Virtual and hosted workstations are the wave of the future, enabling a new group of users to reap the benefits and flexibility of traditional RDS and VDI. The key to a successful virtual workstation deployment is a connection broker that allows you to connect users, control access, and optimize workstation usage and to include a display protocol that provides the performance required by graphics-intense applications. Leostream CEO Karen Gondoly discusses further in this blog! 

Virtual desktops are nothing new and, as the industry’s evolved, IT has been able to satisfy the needs of a greater number of users across the enterprise. With the latest technology advances for high-performance workstations, we finally have a viable solution for remote workstations for power users. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the key technologies that make up an efficient virtual workstation environment

Hardware advances that enable a new category of remote workers

 Two key technologies that enable hosting virtual workstations for power users are the graphics cards and drivers that evolved to support virtual GPUs. Major graphics card vendors such as NVIDIA and AMD now provide tools that allow virtualization hypervisors to transform a single physical GPU into multiple virtual GPUs that can be used by multiple virtual machines. The virtual machines utilize the virtual GPUs as if they are real physical GPUs, giving better performance than when virtual machines share a common GPU or when graphics processing needs to be done by the CPU.

However, virtual GPUs aren’t the only technology that’s enabled virtual workstations. Some enterprises are hosting workstations without using virtualization. New hardware form factors, such as HPE Moonshot Systems and HP Workstations, allow organizations to provide power users with individual workstation-grade desktops at a lower cost than purchasing typical workstation hardware.

Alternatively, some organizations continue to buy expensive workstation hardware, but now host it in the data center. Hosted workstations can be shared by multiple users, allowing organizations to purchase fewer workstations to save money. Plus, hosted workstations – whether they are physical, virtual, or even in a public cloud – give power users the flexibility and anywhere access that virtualization previously afforded only to task and knowledge workers.

The software that brings it all together

To complete your hosted workstation environment, you need two important pieces of software, a connection broker and a display protocol..

The connection broker acts as gate keeper for the hosted workstation environment, authorizing access only to the appropriate users and managing workstation connections to maximize utilization. Connection broker software allows you to create pools of shared workstations and define access control rules that determine which users can connect to these pools, and for how long.

Typically, people think of connection brokers as part of a full VDI stack. However, when it comes to managing a virtual workstation environment, think outside the stack and look at vendor-neutral connection brokers, such as the Leostream Connection Broker, to manage your virtual workstations alongside the rest of your IT environment.

Vendor-neutral connection brokers manage desktops hosted in any on-premises or cloud platform, instead of being tied into a single vendor’s platform. For example, the Leostream Connection Broker manages RDS, VDI (both on-premises and in OpenStack, AWS, and Azure clouds), and virtual workstations from a single interface. It also can manage any remote workstation operating system, including Microsoft Windows, Linux, and even macOS.

A vendor-neutral connection broker allows you to mix and match display protocols to optimize every user’s performance, so you don’t have to invest in high-performance display protocols when they’re not needed. Finally, you future-proof your environment when using a vendor-neutral connection broker, because you can add and remove technologies as they come to market or when your users’ needs change.

When investigating connection brokers, look for one that supports the complex workflows required by enterprises. The Leostream Connection Broker provides advanced policy logic that allows you to monitor when a connected user disconnects, logs out, or is idle so that the workstation can be made available for other users. Leostream also provides the Leostream Gateway, which allows remote users to access their hosted workstations using the TGX and RGS high-performance display protocols.

The display protocol is responsible for transmitting the graphical display from the remote workstation to the user’s client device, whether that device is their laptop, a zero or thin client, or a mobile device.  Just as virtualization has evolved to support virtual workstations, display protocols have evolved to take advantage of virtual GPUs.

To support power users, you need a display protocol that provides pixel-perfect rendering. Examples include Mechdyne TGX, HP Remote Graphics Software (RGS), and Teradici PCoIP. Which display protocol you choose often depends on your hardware selection (for example, HP workstations ship with a built-in HP RGS Sender) or your use case (for example, Oil & Gas companies prefer TGX).

These high-performance display protocols provide 4k resolution and at-desk performance for complex applications such as CAD and video editing software. Some display protocols, such as TGX, can connect multiple collaborators to the same workstation, allowing remote teams to efficiently work on the same project.