Comparing VMware View and XenDesktop on iPad

It was hard to create a title for this article because I normally don’t publish competitive analysis between products, protocols or architectures. I like to talk about products and technology from an optimistic and opportunistic approach. You rarely see me bashing vendors or products. I don’t do that because I believe nowadays every company has potential to quickly improve and innovate surpassing the competition.

However, certain times I feel the obligation to demystify market myths. This discussion between display protocols has been going for a while and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon – and it won’t.

Articles and videos comparing display protocols have been published by vendors. However, they all lack vital information that allow organizations to make business decisions.  Display Protocols are important, but they are only a small piece in the big VDI puzzle that embrace architecture, storage strategy and utilization, user profile and data management, use cases, infrastructure, long term vendor strategy, technology stack, etc…

While PCoIP (VMware View) may perform outstandingly well in some scenarios it may not be as good for different use cases. ICA and HDX on the other hand may perform at it’s best in certain scenarios and not in different use cases.

My recommendation is: PILOT the VDI solution that make sense for your organization, and as a secondary task verify that display protocols available meet your organization’s use cases.

I compared PCoIP in it’s latest’s release with VMware View 5.0 against ICA in it’s latest release with XenDesktop 5.5. I tried to maintain the exact same configuration levels and options to make sure the comparison is as transparent as possible.

 

Defining the Scenario

  • Both VMs run Windows 7 64-bit Enterprise with VMware Tools
  • Both VMs are optimized for VDI using Quest Optimizer with exact same settings
  • Both VMs have Adobe Flash, Java and Silver Light installed
  • Both VMs have 2GB RAM
  • Both VMs have 1 vCPU
  • Both VMs have 35.19MB of video RAM (equivalent to 2 displays at 1920×1200)
  • Both VMs have the same reservations (none) in vSphere 5.0
  • Both VMs are hosted on the same storage array and datastore
  • Both VMs run hardware version 8
  • Both VMs have 3D support disabled
  • Both VMs are provisioned in non-persistent or pooled mode
  • Each VM has it’s own agent installed (View and XenDesktop)

VMware View VM Settings

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XenDesktop VM Settings

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As I mentioned before, it is important to define the use case to have a correct comparison. This setup consists of a iPad 1 connected over a TCP based VPN (Cisco AnyConnect) over my wireless hotspot at my home. The connection has 20Mbit downstream to the internet and the VPN gateway is located on the US West Coast, which is where I am based at. Below you will find a representation of my setup.

 

image

 

Protocol Configuration

By default PCoIP and ICA protocols have different configuration set. I configured both protocols in a similar fashion to reduce chances of interference to the tests, such as bandwidth being used by audio or microphones. The following changes are applied:

  • Both protocols have audio client redirection disabled
  • Both protocols have microphone redirection disabled
  • Both protocols have been set to 24 FPS (frames per second) (24FPS is the default setting for XenDesktop. PCoIP default setting is 30FPS)
  • PCoIP have Build-to-Lossless disabled (This is the default setting for XenDesktop)

    PCoIP Configuration

    image 

     

    ICA Configuration

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    Tests

    I ran two different tests with both products.

    Test 1 – This test used the native Internet Explorer in Windows 7 to deliver Adobe Flash host based rendering. A flash intensive website was used in my first test. (http://www.nespresso.com/variations).

    Test 2 – This test used Windows Media Player to deliver a HD video.

     

    PCoIP vs. ICA on iPad from Andre Leibovici on Vimeo.

     

    I classify this use case similar to an organization’s employee using iPad over Wi-Fi in a meeting at the  organization’s premises or in a branch office served with decent size bandwidth to the datacenter where the virtual desktop reside.

    In this testing environment PCoIP outperforms ICA. However, both protocols are highly customizable and I might have overlooked settings that would tune and improve protocols performance for this specific scenario. I tried to maintain configuration parity.

    If either VMware or Citrix are reading this article and would like me to modify specific settings to improve protocol performance without end user experience degradation I am happy to re-run the simulation and add the comparison to this article.

    In a following article I will compare protocols in different scenarios such as from a hotel or cafe with limited internet bandwidth.

    11 comments

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      • Joel on 10/03/2011 at 11:20 pm

      Hi Andre.

      Nice article, I like the outcome… 🙂
      Any way you can skip the Cisco VPN in this setup and rerun the comparison?
      I see that as a more likely scenario, customers usually want to get rid of the overhead with setting up and managing a VPN in addition to the VDI solution.

      Keep up the good work.
      Joel

      (Disclaimer, I work at VMware with View solutions)

      • Ian on 10/04/2011 at 7:51 am

      Thanks for sharing the configuration of the test.

    1. @Joel
      I uderstand where you are coming from. Unfortunately I don’t have at the moment a Security Gateway for both environments. This may be something I could plan for a future post. You are correct about the overhead created by the VPN itself. I personally would expect it to affect more PCoIP than ICA becuase PCoIP uses UDP as it’s transport protocol.
      Need tests anyway.

    2. @Ian
      You are wlecome. Thanks for supporting the challenge.

      • Tom on 10/04/2011 at 8:36 pm

      Will you re-run the test after Citrix comes out with their new iPad Receiver? We were blown away by the difference when we saw the old one and the new one side by side.

    3. Tom,

      Yes, I will run the same tests once the new Citrix Receiver is GA.

      • JanJ on 10/05/2011 at 10:07 am

      You enabled minimum and max image quality levels in the vmware policy but on citrix there’s no compression ? I’m not familair with vmware view but i wonder what the impact is with that settings maybe set them both to 100% to have an honest comparison?

    4. Thanks for the post Andre, and for posting your configuration!

      One thing I have been told is there are specific issues related to the current version of the Citrix iPad client. The new client will go GA the day of iOS 5 release (Oct. 12th). Until then Citrix is allowing people to play with the new receiver. Below is a link to the dropbox holding the latest beta version of the iOS client sent to me directly from Citrix. Just browse the link from your iPad and click “Install App”. It will not affect the existing Citrix client, it will just install side by side…

      http://dl.dropbox.com/u/144985/Beta5/CitrixReceiver.html

      • R on 10/12/2011 at 3:55 am

      Please check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I8x1DamG7M for Receiver Beta for iOS.

      • VDI_Man on 11/08/2011 at 10:26 am

      VDI_Man40 minutes ago

      Devil is in the details on this one, don’t be fooled.

      Remember the iPad has no multimedia offloading capabilities, which prevents Citrix from shining through. Because of this lack of offloading on the iPad, all of this rendering/processing is occuring server side, greatly impacting user densities and scalibility.

      Meaning you need to buy more servers to accomidate multimedia with View or buy their forthcoming PCoIP card which is only in PCIe format with no OEM’s picking this up as a blade mezzanine – useless.

      Now the majority of iPad users are not going to connect to a virtual desktop to surf the web or to watch a movie when they have an iPad that can do that natively, why do you need the extra step? So is this a really valid use case, no.

      Does VMware beat Citrix now on this release… still the answer is no!

    5. spnsored by vmware view

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