I wanted to share a brief story about an excellent VDI experience I had recently with VMware Horizon View while on a business trip to the USA. I think this story demonstrates the power of virtualization, modern mobility technology, and the productivity that really can break down barriers and provide massive business value. Before we start the story you might like to check out my home lab environment. This is where my VMware View virtual desktop is located (Windows 8.1). My environment is connected via a home VDSL service to the internet and uses dyndns so I can access it when I’m away from home. This environment is located in Auckland, New Zealand. This story started while on a journey of over 8000 miles and starting at 38,000 feet above the US, somewhere between San Francisco and New York.
On this trip I flew Air New Zealand (@flyairnz), which is my usual airline and part of the Star Alliance network. When I get to San Francisco they connected with United (@united), which is also part of Star Alliance, for my connecting flight to New York (Newark International – EWR). Fortunately for me there was satellite based WIFI service available on my United flight. This allowed me to get a lot of work done on the 6 hours or so it took to get to my destination. But that isn’t the main reason for the story.
I don’t remember exactly how far it was into the flight, but I got an email from the Nutanix (@nutanix) engineers I was working with at HQ in San Jose, California on some new features of an upcoming release. We had started working through some things before I left Auckland on my 12 hour flight to the US, while I was at the Airport lounge. In the email they wanted to set up a webex so that we could continue working on my lab system, which as you know is back in Auckland, and only connected by VDSL. To put this in perspective, on a good day, the latency to San Francisco or San Jose is 198ms round trip from my home lab / home office. As you may know, your virtual desktop experience can be limited by high latency if your display protocol isn’t great at handling the latency.
I have previously run video demonstrations using my cell phone as a VMware View client, using the PC Over IP protocol, while in Singapore, back to my home lab datacenter in Auckland. I’m not claiming it was even 20 frames per second, there is some noticeable jitter, but this is a 3G cell phone connection over thousands of miles back to a desktop connected at the end of a VDSL line at the bottom of the world. It was usable and you could tell what was going on, and with sound that was for the most part in sync with the video. If that works, I thought to myself, maybe I could do something similar while on board my flight from San Francisco to New York.
While on board the United flight the WIFI is connect to satellite. So the signal has to bounce up to the orbiting satellite, probably 22,000 miles or so above the earths surface, before returning to a ground station where it connects to the rest of the internet. It would then have to travel the approximately 8,000 miles back to my office in Auckland. So we’re probably talking a round trip in excess of 30,000 miles and probably a good part of almost a second in round trip latency. I didn’t bother to do a speedtest while on the plane, perhaps I should have, it would have made things more interesting. This was going to be a lot higher latency than my 3G cell connection from Singapore to New Zealand. Would it even be usable? Obviously it was, else I wouldn’t be writing this.
I logged into my VMware View desktop while on the plane. From my desktop in Auckland I set up a Webex session back to the engineers in HQ in San Jose. I was impressed by how usable it was and although there was a bit of a lag, I could still type quite well even into SSH sessions, review PDF documents and word documents. This was important as we were using SSH as the means to access a number of my lab systems, and were referring to some PDF’s. I was able to give the engineers in San Jose control of my keyboard and mouse and watch them in pretty much real time. We were able to be as productive using this VMware View connection from an air plane as if I was sitting at my laptop in my home office.
At one point I tried using YouTube to watch a recent movie trailer, just because I could. It was usable and I could tell what was going on, but it was only a frame or two per second. Definitely not an HD experience (although it was an HD feed), but considering the distance, latency and limitations, it was perfectly fine. I wouldn’t recommend watching videos in this way, but using productivity apps, emails, using Webex, viewing a presentation, using SSH, managing your environment using vCenter and the like, is perfectly doable.
If you have WIFI on a plane you can be just about as productive as if you were still in the office, provided you don’t have the person in front putting their seat all the way down so you can’t work on your laptop. One of the joys of flying economy only as a company policy. Fortunately this isn’t something that happened to me on this trip. By the time I had landed in Newark we had got everything that we’d needed form the Webex, and it was one less thing for me to worry about.
Ultimately the VMware Horizon View PCoIP protocol really made this possible. If the protocol didn’t do a good job of handling low bandwidth high latency links, then I would have been stuck. Fortunately, even with the extreme latency, I was able to get done what I needed to do, and saved a lot of time in the process.
If this is what can be delivered by technology today, imagine what we will be able to do in the future. Imagine the power that this can deliver to business all over the world. An additional few hours of productivity on a flight could add up to a lot of value for a business. Of course the benefits of virtual desktops are not just available to big businesses, but also small business. Anyone can afford to set up a virtual desktop infrastructure. You can start small and grow to whatever scale you need to. If you choose to do it with Nutanix and need anything from 150 virtual desktops to over 200,000 virtual desktops, then Nutanix will guarantee the performance and the service levels if you go with the VDI Assurance Program. I would encourage everyone to give VDI a try. But even if you don’t want full VDI desktops, now with VMware Horizon View 6.0 you can do application presentation. It would definitely be worth taking a look. As always comments and feedback are welcome.
This post appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com, by Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2014 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.
Thanks for sharing the story. We debate the value of VDI in our company. I had a terrible experience in my previous company as the latency made productivity very difficult. So I have a mental hurdle to overcome at this point and I hope that as VMware's Horizon View 6.0 product improves, the experience improves. As a user right now, I will believe it is a viable option when I can actually see it work in a real world environment.
I would characterise this situation as worse than normal real world latency as most corporate VDI won\’t be backed by a DSL connection at HQ. but the usability is good. This is on View 5.3. So I\’d expect 6.0 to be even better. Definitely worth trying.
Good to hear about your high-latency experience. With Citrix acquiring FrameHawk, they have raised the bar in this space. I was at a technical conference last week put on by a Heavy-Citrix VAR, and the Citrix folks really made Horizon View / PCoIP look bad. They showed a recorded demo which included two Windows 7 virtual desktops running a YouTube video. The first was a FrameHawk-enabled XD7.5 desktop at 250ms, and the second was a Horizon View desktop with the same network limitations. The View desktop could only muster 1-2 fps, while the XD7.5 with FrameHawk was probably more in the teens (fps). I asked them about a possible "testing specs sheet" and they said they didn't have one. Seemed like a FUD-fest to me.
Not really apples-to-apples (in terms of latency), but I took out my laptop and connected to my Horizon View 5.3 desktop via my hotspot (which was getting just south of 100ms in latency. I watched a YouTube movie trailer without much of an issue. I think some of the folks next to me began to somewhat doubt the video we just watched.
Yeah. You can make those tests go any way you like. I have no Tera cards, no accel in GPU or anything. My environment is just normal view on normal servers. 250ms is the average day for me accessing a desktop in San Jose. <200ms on a good day. Who watches a high def video over a 250ms latency connections and expects high frame rate anyway? We are still bound by the laws of physics. But this experience with close to 1s latency shows just how usable the technology is.
I saw a similar 'demo' recently (at Citrix's Synergy conference in LA) and I asked the FrameHawk technical guys afterwards 'so what were the frame rate and build to lossless (BTL) settings chosen for the View desktop?' and got blank looks. I suspect BTL was set very high (possibly even 100%) to show View in the worst possible light. As Michael says these 'demos' can be slanted to make any product look better than the competition and I take them all with a very heavy pinch of salt.
If you know you're going to have high latency there is absolutely no point trying to build to lossless and this is one of the first settings that would be tuned to improve the overall user experience. I would go as far as to say that BTL is only required for specific applications, such as medical imagery and high end design and should probably be modified anyway.
Was it pure View PCoIP client or HTML5 access (browser based) that you used to access your Virtual Desktop on the plane?
I was using the native View client from my Mac. I could have used the HTML5 blast protocol. But I had the client handy.
[…] VMware View from the Horizon at 38,000 feet and 8000 miles away This is a great blog article that Michael has written. Using View from so high, and so far away, your desktop is pretty cool […]
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I flew a week ago. Inspired by your blog and by Gunnar Berger's videos, I decided to try this up in the air. It worked well. Latency of 600-900 ms, bandwidth of 2-6 Mbits. Here is the video result:
That's a great video. Thanks for making it.
[…] VMware announced the Horizon Workspace Suite, which combines all of their End User Computing products, which will make it more easy to purchase and consume these products, although they are still separate products that will likely require professional services to integrate. Project Fargo and the Cloud Volumes addition will have some great benefits in the future for all environments as it will make it much quicker to deploy applications and use them anywhere, and on any device. Apps and end user delivery at the speed of life. So you can work where you want, when you want. Like in my article about The VMware View from the Horizon at 38,000 Feet and 8000 Miles Away. […]