Brian Madden TV #34 - Microsoft RemoteFX super show, plus VMware's View iPad client

In this week's show, Brian and Gabe talk about RemoteFX (now that it's been officially released), as well as the new iPad client from VMware.

Highlights from this week's show:

  • Gabe bought a graphics card and setup RemoteFX in his home lab. He'll talk through that process and show how easy it is.
  • Microsoft's plans for the hardware encoding add-in card for RemoteFX (which will work with both VDI and Session Host use cases)
  • ThinLinX's status for their own thin clients that will do RemoteFX decoding in hardware
  • Using RemoteFX on Session Host (and why can't we use it with Windows 7 on bare metal with no GPU?)
  • How Citrix will enhance RemoteFX (and how they won't rock the boat too much)
  • Highlights of VMware's View client for iPad (We had a full video about this yesterday)
BRIAN: Hello and welcome to Brian Madden TV. From San Francsico, I’m Brian Madden.
GABE: And from my “under construction set” in Omaha Nebraska, I’m Gabe Knuth. In our previous show we said that this week would be our “RemoteFX” super show, and I think you’ll see that we’re able to deliver.
BRIAN: Yeah, I was in Redmond last week for the MVP Summit, and I was able to get all my technical questions answered.
GABE: Cool. And I was here last week, but I got my RemoteFX-compatible graphics card and started playing with it now that we have the final bits.
BRIAN: Ok, well let’s start with that. Is RemoteFX hard to get up and running?
GABE: The short answer is “no,” but there’s actually two ways you can use RemoteFX. The first is with Windows 7 on Hyper-V, and the other is with RD Session Host. RD Session host requires Windows Server 2008 SP1...the end, but we’ll get into that in a bit. 
Windows 7 on Hyper-V requires a little bit more, but it’s not difficult once you assemble the proper hardware. The server you use must have SLAT-enabled processors, which stands for Second-Level Address Translation. It was introduced with the Nehalem architecture, so I had to update my lab with some newer hardware.
BRIAN: Oh, does that mean RemoteFX is Intel only?
GABE: No, both Intel and AMD support SLAT.
Anyway, so then you need to get a supported graphics card. Originally we kept hearing of cards that cost thousands of dollars, so I was happy to find a supported card on Amazon for around $400. It’s an ATI FirePro v5800, and it is huge!
BRIAN: Yeah I saw that that BriForum speaker Claudio Rodrigues posted on his blog that he even tried RemoteFX with a $150 NVIDIA Quadro FX580 with success, so it should be pretty easy for most people to get this up in a lab.
GABE: Oh yeah.
So, after getting all the hardware installed and operating system updated, turning on RemoteFX is pretty easy. The first you do is enable the RemoteFX role service, which is part of the Remote Desktop Services role in 2008 R2 Service Pack 1. 
After that, I edited the settings of my Windows 7 VM’s (or templates) in Hyper-V Manager and added the “RemoteFX 3D Video Adapter”, which of course is a virtual graphics card. Doing this lets you to configure how many screens a user can have and what their max resolution can be. It’s worth noting that this option is only in Hyper-V manager and not in SCVMM 2008 R2.
BRIAN: Ok, yeah, that THAT’s the technical reason you need Hyper-V, because that RemoteFX video adapter is looking for the virtual GPU.
GABE: Exactly.
So at that point, you’re able able to connect to a VM via RemoteFX from Remote Desktop Connection 7.1, which is to say, Win 7 SP1.
From there, you can fine-tune RemoteFX via local or group policy, enable USB redirection, enable or disable RemoteFX altogether, and change the compression ratios of the image stream...
BRIAN: Oh yeah.. right.. all the typical CODEC-like settings
GABE: Yeah, because remember RemoteFX is really a new display CODEC for RDP, rather than a full end-to-end display protocol.
BRIAN: You know so actually it’s not that complex to setup?
GABE: Exactly. I mean as long as you have the hardware, it’s pretty simple.
Speaking of hardware, I’m only using this big ATI card today Does Gabe have a video of this? because this style of card is all that’s available. But Microsoft has confirmed that they’re going to release a dedicated RemoteFX encoding card... did you hear anything about that last week?
BRIAN: Unfortunately No. All they’re saying publicly is what they said before, which is that there will be a dedicated hardware add-in card at some point. But they’re not saying when... nor are they saying whether it will be sold by them or by IHV partners like Dell or HP.
GABE: Ok, so other than that, what did you learn? Is the RTM pretty much the same as the release candidate? Still VDI-only, Hyper-V only, Windows clients only?
BRIAN: Yeah. On the client side like found out, the only “real” version of Windows they’re supporting is Windows 7 SP1. But they are also supporting Win7 embedded as well as that thin client locked down version of Windows called WindowsTPC (B roll.. only ref I can find is here: Fourth bullet in that bullet list)
GABE: Is that the new name for Windows Fundamentals, or something else?
BRIAN: Yep.. exactly. So they’re supporting that for RemoteFX, and then of course all those super-cheap thin clients with the Hardware Decoder chip built in.
GABE: Oh yeah.. what ever happened to that Australian company making those things?
BRIAN: Oh, Thinlinx! Yeah.. they’re still out there actually. (B roll They decided to make another revision to their hardware before they release.. Their current beta units have a single RemoteFX decoding core, but they’re having some performance issues above 10x7 resolution, so they’re designing a new chip with 3 decoding cores that will support high-res dual displays and HDMI and stuff. But those devices are still about 3 months away.
GABE: And is the idea still that those things are going to be super cheap? 100 bucks? 150 bucks? Something like that?
BRIAN: Yeah, super cheap, super small. And as far as I know, ThinLinx is the only thin client vendor who’s announced these things.. All the other thin client vendors -- Wyse, HP, Devon IT -- have announced that they’ll support RemoteFX via software decoders, like Windows embedded or their own OSes.
GABE: And the idea is that you can use all of these RemoteFX thin clients -- hardware or software -- with RemoteFX connecting to VDI or to Terminal Server -- or Session Host -- right?
BRIAN: Yeah, exactly. RemoteFX is RemoteFX, regardless of whether it’s running on a Win7 VDI or a Session Host.
GABE: Ok, so tell me this: Last week you wrote about RemoteFX on Session Host, (B roll and in order to use it, you do NOT need a GPU, and you do NOT need to run it on a Hyper-V VM !!
BRIAN: Yeah how crazy is that? No GPU required.. and you can run it on ANY hypervisor or physical. And it’s the same RemoteFX.
GABE: But certainly not the same experience?
BRIAN: True.. I mean using the GPU to encode RemoteFX gives you a lot of free processing capability. And so running RemoteFX on a Session Host with no GPU.. you might get a better
experience than with regular RDP, but it’s not going to be as good as VDI with with GPU.
GABE: Now if you have a GPU in your Session Host, can you use it?
BRIAN: No. Well, not for RemoteFX encoding. Microsoft officially doesn’t even support a GPU in a Session Host, although there have been some anecdotal stories of some apps working properly. But even if you do have one, you’re definitely not using it for RemoteFX because that RemoteFX video adapter you install into the Win7 guest only works with the virtual GPU from Hyper-V on Server 2008 R2 SP1.
GABE: What about that future mystery add-in card for Session Host?
BRIAN: Yeah, that will be supported
GABE: So… did you ask them “why” they’re doing this with Session Host? Like if VDI requires a GPU and Hyper-V only, then Session Host lets you do it all...
BRIAN: Yeah, why not just run everything with Session Host? No ***! That’s what I’ve been saying for a year!
GABE: Ok sure.. but seriously, isn’t that kind of a loophole?
BRIAN: Yeah it sure could be. I mean I understand why they’re tying the GPU requirements to Hyper-V, because for that you need the vGPU and everything. But if they can make a
standalone RemoteFX encoder that’s only CPU-based for Session Host, the REAL question is why aren’t they enabling Windows 7 native or on any hypervisor for RemoteFX with no GPU?
GABE: Maybe they’re leaving that to partners?
BRIAN: Well, still I don’t know what the value is there. Why not just do it themselves? But the partner thing around RemoteFX is interesting too. Quest and Ericom both support RemoteFX connections now since they both use RDP as their base protocol.
GABE: And Citrix has committed to adding RemoteFX support for HDX within 6 months, right?
BRIAN: Yeah. But what’s kind of too bad about that is that Citrix is only supporting the exact same use cases that Microsoft is...
GABE: So VDI-only and only Windows 7 VMs running on Hyper-V
GABE: Is Citrix going to support XenApp running on Session Host with no GPUs?
BRIAN: Their official PR answer talks about “XenDesktop VDI being their focus” and that they’re “not making any statements about RemoteFX one way or the other at this time”
GABE: And how about using RemoteFX from non-Windows clients?
BRIAN: Again, hazy PR-speak. They’re saying that with their collaboration with Microsoft, they’re “working together towards a long term vision that will extend RemoteFX to a broader range of devices, locations, and use cases.” So initial focus will be Windows 7-based devices, but a broader future goal.
GABE: Wow! Way to add value Citrix.
BRIAN: Yeah in this case Citrix is really not rocking the boat.. Maybe that’s just the RemoteFX licensing deal or something, but it seems like Citrix and Microsoft are one-and-the-same here.
GABE: Well, if you don’t like Citrix and Microsoft, there’s always VMware!
BRIAN: Nice segue Gabe!
GABE: Thanks! So yesterday we saw VMware release their first official iOS app -- a View client for iPad. And I know you got a look at that with VMware’s director of end-user client devices, Pat Lee there in San Francisco.
BRIAN: Yeah, we posted a video of the full conversation yesterday, but let’s take a look at a few highlights
Pat Lee Interview
GABE: So iPad only, PC-over-IP only, no multitasking.. I mean is this v1?
BRIAN: Oh definitely. Although Pat kept saying that they wanted to wait before building this iPad client because they wanted to get it right.. you know? Like they only had one chance to get it right.
GABE: And did they?
BRIAN: To be honest it’s hard to tell from the demo. I couldn’t tell if the product was awkward or if the demo was awkward since we were making Pat work in a non-natural way to not block the camera view of the screen.
GABE: But it’s out now, so what do you think?
BRIAN: I haven’t actually set up my View 4.6 environment yet, but I’ll be doing that tomorrow. And I do plan to use View 4.6 full-time for the next month after that, and I’ll certainly be using it via the iPad.
GABE: You know one of our commenters suggested that we do a test between the iPad versions of the Citrix Receiver and the View client... I think we should both buy iPad 2’s and test both devices too.
BRIAN: Nice! Yeah actually I think that makes sense. We should also test Wyse PocketCloud and something like IR-desktop
GABE: And maybe even LogMeIn, which has a great client for iPad
BRIAN: Oh yeah! I think LogMeIn has the best iPad user experience I’ve seen so far. So, the last thing that we need to talk about is that we’re almost ready to announce the sessions for BriForum 2011 London, which is coming up in May.
GABE: That’s right, and this year, we’re doing it a little bit differently. Instead of our typical blog announcing the sessions, we’re going to announce them via video at 10:00AM Eastern Time on Friday morning. That means that you’ll learn who’s presenting which sessions at the same time as the speakers do!
BRIAN: Yep, we’re pretty excited about this, and if things go right, we’ll do the announcement for BriForum 2011 Chicago LIVE!
GABE: So I think that’s it for today. From Omaha Nebraska, I’m Gabe Knuth.
BRIAN: And from San Francisco, this is Brian Madden. Thanks for watching!
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Maybe others who I noticed also tested out RemoteFX can verify this but I've noticed a GPU does give a boost to a Remote Session Host.  

Without a GPU my Dell PowerEdge R710's do RemoteFX but it's as if it's a more standard definition experience where with a GPU it's a more HD experience.  Early on I stuck a Nvidia Geforce GT240 and it also seemed to enhance RemoteFX (though I am just one user...I later looked into a FirePro v5800 too).  I've also noticed despite documentation Direct 3D is more exposed in Remote Session Host (run DxDiag in your Session Host). Granted probably can't play 3D games in there (I haven't really really tried but did run into limited success).  I did definitly get productivity 3D apps to work (Google Earth, Comsol, ArcGIS).

However it's poorly documented that XenApp 6 and to a lesser extent XenApp 5 on 2008 do tap into a GPU.  I forgot if XenApp 6.0 on its own exposed Direct 3D before SP1

Has anyone else noticed this and been able to see how this scales with a GPU???


Citrix XenDesktop - Using an iPad/Iphone/Samsung Galaxy/PC to connect to your Work Desktop