BOXX presents a three part video series on the 3DBOXX 8500R rack mounted, remote access workstation available with PCoIP technology for engineering, animation/VFX, digital imaging, and product design.
BOXX Technologies designs high-performance computing systems for visual effects (VFX) design professionals, and advanced visualization. Their unique innovative integration process incorporates the best of standards-based technology to produce state-of-the-art workstations and rendering systems, as well as motion media and industry specific workstations that enhance both creativity and productivity. BOXX systems power large VFX studios, media companies, post production houses, architecture firms, university media arts programs, thousands of freelance artists, designers, boutique studios, and more.
REALITY: The PCoIP protocol optimizes the user experience to the available bandwidth
The PCoIP encoding algorithms attempt to deliver a perfect, high-frame rate display experience whenever possible. Think of this like a high-performance sports car that will easily exceed 200kph on the open Autobahn, but slows down when driving on local roads or in congested traffic. Because the PCoIP algorithms can deliver a superior experience to Citrix ICA/HDX, when using them both in a single session on a 1Gbs network, the PCoIP session will deliver a superior image quality and frame rate, but will also use more bandwidth much like the high-performance sports car will go faster on the Autobahn than the average family car. In fact, in Citrix’s own bandwidth sizing presentations, they state, “Single session bandwidth testing is invalid”. We agree with this statement and suggest that Citrix follow their own guidelines.
The more relevant way to benchmark the two protocols is compare the user experience delivered when the network is constrained to say 5Mbs or 1Mbs or 200Kbs. In these constrained networks, the PCoIP user experience is equal to or better than that delivered by ICA/HDX under the same network constraints. This means that no matter the network conditions, the PCoIP protocol will optimize the user experience to the available bandwidth. Many customers are successfully deploying PCoIP solutions across WANs with high latency and limited bandwidth and are very satisfied with their experience.
For some additional clarification, the 10x bandwidth numbers that Citrix cites in their literature is based on comparing HDX-3D at it lowest quality and frame rate to a PCoIP session operating at a perception-free experience. This is because the two protocols have completely different philosophies on quality settings. For HDX-3D, the image quality settings are used to limit the maximum bandwidth by explicitly limiting the maximum quality and frame rate that the user can experience. This is like forcing a car to drive at 20kph no matter what the current road conditions are. In contrast, the PCoIP image quality settings represent the minimum image quality that the user will experience. If more bandwidth is available, the encoder is allowed to use more bandwidth to deliver a better experience. Thus, even on the lowest quality setting, a PCoIP session on an unconstrained 1Gbs network will still operate at the maximum frame rate and image quality it can deliver. In this case, the PCoIP sports car is driving over 200kph on the Autobahn while the HDX-3D sedan is only going 20kph even though the road is completely clear. Obviously, user experience must be factored into any benchmarks comparing virtual desktop protocols.
REALITY: The PCoIP protocol is a comprehensive solution with options for stateless hardware zero clients
While some workload may result in the PCoIP protocol using more CPU than other protocols, the VMware office productivity interactive workload benchmark shows that the PCoIP protocol uses less CPU resources than XenDesktop 4 or RDP7. Thus, the scalability of a VDI deployment using the PCoIP protocol should be equal to or higher than XenDesktop 4 or RDP7 (however, the PCoIP user experience will be better). Furthermore the PCoIP software encoder requires less memory on the server than XenDesktop 4 or RDP7, which further helps scalability,
One very important advantage of host-rendering or server-side processing is the enablement of highly capable, zero-clients on the receiving end. A completely stateless, hardware zero-client requires no operating system patches or anti-virus software. They can be very low-power devices while still delivering the highest possible user experience. This is just not possible with a client-rendered device. A PCoIP zero-client can further improve the opex savings associated with moving to a VDI deployment by reducing power consumption, eliminating management overhead, and providing a longer product life cycle.
In many ways, PCoIP technology is the only complete protocol. The graphics independence of the protocol means that all applications today and tomorrow will “just work” and not have to wait for an update to the protocol. Furthermore, no other protocol provides a true, zero-client to compete with the PCoIP Portals and integrated monitors from a wide variety of leading OEMs.
REALITY: Teradici claims host rendering with intelligent display decomposition and compression is the best way to deliver desktops
Bitmap remoting is NOT the best way to deliver graphics. This is why the PCoIP protocol does NOT do bitmap remoting. Instead, the PCoIP protocol uses host rendering to generate the entire display image at the server/workstation in the datacenter. A display decomposition layer then selects the proper CODEC for encoding each region of the screen. So, for example, a 400×300 rectangle with black borders and white background is not sent as a bitmap. This is decomposed into a white background and a black border and compressed as a two-color object that is just as efficient as a RECT command with coordinates. As another example, in most cases, a text-based web page encoded using the PCoIP protocol compresses into the same amount of data or less than sending the HTML for that given web-page. PCoIP algorithms include intelligent rendering functions wrapped into its encoding scheme.
For client rendering protocols like RDP and ICA/HDX, many years of fine-tuning are required to deal with all of the different graphic primitives of OpenGL, DirectX and whatever may come (e.g.. Web3D, HTML5, ON2 …). However, by generating all of the pixels at the host and using intelligent decomposition, the PCoIP protocol is independent of all the different graphics APIs. This graphics independence has allowed Teradici to spend all if its time and effort on how to properly encode the data to provide the best user experience. The PCoIP protocol has five+ years of fine-tuning already under its belt and will continue to improve in the future.
REALITY: TCP constrains Citrix ICA and Microsoft RDP
TCP is a great transport for data traffic that requires reliable packet delivery and is not sensitive to interactive latency. Some examples are: file transfers, HTTP web pages, or streaming data that is uni-directional (i.e. media streaming with large buffers). However, TCP is not the optimal transport layer for data traffic that is sensitive to interactive latency and does not require reliable packet delivery like Voice-over-IP (VoIP), Video Conferencing, or a remote desktop experience which requires instantaneous interaction and constant content updates. This is why VoIP and Video Conferencing use UDP and why the PCoIP protocol is optimized for UDP.
For data traffic like this, TCP is a limitation, not an advantage since it requires reliable packet delivery even when it is unnecessary. For example, if you have 3 screen changes A, B, and C; throwing B out is perfectly fine as long as the C screen change replaces what was done in B. However, TCP will continue to retransmit B until it all arrives reliably even if C has already reached the destination. So, in the presence of packet loss, TCP will introduce unnecessary latency and retransmission.
For client-rendered protocols, like RDP and ICA/HDX, reliable packet deliver is almost always required because graphics primitives are being sent, not screen pixels. As a display screen is being rendered at the client, many of the graphics primitives are dependent on previous primitives. Thus, they all need to arrive reliably and in order.
These client-rendered protocols do employ sophisticated techniques like “tossing” to throw away graphics primitives that will be overwritten by subsequent primitives. However, these techniques do not work for primitives that have already been sent onto the network. Once a primitive has been sent using a TCP packet, it will be retransmitted until it has been delivered to the receiver adding latency for something that could have been thrown away. Packet loss generally only occurs in WAN environments which also have the highest latency. Thus, WAN connections benefit the most from the ability to discard overwritten packets since they will have the most packets “in flight” due to network latency and are most likely to lose packets. This is why WAN connections benefit the most from the use of UDP by the PCoIP protocol.
Highly efficient delivery of desktops over IP networks – especially WAN links:
PCoIP technology enables key features to optimize the delivery of a user’s desktop over standard local area and wide area networks (LAN and WAN). One of these features includes a progressive image refinement that allows a compressed image of the user’s desktop to be delivered quickly over the network and then a progressive refinement to an exact image of the user’s hosted desktop. This allows for a highly efficient desktop delivery over IP networks – especially WAN networks (long latency and possibly low bandwidth networks). In an interactive user session, the user may have moved to a follow-on action that eliminates the need to send the rest of the display pixels resulting in an efficient desktop delivery – and a significant benefit compared to solutions.
WAN PCoIP User Scenario:
The user’s desktop is delivered over a low bandwidth link across North America (~90-100ms round trip network latency). The user clicks on a web page (or a document, PowerPoint, 3D model, etc) and a highly-compressed, initial image is delivered quickly where the image is slightly grainy but the text is still clear and readable.
PCoIP intelligently compresses the user display to ensure that in a constrained scenario (long latency, low bandwidth) the display text is still as crisp as if the desktop were local. However, images and video are highly compressed to minimize the network bandwidth load and to deliver the initial display image extremely quickly to ensure a responsive user desktop.
Perceptually Lossless – still compressed, but users cannot tell
The image is progressively refined and will reach a point we call “perceptually lossless” or the desktop appears to be an exact image of the source desktop at the host. However, in reality, there is still compression present and if there is still time (before the display is changed, window is moved, or hyperlink is clicked, the system will continue to build to a fully lossless image – or an exact image as the source display at the host.
The time it takes to refine the image depends on the available network bandwidth, but in most cases it is not possible for the user to see the refinement in progress. It just looks the same as if the PC was at the user’s desk.
Fully refined image – exact image as the source display in the host PC
Key benefits of progressive refinement in a WAN desktop delivery
Text delivered as exact image
Text is sent as a lossless image so that users can always read text even if surrounding images are compressed
Desktop clarity at any distance
Progressive refinement enables full image clarity and A fully crisp desktop display regardless of the distance
Highly responsive desktop
Get an initial image quickly then build to a fully crisp desktop
Network bandwidth efficiency
Do not send additional pixels if the users has changed something on the screen
Progressive refinement to an exact or lossless image is a critical feature for detailed image analysis whether it is for medical diagnostics, design engineering analysis or other applications that simply cannot have compression artifacts in the displayed image.
PCoIP technology delivers unique USB security capability that is not possible on desktop, notebook or thin client form factors. This includes providing mobile users secure access to data via hardware encrypted flash drives – but only the devices approved by enterprise IT will work on the PCoIP desktop portal appliances. All other flash peripherals (or selected peripherals) would be locked out. This authorization is done in hardware so it is ultra secure.
“[PCoIP Technology] has a bunch of security features that are unachievable with desktop computers” – Tom Bradicich, VP IBM Systems and Technology
Teradici PCoIP Technology Unique USB Security Features:
Support for all USB peripherals
Includes biometrics, card readers, etc.
Also includes webcams, scanners, tablets, DVD players with no special drivers.
No drivers required on the desktop appliance
PCoIP Technology uses the drivers that are native to the host PC/server. So if the peripheral would work when plugged into the host PC, it will work bridged across an IP network to a PCoIP desktop portal.
Eliminates the threat of virus propagation from the desktop appliance (where thin client’s embedded OS can get infected with a virus and propagate to hosted client machines)
Intelligent Authorization of USB peripherals.
Peripheral authorization can be done on device class, product ID, and Vendor ID. The authorization can be done on a per user/group basis and only accept specific devices.
Complete USB lockdown – no host enumeration of USB if peripheral is not authorized.
PCoIP technology transparently bridges USB traffic from the host PC/server in the datacenter to the desktop portal appliance. You could view this as an exceptionally long USB cable. Peripheral authorization is done at the desktop appliance when a peripheral is plugged in. If the device is authorized, the plug event is bridged back to the host PC and the device can be used as it normally would if the user was directly connecting the peripheral to the host PC.
If the device is not authorized, a message is displayed on the user’s screen to let them know the device is not authorized and the plug event is blocked in hardware at the desktop portal. For extreme security, the host PC physically cannot enumerate the USB peripheral and does not know that an attempt was made to connect a peripheral. This is unique to Teradici’s PCoIP technology.
Management logs and alerts of attempted connection of un-authorized devices
PCoIP Technology allows management systems (see connection broker partner list) to track peripheral connections and attempted connections. Also, PCoIP enables these management systems to deliver alerts to identify users that are trying to connect unauthorized peripherals.
Need to lock down sensitive corporate data, but need to provide certain users such as managers, directors and VP’s the ability to take data out of the office (at home, on the road etc).
Teradici PCoIP Solution:
Provide these users with a hardware encrypted flash drive so that if the flash is lost the data is still secure. Use PCoIP to deliver the users desktop to a secure desktop portal (see partner products). Disable all flash drives, but enable flash drives that match the product ID and vendor ID of the hardware encrypted flash drive.
When a user plugs in the approved flash drive into their desktop portal it is authorized and the plug event is bridged back to the host PC/Server. The user can then use the flash drive as normal. If an insecure flash drive, MP3 player or iPod is connected, the peripheral is not authorized and a message is displayed on the user’s desktop to notify them that the device is not authorized and the host PC/server does not ever know that the peripheral exists (no host plug event to enumerate).
For extreme security, the authorization could match the user and the serial number of the flash drive that was assigned to them.
Clearcube Technologies delivers centralized computing solutions including products that support Teradici’s PCoIP Technology. Clearcube’s I9400 I/Port is the first PCoIP quad head desktop portal product available today.
This video provides a brief overview of ClearCube’s I9400 quad monitor PCoIP desktop portal appliance and the A-series blade PC/workstation products. Watch video >>