Yesterday's other big news was that Microsoft’s investment in Calista is finally paying off. Windows Server 2008 R2 SP 1 will see the introduction of Calista technologies. Now renamed RemoteFX, Microsoft has taken Calista and remade it as both a new graphics engine to power RDP and a major incentive for customers to look to Hyper-V for as the foundation for any future desktop virtualization project.
The key to understanding RemoteFX is to know that it is being implemented as a graphical extension to RDP that provides host based rendering of 2D/3D graphics and not a complete new rip and replace protocol. The RemoteFX codec will be delivered in three different implementations; a software only engine, a GPU/CPU-based encoder that can share off-the-shelf GPUs between multiple VMs, and a custom hardware encoder (much like that employed by Teradici) that can be implemented either on a plug-in mezzanine board or placed direct on the server motherboard. This was very much in-line with expectations, what caught quite a few people by surprise was the announcement that RemoteFX would only be available on a Hyper-V based virtualization stack. By burying RemoteFX within Hyper-V Microsoft have shutout VMware but at the same time have left the door open to all Hyper-V ready desktop virtualization vendors making a very effective double-edged sword to use against VMware. Also of note is that Microsoft and Citrix are reaffirming their partnership by announcing an agreement to work together to integrate RemoteFX with HDX in Citrix XenDesktop (and I presume XenApp as well). This will extend the capabilities of the Microsoft RemoteFX platform out to the broader range of endpoints that Citrix supports. A RemoteFX ready XenDesktop release is expected to be released to production within six months of the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. What was missing here was any kind of announcement about integrating RemoteFX with XenServer. This leaves me wondering was this a marketing decision not to share this until Synergy in May, or part of a bigger decision by either Microsoft (possible) or Citrix (unlikely) not to head down that road.
One point that was not clear to me to start with is the role that Quest continue to play here. While Quest was not mentioned during Thursday's webinar, Quest continues to work closely with Microsoft and is likely to release a RemoteFX ready version of it's own RDP implementation shortly after Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 is released. Given both Quest's track record of support for Hyper-V and greater agility afforded by a smaller number of client platforms (and possibly a simpler integration path, although I admin I don't know the details here) Quest could well have a RemoteFX ready version of vWorkspace out in advance of Citrix.
The other big step forwards is that Windows 7 XP mode and MED-V no longer require hardware virtualization technology. This is clearly big news from a technical perspective but I’m not sure that it will make a huge difference to adoption. I can’t say that I’ve had many people tell me they are looking at MED-V and XP mode is nearer to being a last desperate grasp than it is to being a tactical solution so I can’t see many people willing to invest the time and effort of implementation unless they are in deep trouble. Having said that though, I've been in enough tight spots to know that this kind of change can be a lifeline for some people.
Finally Citrix and Microsoft have joined together to respond to VMware’s New Year marketing initiative that offered potential customers the opportunity to exchange XenApp licenses for View, by announcing a counter offer to “rescue” failed View implementations. Whether you consider this a desperate act to gain attention, as some would have it, or an aggressive move to gain market share depends very much on how you view VMware's current market dominance. Personally, I welcome the move as it reduces the cost of implementing desktop virtualization while driving innovation at all levels.