(This is Part 4 of the ‘Real-World VDI’ series – see Part 1 “Multi-Vendor Stack, Part 2 “High-End Graphics”, Part 3 “Cost” and Part 5 “Future of VDI”)
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The announcements at VMworld caused me to adjust my view of VMware’s end-user capabilities and vision.
So what did VMware announce and why will it impact the current pattern and future directions?

There are two streams:

  1. The immediate impact with the latest VMware View 5/vSphere 5 product announcement and
  2. The longer term impact with the announcements around Project Horizon, Project Octopus, ThinApp factory integration and the (potentially amazing) AppBlast

The first stream  is relatively straight forward but has immediate impact (as available now) …

So what has been announced with View 5…?
(among other features)

  • PCoIP enhancements reducing bandwidth (“up to 75%”) and increasing latency tolerance (up to 200 ms)
  • Support for Direct x 9 and OpenGl 2.1 using a virtual 3D graphics adapter
  • View Persona Management which integrates user environment capability (as discussed in ) to manage user personalization when deploying stateless desktops .

The promises on the PCoIP improvements will have to be proven in real-life environments but it is clear that VMware is focussed on addressing one of the major customer concerns aggressively.
The profile management was long overdue (and therefore welcome) and will utilise “just in time” retrieval of profiles in order to minimize the transfer impact. It will not address physical systems or allow profile management across different OSs – so 3rd party apps like AppSense etc. will continue to provide value (but might not be required).

Graphics Enhancements

So what is this 3D function? vSphere 5 allows you to create a virtual 3D adapter in the vm (virtual GPU) which essentially emulates the behaviour of a physical GPU. This has the great advantage that no (sophisticated) physical GPU is needed and that you can run multiple of those 3D capable vms on a single host (achieving potentially higher user density than HDX-3D (which has a 1:1 mapping between user and GPU), at the same time supporting a wider range of graphics workloads than RemoteFX – again, all without the requirement for a physical GPU).

VMware’s virtual GPU has the advantage that multiple users can share a single host for 3D delivery and no physical GPU is required in the server.

However, as the host has no physical GPU to do the work, the CPU ends up executing, which can create significant overhead. How much will depend on the nature of the graphics workload but in offline discussions we have heard that “it can potentially half the number of users per host” … we’ll have to wait for sizing guidelines (or test ourselves).

A secret weapon here might be the PCoIP offload adapter from Teradici which will allow to offset that overhead significantly – I’ll cover this in another post in more detail as we have already done testing internally but the card will not GA for a while. Alternatively if you go to VMworld Europe – why don’t you come round to the IBM booth and I’ll show you that setup live!

Please note that the 3D feature has a dependency on vSphere 5. That means that you can’t get this functionality with earlier vSphere versions (although View 5 will support them). More importantly VMware cleverly introduced a “vendor stack affinity”. That means you will e.g. not get the 3D functionality with XenDesktop on top of vSphere (if this has been your ‘stack of choice’).

Going forward I expect to see more of this “vendor dependency” approach which will drive arguments for a “single-vendor” stack. Another example of this is Citrix’s IntelliCache – which depends on XenServer and VMware’s View Accelerator or “CBRC” which depends on vSphere 5 (the integration of CBRC – think “IntelliCache for vSphere” – has been delayed and is now a “future enhancement” for View).

 

If we review the graphics capability table now, we see that the picture has changed significantly.

Looking at the above table we can see that VMware has clearly addressed some of its weakest points in an impressive way with the latest release.

Does that mean VMware will displace Citrix and take the crown? Well, only time will tell but there are more aspects to this then “just” the product updates to View/vSphere

  1. Nothing will happen overnight, VMware will need to provide proof points for actual performance, scaling and overhead. The code is new so many will wait and see (regardless of VMware’s track record for code stability)
  2. Citrix end-user heritage and customer affinity is strong
  3. Citrix’s overall end-user portfolio (over and above VDI) is still considered unmatched by many as of today (XenApp, branch repeater, NetCcaler, Citrix Receiver portability etc).

Should we expect VMware’s PCoIP/virtual GPU to deliver better high-end graphics capability than HDX3D?
I see VMware’s key advantage in providing the more flexible (user ratio) solution for “casual – medium” graphical workloads but expect e.g. HDX GPU pass-through to still have the edge when it comes to heavy/high-end graphics (with the trade-off in user density). Also, XenDesktop 5.5 supports now RemoteFX (in conjunction with Hyper-V) so can overcome some of the user density issues with hybrid environments.

I would certainly expect VMware to be keen to deliver (physical) GPU offload and more client-side offload in a future release to complement the current capabilities.

VMware has certainly cleared some major road blocks with the latest release and we should expect increased interest in View-based deployments

Saying all that – VMware has certainly cleared out some major road blocks with this release and I’d be honestly surprised if we don’t see an increased interest in VMware View-based deployments.
I for one certainly consider View 5 a far more attractive proposition than before … and see a good potential for HVD-based deployments.

As mentioned before, beware of increasing stack dependency for advanced functionality when using multi-vendor stacks and evaluate carefully when considering those going forward.

So what about the second “stream” … how is the vison for end-user computing VMware (and others) create for end-user computing impacting the future of VDI …? Have we really reached the “End of the PC era” …? Read on if you are interested

Application Layering? See 

### Archived Article – thanks to Andreas Groth – WhatMatrix Community Affiliate (originally published on Virtualizationmatrix.com) ###

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