Remoting Protocols – In Quest For Truth

At BriForum in Chicago two weeks ago, Shawn Bass and I presented a session comparing today’s most popular remoting protocols Microsoft RDP, Citrix ICA/HDX, Quest EOP and VMware/Teradici PCoIP. We figured that it doesn’t help attendees if we introduce an artificial performance index representing each protocol’s quality. Instead we created a large number of 30-second video clips recorded from the VGA output of a client device while using different graphics and multimedia formats in combination with each of the four remoting protocols. In our session we showed the four videos associated with each particular format side-by-side, giving the audience the opportunity to judge the visible results by themselves.

Even though we created a collection of roughly 100 videos, all four vendors and some attendees came to us after the session, saying that we missed some important scenarios. It became more than obvious that trying to cover all relevant scenarios is a multi-dimensional challenge:

  1. Protocols: RDP, ICA/HDX, EOP and PCoIP (more to come, like RemoteFX)
  2. Formats: GDI, GDI+, PDF, Windows Presentation Foundation, Silverlight, Flash, WMV, Quicktime, DirectX (D3D) and OpenGL (some with multiple versions)
  3. Network: LAN or WAN with different settings for bandwidth, latency and packet loss
  4. Client: Windows XP and Windows 7 running on physical hardware or running in a virtual environment

Only the combination of ALL options would provide the full picture. Isn’t it funny? A session that originally was intended to provide some background information about graphics and multimedia formats turns out to become the quest for the holy grail of remoting protocols. Now Shawn and I are working on how to create new raw videos without too much installation and configuration overhead and on how to present the results in an way that is easy to digest.

I found out for myself that I cannot deal with comparing more than four video streams running side-by-side. My brain capacity seems to be limited to four simultaneous graphical input signals – probably I only have a brain with four bio CPU cores (or would that be a brain GPU?). Maybe we need to find some smart kids that were born with more brain cores and grew up with watching six or eight videos at the same time, helping us to identify the best remoting protocol 😉