VDIworks helps virtual desktops with new high-speed connection protocol

VDI and virtual desktops need the support of users to become successful. VDIworks' VideoOverIP 1.0 may be just what the doctor ordered.

Desktop virtualization and VDI solutions have the potential to grow beyond the numbers enjoyed by today's server virtualization market, but to do so, companies need to continue to enhance these offerings in a number of ways. One company doing just that is VDIworks. The company just released its latest technology offering, VideoOverIP 1.0.

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To find out more, I spoke with VDIworks' CEO Amir Husain.

InfoWorld: The market seems to have plenty of desktop remoting protocols already. Why did you decide to release another one?

VDIworks: That's a very fair question. Ideally, if there was an open protocol on the market with excellent performance that was not tied to a particular brand of thin client or a specific hypervisor or server, we would have loved to simply leverage it. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Most protocols have vendor tie-ins that don't just become an issue for customers, they are in fact an impediment to VDI adoption. As you may already know, VDIworks' Virtual Desktop Platform, which is our end-to-end physical and virtual management solution, brokers over a half-dozen different protocols. That list includes HP RGS, PC-over-IP, ClearCube TDA, Microsoft RDP, Wyse TCX, and others. All of these protocols solve specific problems in specific environments, but they are either limited in their reliance on particular brands of thin clients, server hardware, or hypervisors. It's either that or they don't deliver high-end performance for things like multimedia playback.

So we felt we had to solve the problem in a platform independent fashion and remove this hurdle in the way to broader VDI adoption.

InfoWorld: I agree platform independence is important, but talk about some of the other aspects of VideoOverIP that are different to competing products.

VDIworks: Well, even though this is the first release of VideoOverIP, we've tried to innovate and deliver some interesting features. One of the areas where VideoOverIP is unique is in its very high level of configurability. Anyone who has used experience remoting protocols understands that the fidelity varies drastically in different network environments. Sometimes, the only way to guarantee the best possible experience is to allow IT admins to adapt and tune how the protocol works. With VideoOverIP, you can decide which compression algorithm works best in your environment. We allow adjustments to the audio buffer so that you can achieve the highest level of audio/video synchronization on your particular network. Once you select a specific compression algorithm, you can then also set various levels of compression. You can choose between lossy and lossless image transmission. You can also select between multiple methods of capturing images from source. It's very flexible.

In addition to the configurability, VideoOverIP provides support for multimonitor usage. We don't cap resolution like many other protocols, so you can support "large glass" displays. And of course, we work with Microsoft and VMware hypervisors. Surprisingly enough, that's a unique feature for a higher-end remoting protocol.

InfoWorld: In your opinion, how will VideoOverIP help virtual desktop adoption?

VDIworks: Clearly, one very important aspect of this question is sort of tied to what we just spoke about, i.e. removing vendor lock-in. The fact that this protocol does work with any brand of thin client and server allows customers to call the shots; they can experiment at a small scale without ripping apart their infrastructure and can leverage their existing investments in hardware and software. No need to start from scratch.

The other thing it does, obviously, is improve the end-user experience. I feel very strongly that proponents of VDI or centralized computing can't just shove the technology down end-users' throats. While IT teams may see a lot of management benefit, and the CFO may see TCO reductions, we have to offer the end-user some benefits also. I think VideoOverIP does that, by enhancing all forms of video on-screen, whether it's a YouTube playback or a movie in Windows Media Player. VideoOverIP is not tied to specific codecs like many other protocols, so the end-user doesn't need to worry about what he or she is doing. The protocol makes the entire experience faster.

InfoWorld: What does the future hold for VideoOverIP? Anything new and exciting in the works?

VDIworks: Absolutely. We currently have Vista and Windows 7 support in alpha. We are trying to deliver an excellent experience on these platforms, complete with Aero graphics.

In our current release, we also have two additional features: remote desktop transparency and event redirection. The transparency feature allows you to control the opacity of the remote desktop session. You can determine how transparent you want it to be. As you do this, the local desktop starts to show through, so this leads to some interesting possibilities with what we call desktop "compositing." You might have a video playing on a remote system showing through, while you burn a CD on the local device. In future versions, we'll enhance these capabilities in very interesting and useful ways.

The event redirection functionality, then, builds on the previous feature. While you have both the local and remote desktop visible, with different levels of transparency, you can hit a keyboard combo and start sending keyboard/mouse events to the local system, instead of the remote one. And with another combo, switch back. So without having to manage multiple windows, you can literally be interacting with two systems at the same time. For users that have long-running tasks on remote systems, or are waiting for a test/job to complete, this can be quite handy.

Again, as we refine and enhance these capabilities, you'll see some exciting stuff in future versions of VideoOverIP.

InfoWorld: Before we wrap up, are there any other developments at VDIworks you can share with us?

VDIworks: Sure. On the business side, we've had a good bit of success in the health care space. We find that the VDI value proposition really resonates with IT managers in that vertical. They typically have to deal with nurses and doctors, who constitute a very mobile workforce. VDI is perfect for that. They also have HIPAA and other security and privacy concerns to worry about. By centralizing data and making the theft of a client device less serious, VDI makes life much simpler for them. We've deployed our solution in several hospitals, and some of them are already looking to grow their install further. We've also signed up some implementation partners that specialize in the health care space. We're generally bullish on VDI in health care.

On the product development side, we recently launched our VDIworks2Go offering. This combines the strengths of hosted VDI with the flexibility of endpoint virtualization to address one of the biggest criticisms of VDI: what happens if the network goes down? VDIworks2Go allows you to check out your virtual machine and run it on your laptop even while you're disconnected from the network or traveling. The response to this was pretty overwhelming. We offer a cloud-hosted trial version of this product, and our servers were almost overwhelmed in the first week.

In addition to what we've announced already, there is a lot more coming from VDIworks in the near future. Some fairly exciting developments have already taken place that we can't yet announce, while others are in the works. On the whole, I think you'll see us generating some exciting news in the months ahead.

Sounds exciting! I can hardly wait to see what they have up their sleeve. Once again, thanks to VDIworks' CEO Amir Husain for taking time out to speak with me.