that day that's frustrating to organizations because they have two protocols to deliver to users. If you purchased a PCoIP thin client, you'd have to nest an RDP session inside a View session to deliver it to the device. 

It's well within the capabilities of VMware to deliver an RDSH solution, but as yet they haven't done it. I believe this has frustrated Teradici, who recently released their own RDSH solution called Arch that uses the PCoIP protocol. Deployed in conjunction with View (it has to be–it depends on the View broker), you're able to publish applications from terminal servers to end users as well as desktops. 

It could be that VMware left it up to Teradici on purpose as part of their agreement, but I don't get that impression. Why would a hardware company start making a desktop virtualization software platform? The answer, I'm sure, is that they thought VMware was leaving a big hole and not addressing a concern that customers have. The people at Teradici talk to customers all the time about buying thin clients, and I'd bet that the majority of those conversations say "You know, these zero clients look great, but since there's no XenApp functionality in View I have to be able to support my XenApp applications, too, so I need more than one protocol." Teradici did it because there was a hole in the market that VMware wasn't addressing and that directly impacted their sales.

So, if there is something brewing between Teradici and VMware, what does that mean for us? There's an interesting company called Framehawk that, should VMware acquire or partner with it, could make the transition relatively seamless. Depending on the agreement with Teradici, they may never actually have to turn off PCoIP, allowing companies to continue using it at their discretion, while also allowing users to use a new solution.

Framehawk came onto our radar from the consumerization vector because they've built a protocol from the ground up to deliver Windows applications via mobile connections. The Lightweight Framebuffer Protocol (LFP) was designed by people with a NASA background, where long delays and unreliable connections to spacecraft are the norm. LFP performs marvelously over 4G and 3G connections, and could be just the ticket for a company with a VDI solution looking to adopt a new protocol.

The other important thing about Framehawk is that what they do operates out of band from the rest of your desktop virtualization environment. Framehawk's system establishes a connection to your desktop environment via native protocols, then re-encodes the information into LFP before delivering it to the end user. It's very similar to Oracle's Secure Global Desktop or the late Sun Ray Server in that it can take many different application inputs and output them all via one protocol to end users. Framehawk can even do this from their own cloud service by connecting to your environment over a VPN. Since all you're sending to them is remote desktop protocol data, and all they're sending to users is re-encoded LFP data, it's a snap with little-to-no added security risk.

If VMware were to acquire Framehawk, they wouldn't necessarily even have to part ways with Teradici. Since Framehawk exists outside of the primary desktop virtualization solution, VMware could give you the choice of which protocol to use. 

What else could VMware do if they were to break up with Teradici? RemoteFX support is an option that would make the most sense from a technology standpoint. RemoteFX has blended together the best elements of RDP, HDX, and PCoIP, using redirection, remoting, and UDP in the most appropriate situations, and is certainly the topic of much conversation around the industry. The thing is, VMware and Microsoft hate each other, so don't expect and grand gestures from either side. 

Right now, everyone is mucking around with HTML5. I'd venture that Ericom is putting the most development effort behind it, but everyone has a solution these days. HTML5 isn't without its drawbacks, though. Native protocols are still going to provide the best performance, so if VMware and Teradici part ways I wouldn't expect to see them put all their weight behind HTML5. 

Realistically, I'd say that Framehawk and LFP give them an ultra-flexible solution that can deliver any application from any platform. It currently only works on mobile devices, but as thin clients become more like screen-less phones (Android on a stick?), that just bolsters the case for a protocol like this that doesn't carry with it a lot of overhead. I'm sure that Windows-based clients can be quickly made as well, which would expand LFP from a WAN solution to a LAN one as well. Of course, there's a lot we don't know about in terms of video performance, bidirectional audio, and so on, but things like that can be added down the line, too (or, if you need them in specific situations, just deploy those desktops via PCoIP).

So that's what I know/think. Don't expect to see any big changes happen at VMworld this year. All indications are that there will be a minor release of View, saving the major platform release for next year. Who knows, though…perhaps we'll see a new View with View 6. If you want to see more of Framehawk, you can check out the video Justin shot of their booth demo at BriForum.

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I'm not a Citrix fan boy but I wouldn't say they haven't been working on HTML5, Citrix Receiver for HTML5 was a huge step forward for WebInterface/Storefont.


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Yeah, you're right. I got used to waiting for that and actually forgot that it was finally released.


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There's a little company called Aqua Connect that recently began to offer their own remoting protocol called Aqua Accelerated Protocol.  Their main specialty is enabling a Mac OSX server to do RDSH.  You guys did an article about them a while back.


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Key words:


Rumour; Speculation;


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@vgerNYC, Aqua is cool, but since the product is 100% focused on accessing Macs via RDP, it doesn't really apply here. It would be awesome if we could run OSX in a VDI VM, but there are many other hoops to jump through before that's allowed. If that were to ever happen, though, expect AquaConnect's phones to light up.


@Mike - Without a doubt. Hopefully that was clear in the article. This is based on personal observations and conversations had with a few people at BriForum about things they'd heard.


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"Today, they also have solutions for managing physical desktops with Horizon Mirage. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but indicative of a shift in desktop philosophy (a shift that I agree with) that doesn't make any money for Teradici."


I'd actually argue that Mirage is supportive of Teradici in a different way - don't forget that where Teradici really come from is remoting of dedicated computers using PCoIP hardware host cards. If anything, Mirage is supportive of combining software and hardware PCoIP products with the Horizon platform now capable of managing both in an effective way.


Meanwhile Arch definitely seems like something Teradici decided to do on their own because VMware couldn't justify it, but the fact that Arch uses PCoIP and integrates only with View actually bolsters the VMware/Teradici relationship rather than indicating there is trouble.


Framehawk is pretty neat, but very specific to mobile. Sure you could scale it up to serve low-end desktop users, but existing protocols from all three major hypervisor vendors already have this covered. The problem that Citrix, Microsoft and VMware have been focusing on in recent years is not providing a solution for very low-demand mobile use cases, but rather making the technology scale to the other end of the user spectrum; hence enhancements like HDX 3D, APEX 2800 and vSGA/vDGA. I'd argue that these slightly more demanding use cases have held up more VDI deployments than whether you can stream a specific application to your mobile device.


If there were any truth to this rumour (and I highly doubt it), the answer of taking a protocol designed explicitly designed for mobile use cases that will still need PCoIP to supplement the more demanding users simply doesn't seem to fit.


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Should check out Splashtop :)  albeit, I'm CEO / co-founder of Splashtop.   Over 15 million "mobile" people use Splashtop Remote Desktop to remote access their computers... we are fully optimized for Intel chipset, NVIDIA GPU, and AMD GPU at computer side (leverage built-in h.264 hardware acceleration), and at mobile side, we leverage Qualcomm Snapdragon, NVIDIA Tegra, and other chips' built-in h.264 hw decode engine to achieve super low latency and high frame rate.   Our protocol auto adjust to varying WAN condition, and we have built a global relay infrastructure (on AWS) to cross any corporate networks.


Our enterprise product offers on-prem option, with AD integration.  Fully integrate w/ RDSH without installation of any agent... our SplashApp technology real-time transcodes any RDP protocol in real-time to Splashtop to deliver RDS/RemoteApp experience to any device (iOS, Android, Windows, MAC, Blackberry, WindowsPhone, WinRT, Linux, etc.).     We can just talk and interface with any existing VDI (be it View, Citrix, or others).    


To support mobile enterprises that are adopting MDM/MAM, we have versions for Good, MobileIron, Airwatch, Fiberlink, MobileNow, Symantec, etc... offering max flexibility.


VMware doesn't need to worry about protocol war (really make money from VM workloads and surrounding manageability anyway)... Enterprise customers simply overlay Splashtop on View (or Citrix) to deliver best in class, software-only (but support built-in hw acceleration of all chips) app and desktop delivery solution, supporting multi-platforms/devices.    


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