The answer? It depends. Leostream CEO Karen Gondoly discusses when that expensive, high-performance display protocol really does matter, and when free will work just fine. 

I’ve noticed a trend in the last year or so. A number of our customers, or intrepid VDI explorers who aren’t yet customers, are moving their VDI workloads into a public cloud or building an OpenStack solution. Their goal, typically, is to lower the cost of VDI.

Now, we all have the tendency to stick to what we know, so our conversations with them often start with a claim that they really, really need to use Citrix XenDesktop or VMware Horizon for their VDI solution. But, when I press on that comment, what they really, really mean is that they need HDX, PCoIP, or Blast.

It’s not the full stack they want, it’s the display protocol. In fact, it’s the full stack they specifically don’t want because of its cost. But, those protocols are locked into their stack; you simply can’t buy the part without buying the whole.

So, what is one to do? Well, the first thing to do is realize that times have changed.


vdi display protocol


The protocol conversation is out of date

Yes, historically it really, really did matter what display protocol you were using. Networks were slower. Bandwidth wasn’t as readily available. RDP was subpar. But, the VDI market has evolved over time, with display protocols arguably evolving fastest among it. The conversation around protocols, however, hasn’t kept up.

For one, we’re still being told that particular display protocols are more secure because they keep your data in your data center. That’s a facet of VDI, not the display protocol. You won’t find a display protocol out there that streams your data. It’s all just pixels, in one form or another.

But, if those streamed pixels are intercepted, that means a third party could render your screen. Therefore, if we’re talking security, the conversation should focus on encrypting the traffic. Thankfully, in this day and age, every protocol out there encrypts the screen transfer, even commercial versions of VNC.

True, not all encryption methods are equal. To have an in-depth conversation on security, we need a side-by-side comparison of encryption methods for all the display protocols. I sadly haven’t found one (can we say, future blog post!) For now, for arguments sake, let’s assume the encryption methods are similar enough that security is handled adequately by all display protocols.


The end user experience is what counts

What’s left in the conversation, then, is the end-user experience. This is defined not only by performance, but also by USB device pass through, printer redirection, multiple monitor support, and more. Again, when VDI first got started, the different display protocols varied widely on how and if they support end-user experience features. Now, however, the differences are dwindling.

The biggest end-user experience feature that comes into play? Performance. Everyone wants that YouTube video to play seamlessly in their proof of concept. But, really, how many of your actual employees do you want watching YouTube? Is video really a workflow you’re supporting in your VDI environment? What about 3-D rendering?

If you look at the tasks your users really undertake, you may find that RDP 10 gets the job done. Particularly when you consider that some of the RemoteFX technologies are available even if you aren’t running virtual machines on Hyper-V.  Maybe, this whole conversation about display protocol boils down to, for most cases, “just use what comes with your operating system.”


Some users really, really do need an advanced protocol

That’s not to say you can live strictly on a commodity display protocol. If you have users who do 3-D rendering, build CAD models, edit media, or do a host of other graphic-intensive tasks, then you do need to look around for a better display protocol.

What you may not realize is that you have a host of options that aren’t tied to any particular VDI stack. To name a few, and in no order other than alphabetical, HP RGS, Mechdyne TGX, NICE DCV, OpenText Exceed TurboX, and Teradici PCoIP Cloud Access Software.

Yes, these protocols have a price tag attached to them, but if you use a commodity display protocol for the majority of your workflows, you have the budget to provide high performance where it’s needed.

It’s high time the conversation around display protocols changed with the times. This blog is just a first step. Stay tuned for more on this conversation.