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Riverbed to develop PCoIP optimization, improve VDI performance

Riverbed aims to improve VDI performance over the WAN for VMware View users by partnering with Teradici, the developer of PCoIP.

With the PC-over-IP (PCoIP) protocol, enterprises have been able to display rich graphics and streaming video in VMware View virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments more efficiently—even over low-bandwidth wide area network (WAN) connections. But real-world VDI performance over high-latency WAN links has its limits. Riverbed Technology recently announced a partnership with the protocol's developer at VMworld 2011 aimed at optimizing PCoIP performance.

PCoIP developer Teradici Corp., which formed an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement with VMware in late 2008, named Riverbed as the first and only member of its newly-launched Network Solutions Partner Program at VMworld. Through the partnership, Riverbed will engineer PCoIP optimization to improve VDI performance via its Steelhead WAN optimization appliances.

"Latency is probably the biggest factor in VDI response time. By compressing the traffic and accelerating the traffic, you can make it feel like it's a local link," said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president and distinguished research analyst at Yankee Group. "You can build data centers that are closer to the branches and muscle your way through it with lots of bandwidth and lots of servers, but [optimization] is a simpler and cheaper way to [improve VDI performance]."

Riverbed has already developed optimization algorithms for Microsoft Corp.'s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), which VMware View also supports, and Citrix's proprietary Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) protocol. Many Steelhead customers have begrudgingly deployed lower-resolution View desktops using RDP due to Riverbed's lack of PCoIP optimization, according to Miles Kelly, senior director of product marketing at Riverbed.

"While virtual desktop environments may be very attractive from an IT perspective, they can actually lead to some very significant performance challenges and tax the end user [experience]," Kelly said. "PCoIP opens a channel that allows for high-definition video and multimedia ... but the challenge is that when you deploy that [protocol] over networks that have [significant latency], it could be a real challenge to get that 'pure PC' experience."   

Riverbed declined to say when the PCoIP optimization will be available, only specifying that it will be released in 2012. Kelly declined to identify what elements of the PCoIP protocol Riverbed would target for optimization, noting that his company’s engineers have only just started their work.

"Anytime we build an optimization for any content type, first and foremost we're looking for redundant traffic," Kelly said. "In general, we're providing not only the data deduplication but also providing quality of service rules ... [such as] in ICA, [where] we can understand different types of [virtual desktop] traffic passing through the Steelheads and prioritize keystrokes over print jobs." 

Hybrid cloud computing will affect VDI performance

Although WAN pros will welcome any means of improving VDI performance, Riverbed's eventual PCoIP optimization will have wider implications, according to Eugene Alfaro, director of IT engineering services at Cornerstone Technologies, an IT consulting and professional services firm in San Jose, Calif.

Hybrid cloud computing trends will affect VDI performance over the WAN as virtual desktops and the resources they must access get split up, Alfaro said. When those resources contain rich multimedia or are graphics-intensive Software as a Service (SaaS) portals—or the desktops themselves are in the cloud—PCoIP optimization will become a requirement, he said.

"Let's say I've got virtual desktops in my private cloud.  But wait a minute– the resource my virtual desktops want to access is my CRM data in the public cloud," Alfaro said. "You always want to put the virtual desktops closest to the data they work with ... [so] how do you ensure [VDI] performance over the Internet?"

Riverbed's partnership with Teradici "is really laying down the foundation for being able to do virtual desktops over the Internet," Alfaro said.

"The greatest value here is in the ability to [move VDI] from private to public clouds—the optimization gives us that flexibility," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, Senior News Writer.

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