Gartner Blog Network


Protocol Wars!

by Gunnar Berger  |  August 3, 2012  |  7 Comments

In my next assignment I plan on diving into all things protocol. From Citrix’s ICA protocol and the HDX wrappers that make that protocol outstanding, to the VMware/Teradici PCoIP protocol, which I have a lot of intimate experience with (full disclosure I used to work for Teradici), and I plan on covering RemoteFX and potentially Oracle’s ALP/AIP protocols.

I’m interested in this paper because I have wanted to do a deep dive into these protocols for awhile. Each of these protocols are very similar yet majorly different, but who knows the reasons for the differences? Are these differences important? Obviously, I think so or I wouldn’t be devoting so much time to write a paper up about it. What I hope will be interesting for my readers is how I look at protocol, and how I separate the protocol itself, ICA/PCoIP/RDP from the wrappers that strengthen the protocol, HDX/RFX. Notice there are no PCoIP wrappers? Why is that? Is that important? Well, to know if it’s important we need to understand what the wrapper is and what it does.

In this research I will go beyond the age old “who uses more bandwidth” argument, and instead focus on the wrappers that surround the protocol to make it better. A couple questions I’d like to get answered:

  • Why did VMware support MMR in older versions of View but not newer versions?
  • How does NVIDIA’s VGX card, and its ability to send a native h.264 stream, affect all of these protocols?
  • What is HDX? How many features does it support? What are those features? Why do they matter? How do you determine if your client even supports these features?
  • What were the major changes in Microsoft’s RDP version 8? Is RemoteFX a protocol, a wrapper, or a hypervisor technology?
  • Is HTML5 important to the protocol conversation? What about H.264?
  • Why is UDP being used more prominently these days? Is TCP the wrong transport protocol for remote desktop/applications?

While the majority of desktop virtualization deals today go to VMware and Citrix, I’m predicting a major uptick from a more Microsoft focused solution via Dell (but I could be wrong, they could be planning to make vWorkspace a major contender), either way my gut is that Dell is in it to win some major market share and as vWorkspace’s protocol was an enhanced version of RDP its safe to say RDP8 (RemoteFX) will be their protocol of choice.

Other than the many articles I’ve seen comparing bandwidth utilization, I’ve never read anything that really focuses on what the protocol does, and what gives it isn’t wings. I’m very excited to start that research today, but I’m wondering: am I the only person out there that is interested in this stuff? What are you most interested in regarding how protocols differentiate? Do most people believe that the protocol wars are over?

I don’t.

Comments are appreciated.

Category: sbc  shvd  vdi  

Tags: alp  catalyst-na  citrix-xendesktop  gpu  hdx  ica  icahdx  pcoip  remotefx  shvd  slice  terminal-services  vdi  vmware  vmware-view  

Gunnar Berger
Research Director
1 year at Gartner
14 years IT industry

Gunnar Berger is a research director for Gartner's IT Professionals service. He covers desktop, application and server virtualization ...Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Protocol Wars!


  1. They aren’t over, thank you.

    Please write this paper. Pretty please. Thank you.

  2. Karl Miatke says:

    The war is not over! I have wanted to dive into each protocol so I can better understand what each one offers now and its capabilities for the future. What powers do virtual channels really hold? What protocols can segregate traffic out into different streams for text, audio, video, printing and USB? What capabilities are there in store for mixing VDI and Unified Communications? Are vendors going to eventually be more protocol inclusive so the customer can pick? I figure by now you know I’m interested!

  3. Tal Klein says:

    Just please remember to focus on the things that really matter first and the technical details second. Here are some ideas: Will it scale, what is the end user experience at scale, how will this traffic affect all the other traffic going over my network, how will this traffic be affected by the other traffic on my network, does WAN really matter, and how is what matters on WAN different from what matters on LAN.

    Have fun. Be sure to spend some time with Benny and Shawn, they’ve done quite a bit of work in the subject.

  4. Carsten Puls says:

    Expanding on Tal’s point, focusing on what the differing protocols actually enable from an end-user experience and use case perspective is most helpful – as I believe this is ultimately what matters to the wide range of customers considering desktop virtualization. For example, the characteristics of the UXP protocol used by NComputing’s vSpace Server software enables a whole class of use cases in the SMB and Education markets that are not effectively addressed by the other protocols mentioned (consider that nearly 4 million deployed seats constitute “votes” for UXP in the desktop virtualization protocol war).

    However, we realize that the vast majority of customers don’t choose a protocol, they are choosing the end benefits provided by the solution. For our customers, the value proposition enabled by UXP delivers very high performance matched with simplicity and affordability. We certainly acknowledge that there may be a different equation for other use cases and customers

  5. Hi,

    I would be very curious to know how much of all of the various protocols are in use? My understanding from quite a ways back is that ICA represented almost 25% of all connections and the majority was just plain vanilla RDP?

    This would help everyone in gaining an understanding of what works and what doesnt?

    Cheers,
    Dave

  6. Gunnar Berger says:

    Hey Dave,

    I don’t think we have numbers like that. Based on the calls I take I think its pretty safe to say that nearly all Citrix shops run ICA. I think the vanilla RDP is on a major downshift and has been since VMware View 5.0. I’m seeing a lot more PCoIP in use, although this is mainly in the US. I still think APAC is heavy RDP.

    I work in Gartner for Technical Professionals so I don’t cover those marketing type numbers. I’m more in the nuts and bolts of how things work from a technical perspective. Although I agree it would be interesting to see those numbers.

    Gunnar

  7. Lesley says:

    “Protocol Wars! | Gunnar Berger” was in fact compelling and helpful!

    Within the present day society that is hard to accomplish. Thanks a lot, Roxana



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