What if Citrix dropped ICA and just went with RDP?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Longhorn Terminal Services and the future of Citrix recently, and I found myself wondering what would happen if Citrix stopped working on ICA and just went with RDP.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Longhorn Terminal Services and the future of Citrix recently, and I found myself wondering what would happen if Citrix stopped working on ICA and just went with RDP. (Note: This editorial is not based on any inside information, and I’m not suggesting that Citrix is actually thinking about dropping ICA. I’m just thinking, “What if?”)

So, what if Citrix dropped ICA? This could be positive in many ways.

First and foremost, since RDP and ICA are almost identical anyway, dropping ICA would allow Citrix to focus their development efforts in other areas where they can add more incremental value over the pure Microsoft products. Citrix would just have to take the one-time effort to move the tertiary ICA features to RDP (SpeedScreen, Session Reliability, etc.), but this shouldn’t take too long.

Also, dropping ICA could be good from a strategic marketing standpoint for Citrix. (I know it seems backwards, but stick with me for a moment.) If Citrix dropped ICA, that would mean that Citrix is basically admitting that ICA and RDP are the same. So why is this important? Citrix’s biggest challenge now (and in the future) is to get customers to recognize that Citrix provides value beyond Terminal Server and ICA. By dropping ICA, Citrix would “force” the market to realize that Citrix offers more than ICA. If Citrix did this in the next two years (before Longhorn comes out) then they’ll have a great head start on their story about the value they can add to a Longhorn-era Terminal Server.

Finally, if you think about it, it’s inevitable that Citrix will be forced to provide “full” RDP support in the Longhorn days anyway. I mean they already let people connect to Citrix Presentation Servers via the Web Interface using RDP, and a Citrix connection license is consumed regardless of whether the user connects using ICA or RDP, so in effect they already support RDP. When the new RDP clients come out, Citrix will have to support the advanced RDP functionality such as seamless windows. So if Citrix is already supporting the full RDP client, why should they maintain their own client and protocol when they could instead just add a few cool features to the native RDP protocol that’s built into every server and client already out there?

Is there any downside to Citrix dropping ICA support?

I honestly can’t think of too many negative results stemming from Citrix dropping the ICA protocol.

Probably the biggest issue for Citrix would be that dropping ICA would indirectly “legitimize” the other server-based computing companies out there (Provision, Jetro, ProPalms, etc.) who use pure RDP. That would give these companies the ability to say, “See, we’ve been using RDP for years, and now Citrix has seen the light and is copying us.”

But who knows... What do you think?

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While they're at it, they could drop Installation Manager, the 'portal' components of Access Gateway Advanced Control (MSAM), the Java based managment console, Conferencing Manager and ICABAR.EXE. Then they could concentrate on important thing like, giving us high colour icons in Web Interface. ;)
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I couldn't see a problem with this accept for the headache I would have with my network guys....
'you know that ICA protocol that I spent three years trying to persuade you that it would be a good idea to prioritize/shape on our network, well dump that we'll go RDP instead' ;-)

Seriously though would CITRIX still be able to provide features like Session reliability and workspace control if they started to use MICROSOFTS new RDP client or would they have to wrap something around the client to be able to get these features to work?

Workspace Control and Session reliabilty are features that we use so I would not like to take up RDP if these features weren't available to me to use
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Session Reliability uses an industry standard protocol called the Common Gateway Protocol (CGP) so it should be possible to engineer SR using RDP.
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Changing from ica to rdp for the same price (250 to 450$ listprice) would result being positioned more close to competition then before. (just one of the them).
They would loose big time when it comes to price fighting.
So making it cheaper? (when hell freezes over will the citrix pricing drop), so that is no option either.

My best bet would be towards an rdp version of Citrix Essentials. Cheap enough to fight competition, and stripped enough from functionality not to endanger the ica suite cash cow intended for the big boys.

But i fully agree that longhorn will reshape the smb landscape as it is today.
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I like both IM (for MSI Packages) and Conf Manager....
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Novell directory religion = Citrix ICA religion, some folks will fight to the bitter end for thier religion, nuf said?
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I would disagree on this ...Citrix greatest pitch is that they can (in theory) build clients for every OS and device ..So people working on Mac OS or Solaris boxes can connect to Windows application . While studying in university my school comp sci lab used to have clients on solaris boxes to connect to windows machines and access our applications.
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But I think saying the ICA and RDP protocol are virtually identical is incorrect. For instance, Active Sync syncronization, TWAIN support, speedscreen, etc etc. All things Microsoft does not have and may not have in the future. IMHO, it would be a step back for Citrix because they would then have to reengineer much of what they do to get back to their current level of functionality.
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Jeff - but don't you think that companies like Provision Networks who use RDP have already implemented some of those features - like USB sync etc...
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yes I do and I also know my history very well in regards to MS. Microsoft does have a tendency to change things which then affect the products that rely on the service/functionality. I'm not saying citrix is any better because goodness knows there stuff breaks as well and they supposedly have a very close relationship with MS. My point in this is that Citrix has removed the oneous from MS to themselves and, IMHO, it makes it a little easier for them to extend the functionality of the protocol without having to worry as much about what MS is doing.
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There is no reason you can't build rdp clients for any other system or device. there are companies out there that do this already.
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...that there would be indirect bennefits such as Brian outlined. Yes, there would be work to do to get all the features, but that is quite "doable".

To mitigate risk, Citrix can license the RDP protocol source from Microsoft (who knows, maybe they already do?).

I am unsure that in the future the idea of a "single communication pipe" will be what we are using at all. We are getting too interconnected and demanding. Putting all these things into sub-channels of the same type eventually breaks down. We will want a single client program that talks multiple pipes simultaniously. While it took a while for Microsoft to finally "get" the internet, I believe that they will be more successful (than Citrix) in putting that kind of plumbing together. Citrix could leave it to them, instead of trying to keep pace with the plumbing, and florish at making it useful and managable.

Not that I believe for a moment that Citrix would consider it!
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Aren't Citrix spending alot of time trying to 'add value' to their current product set around ICA. I.e. IRIS, and EUEM. Both these functions are built on top of the work around ICA. It might be possible technically to build this stuff on top of RDP but my understanding by these products are that Citrix is levergaing teh most they can out of ICA.
In addition their must be business/marketing value in having their own protocol because it ties people into using their product.
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there is no question on RDP or ICA... I don't care about the protocol by itself and they are both proprietary but there is some great feature that need to be added to the RDP client to make it as usefull for me as ICA client...
- multiOS
- universal print driver III
- session reliability
- SpreedScreen Browser Acceleration (the most visible one)
...
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Isn't it so that the ica protocol consumes less bandwith then the rdp protocol stil? So if citrix would soly go for rdp that means more bandwith consumtion? Or am I wrong here. Also like Jeff says usb , twain etc will be re-engineerd to work with rdp.

I see positief points however in having 1 protocol for remote logons to terminal servers instead of 2 .
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hey.. this is not serious like other post...
ica, expecially version 9.0, and the PNA are fully integrated with the Access Infrastructure... we are not talking JUST of the protocol.. even if ICA is better of RDP in terms of bandwidth and many other features... The PNA is used for the NEW printing engine (similar to thin print, we can call a light version of..), for the smooth roaming, for the graphics and... ok, the message is clear... ;-)
Or, at least this is my opinion... but ICA was born for this purpose, RDP was a rewriting of a protocol used for something different...
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I think that Citrix will still offer the ICA protocol in their releases for backward compatibillity with older clients.
Implement current ICA features shouldn't be any problem.
Citrix supporting RDP will be a good idea, especially what I've seen for the new RDPv6 protocol in longhorn server which also supports device redirection for allmost any device as long the driver is using MS new driver model.
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All this stuff that you mention is part of the Citrix ICA client.. NOT the actual ICA protocol itself. Understand that I'm not suggesting that Citrix drops its client.. I'm just saying, "What if their client used RDP too?" Of course their client engine would support SLR, UPD, SR, etc, etc.. But again, these are client and server features, not protocol features.
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I don't think this is true anymore.

And about TWAIN and stuff, again, those are client features that use a virtual channel on ICA. RDP has virtual channels that are almost identical to ICA's, and Citrix could use all their existing TWAIN technology (client and server) and add that to RDP. Again, TWAIN is a function of the client and server, NOT a function of ICA itself.
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Again, who says PNA needs to run on ICA? In my article, I AM talking about *just* the protocol.. So you would still have PNA and all its wonderful features, it's just that when the actual connection was made to the server, that would be via RDP instead of ICA.
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How would the Unix products use RDP?

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Brian, give it up. People commenting on the thread, or the general population will not get that the client and server side features have nothing to do with the protocol (ICA or RDP). You're throwing pearls to pigs
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Ah, the anonymous coward who can insult people but won't even post their own name. Pretty brave posting anonymously aren't we?

So tell us, if the features aren't going through the protocol how are they going through? Magic? Aliens from outspace? gremlins in the cable? Catching tokens with an ethernet?

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The features mentioned in this thread, ( Session Reliablility, ActiveSync, TWAIN ) are not down to ICA as a protocol. A protocol is a set of rules determining the format and transmission of data, not what data being sent. The value add features of Citrix are accomplished by Presentation Server and the ICA Client, using the Virtual Channels feature of the ICA protocol (which are also available in the RDP protocol), just because Microsoft hasn't developed a client side USB redirection module (for Active Sync support) for the RDP client, doesn't mean it can't be done.

Citrix if they wanted to could port the value add features of Presentation Server into the RDP client.


Thanks,

Dave
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Citrix has full control of ICA whereas if you go RDP your at the mercy of MS. Does anyone remember that when NT 3.5 (or was it 3.51) came out that Novell ported their File System over to NT? It was awesome, all the great features of the file system on NT. Unfortunately, it broke every time a service pack came out. they'd fix it, then it'd break again. Other companies as well have been hurt because MS, at the last minute, decides to implement osmething that no is prepared for (Was it SP4 and the Notes client?). While this can still affect Citrix, it is much easier to correct when you are in full control of something instead of having to, possibly, reinvent the wheel if MS decides to change something, especially at the last minute as they are prone to do.

Now, I know what a protocol is and I know how this works (been at this a very, very long time) and the I don't see how anything false was stated in the above comments by people. the features are delivered through the ICA protocol. They are dependent on ICA and the client. In this case and the reality of the now is, the features have EVERYTHING to do with the protocol.

Insulting people is just the wrong way to make a point and even then it wasn't a point at all.
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Brian,

I would like to respectfully disagree with the statement that the ICA protocol and the RDP protocol are virtually identical. They are certainly very similar, but I see differences when the protocols are "pushed" harder. These differences are evident to the general user population, which is where the rubber meets the road for many of us.

Here is one example: Try this for yourself if you have access to the right servers and see if you get the same results. Anyone else here can try too.

With client drive mapping enabled in both the ICA and RDP clients, time how long it takes to enumerate the contents of a drive or folder. If you compare a W2K3 server with and without CPS 4.0, you will see a big difference in the time it takes to perform this task. You may or may not see this on a LAN, but you will see greater differences as the server gets further away. For me, there is a seven second difference by the time I compare opening the "My Computer" folder on servers in Singapore from California. It doesn't sound like much, but seven seconds is a long time to an end user.



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Any thoughts on this?
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I don't see why Microsoft would purchase Citrix. There relationship is similar to a Car and Petrol. To Run Citrix you need Microsoft. Therefore Microsoft Win. To Run Just Microsoft you need Microsoft. They win again.

Now the benefit of having Citrix separate from MIcrosoft is that Citrix have sales people whom Microsoft doesn't have to pay for which may increase the sales of Windows TS indirectly. Microsoft Win again...

If Citrix didn't build on Microsoft I could consider then that they might be keen on aquisition or total anihilation.
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First Microsoft and Citrix have a license agreement and what I heard is that Microsoft owns a big number of shares of Citrix :) so they win anyway. With Longhorn coming Citrix needs to focus on other then published applications and desktops cause Longhorn is capable of doing that. So Citrix will loose more and more ground what they now have in features who are a real add on to Terminal Server. Why can other firms build published applications / desktops and why is Citrix stil on ica protocol. I think if all party's focus on one protocol to build all there feateres on it would be more pleasent for engineers also to manage the systems and to troubleshoot networking issues.
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true point there Brain. I still have to figure out most stuf in citrix / terminal server but am getting there slowly :)
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Eutopia would be that Citrix buy's and extends a good win32 emulator to runs apps from a linux backend server.
The fragile partnership (and if MS indeed owns a shitload of citrix shares) with MS would make this impossible. (not technically) as MS would hit them with full force as the core cash for MS comes from OS's and Office sales, and they will defend that with everything the've got.
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As I've said, IMHO, it's all about the control. Citrix controls ICA and it's an industry standard now.
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I don't agree with the statement that "ICA and RDP are the same."

In a past life I helped size WAN links for a Citrix deployment to about 75 branch offices. We tested RDP and ICA over simulated frame relay connections and found that RDP consumed about 1.5x to 2.0x more bandwidth than ICA. Our conclusion was that there was obviously something in the engineering of the ICA protocol that makes it more bandwidth-friendly. If we hadn't used Citrix, we would have needed to buy more bandwidth from Verizon. I wanted to go with Citrix anyway (after all I was the one that was going to have to manage it, and I liked the Citrix administrative capabilities way better than TS), but I felt even more justified when I showed the network cost savings we would reap.

What turned out to be more important than just bandwidth consumption was ICA's ability to control the bandwidth used by file copy and print traffic. When we first went live we didn't have these controls set, and users noticed that when they printed, their applications (and everyone else's in that branch office) slowed down considerably. Once we set the policies to control bandwidth, this problem went away.

I don't see Citrix dropping ICA, and I hope they don't do it. They've done a lot of work to engineer in features like this to their protocol, and retrofitting them to RDP would seem like a waste of development time. I'd hope that Citrix would have their engineers work on other things that we need, like better printing and network connection monitoring.
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What version of RDP did you use? I will agree with the 1.5 to 2x statement for RDP 5.1 (which ships with Win2k), but I'll defend to the death that RDP 5.2 (Win 2003's version) uses the same bandwidth as ICA 3. I did extensive testing of this in late 2003 when I was putting together my Windows 2003 Terminal Server book.

I do agree with you that one of the downsides of RDP is that you can't control the bandwidth of individual virtual channels. However, that's a feature that Microsoft is building into RDP 6 for Longhorn.

Brian
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I think Jeff's statement sums it up nicely. While we could make a point that it would be nice to not have two protocols, it would be tough psychologically for Citrix to give up ICA.

Brian
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I don't think that MS needs to buy citrix. They're adding all the functionality they need into Longhorn, and they don't need Citrix to do that. All of Citrix's new value is in this whole "access infrastructure" space, and this is not an area where Microsoft is going.

Brian
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This is true. However, this is because Citrix PS4 has a very advanced virtual channel for drive mapping. So the true statement is "Citrix's client drive access algorithm is betting than Microsofts." However, this is a function of the specific virtual channel, not the underlying protocol. I'll bet it would take all of 20 minutes to compile Citrix's drive mapping virtual channel code to work with RDP as opposed to ICA.

Brian
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Good Point. The latest polls published by Citrix show that about 15% of the deployments are done on a non-Windows platform. That's a major chunk of business that Citrix would be throwing away. As long as they keep making versions for Unix, I don't think they'll kill ICA.
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There are other reasons to buy Citrix other than ICA/CPS. The acquisitions that Citrix has made over the past year into web hosted services/appliances make Citrix more interesting than in years past.
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From a protocol point of view you maybe right Brian. But you're overlooking all the fine features not available with RDP today:
- Speedscreen
- Browser acceleration
- etc.
This makes an ICA implementation by far the most bandwith efficient solution comparing to any RDP implementation out there. And yes this comes to 1.5 to 2x (or even more) also for the RDP 5.2 implementation. This is also the main reason for Citrix to have to stick with ICA. It is much easier to sell ICA as a "thinner" and more advanced protocol (look at all the posts here) than to sell that they have the "thinnest" and most advanced implementation of RDP in the market. Paul
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Should Pepsi drop their product since there is Coke already and focus their development efforts in other areas where they can add more incremental value over the pure H2O products? What if?

For more refreshing ideas go to http://pepsi.com or http://coke.com or should it be http://smirnoff.com?

ALEX
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I agree - IM is an essential part of a Citrix environment.

As for whether they should drop ICA... as long as they can incorporate all the current ICA features into RDP it should be ok.
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IM could be a great product. They need to do a lot of work on it though. There are so much better products out there. If they put just a little effort into it, they could make it worthwhile. for instance, IM hasn't changed in years (at least in any real way). The fact that a new requirement for patches is Installer 3.0 and IM can't even push it out to the servers. IM is way behind the times compared to any other product in the market place.
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The testing I referred to was Windows Server 2003 and Metaframe 3.0. I don't know what versions of RDP we used, but we tested Wyse (XP embedded) thin clients and Windows 2000 workstations (that's what our users have). I've heard that on LAN connections that there isn't much difference in bandwidth, but on our simulated frame relay connections we definitely saw differences. I on't say I'll "defend this to the death" like you did :-) but I think our testing was pretty sound. We had a guy from Shunra and one of the network engineers help with setup and data gathering.

That's good that Microsoft is building in bandwidth controls in Longhorn. Any idea if Longhorn RDP will support multimedia? One of the reasons we chose Wyse XP embedded thin clients was the multimedia support with ICA. Citrix didn't support this with the Wyse Blazer systems or Wince systems, so we were kind of forced into Xp embedded systems. Not too cool, actually, since these are more expensive and still require us to install antivirus software, etc.
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> They've done a lot of work to engineer in features like this to their protocol, and retrofitting them to RDP would seem like a waste of development time. I'd hope that Citrix would have their engineers work on other things that we need, like better printing and network connection monitoring.


And there you have the key to argument. The level of effort needed to port the current ICA feature set to RDP would significantly detract from other more valuable activities.

having said that, I never understood why MS didn't license ICA from Citrix in the first place.
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No, they should by either Softricity or TScale/AppSense. This would bring new functionality to the OS. Application vitualization and better memory mangement, that's a novel concept for MS.
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Look beyond the technology, ICA is part of the Citrix identity and brand.  If they drop it and go to RDP they are losing part of what distinguishes them.  Citrix is on the right track with "Constelation" relative to longhorn.
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NO WAY.  Citrix provided Microsoft with the code to do terminal server and Microsoft failed miserably.  Microsoft was trying to squeeze them out.  When they couldn't, Citrix made them agree to several terms before giving them a working, low end terminal server RDP.  ICA is Citrix, the port, the name, the protocol, the packets, etc...  If they drop ICA then they will eventually cease to exist, not maybe, but definitely.  I don't believe that the brains at Citrix would ever be that stupid that they would do that.
 
Sincerely,
EB
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I don't agree with this. Microsoft developed RDP themselves without the help of Citrix. (Yes, Citrix helped MS with the Terminal Server itself, but RDP is all theirs.) Both RDP and ICA have their roots in the TShare T.120 protocol, but RDP is NOT based on some low end version of ICA. Microsoft developed RDP from their NetMeeting protocol.
 
Brian
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for me the answer is simple, despite all the talk about innovation, microsoft is primarily driven by greed and
not innovation. microsoft is not interested in competion but in driving out competition and rather monopolising.
so, even a 'valued partner' like citrix is not immune to that. i think except citrix comes out with something more revolutionary than microsoft can beat or come close to, longhorn might as well be the beginning of the end for ica
presentation server.
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RDP only support Windows client.  ICA support other platforms (Unix, MAC, Linux, etc) at the same time. 

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There has been an RDP client for Linux and Mac for years. As to Brian's 'What if', isn't Longhorn's RDP a result of the Microsoft/Citrix partnering announced a few years ago? If so, then ICA is to RDP, as eDirectory is to Active Directory. Microsoft evolves because it is a huge fan of other people's technology.In short, Citrix should only drop ICA if they do not see legitimate avenues to push their protocol design.  


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