Confessions of a VMware Secret Agent – NVIDIA GRID and Blast Extreme – answers!

I have a new secret double life! I’ve recently been involved in doing the live chat and Q&A from NVIDIA GRID webinars. If you never attended our webinars but you are interested in NVIDIA GRID technologies you should consider trying it. They usually take the format of a 1+ hour Webinar hosted by internal technology specialists like Support, Readiness or Product Management. We will show live demos, hints and best practices. And also we have regular Guest Speakers or partners involved.

Our next webinar is on Thursday 12th May 2016 (8am PST/11AM EST/4PM UK): “See How Virtual GPU Technology Can Increase User Productivity and Reduce IT Cost.”

Continue reading Confessions of a VMware Secret Agent – NVIDIA GRID and Blast Extreme – answers!

HDX Graphics Policies, really are simpler than you think!

A wrote a blog a while ago (read it here) about how although the Citrix Studio Console interface shows every policy for every graphics mode, most modern graphics modes need very little configuration and are affected by a few policies only. Continue reading HDX Graphics Policies, really are simpler than you think!

Comparing Apples to Pears! Benchmarking Thinwire Compatibility and Other HDX Graphics Modes

applesOne of our really experienced experts has just done a blog on some evaluation he did on Citrix’s hot new graphics mode: http://trentent.blogspot.ca/2015/09/performance-differences-in-citrix-hdx.html. Now this guy knows what he is doing but I’m a little worried others might not fully understand what has been done or the implications for the results. Trent did some tests flipping the encoder via a registry key. We do not encourage users to play with registry keys, occasionally they can prove useful to tweak a system, but really if that is being done we should be exposing the control via properly documented policies.

Continue reading Comparing Apples to Pears! Benchmarking Thinwire Compatibility and Other HDX Graphics Modes

Great real user feedback on thinwire compatibility mode (thinwire plus)!

My colleague, Muhammad, blogged a few weeks ago about a new optimised graphics mode that seems to be delighting users with significant ICA protocol innovations, particularly those users with constrained bandwidth (read the details – here). During its development and various private and public tech previews this feature has been known as Project Snowball/Thinwire Plus/Thinwire+/Enhanced Compatibility mode but in the documentation it is now “Thinwire Compatibility Mode” (read the documentation – here).

I was delighted to read a detailed review by a Dutch consultant (Patrick Kaak) who has been using this at a real customer deployment. In particular it’s a good read because it contains really specific detailed information on the configuration and bandwidth levels achieved per session (<30kbps). Unfortunately (if you aren’t Dutch) it is written in Dutch so I had to pop it through google translate (which did an amazing job).

You can read the original article by Patrick here (if you know Dutch!): http://bitsofthoughts.com/2015/10/20/citrix-xenapp-thinwire-plus/

What I read and was delighted by is the google translated version below:

Since Windows 2012R2, Microsoft make more use of DirectX for the graphic design of the desktop, where they previously used GDI / GDI + API calls. This was evident at the ICA protocol, which was heavily optimized for GDI and triggering a higher bandwidth in Windows 2012R2.

1. without tuning halfway this year we were at one of our customers engaged in a deployment of XenApp 7.6 Windows 2012 R2. Unfortunately, this client had a number of low bandwidth locations. The narrowest lines were 256kbit and there were about seven session running over, which equates to approximately 35 kbit / s per session. We had the h264 (Super Codec) compression already disabled because it caused a lot of high bandwidth and a lot of optimization applied in the policies, but we did not get the line under the 150kbit / s. On average, we came out of around 170 kbit / s. The 35 kbit / s never seemed to be achievable.

After some phone calls with Citrix Project Snowball, we decided to embrace a project that focused on optimizing ThinWire within the ICA protocol and what we call since Feature Pack 3 now ThinWire Plus. This would again reduce the bandwidth to a level which previously Windows 2008R2 was feasible.

After installing the beta on the test servers turned out that we had to force the server to choose the compatibility mode. A moment of choice, because to do so we had to turn off the Super Codec in its entirety for the server for all users that are on there. This forces you to use each session to ThinWire, even where the lines have enough bandwidth and the Super Codec can be used. This is done by implementing the following registry key:

HKLM \ Software \ Citrix \ Graphics
Name: Encoder
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0

It has furthermore been put to Medium in the policy Progressive Compression Level, as was indicated in the guidelines for ThinWire Plus.

snowball active – plus thin wire without optimizations: first results were superb. Immediately after installing ThinWire Plus dropped the average bandwidth already with 50% to 83 kbit / s.

After further tuning of all the components, it was even possible to still continue to go down. Previously had to some extreme measures for people on low bandwidth. The settings were made to further reduce the bandwidth. In the eye is the target frame rate that has been put to 15fps, and the use of 16 bit colors was carried out. Finally, a limitation per session bandwidth imposed maximum of 150 kbps.

gpoMaximum allowed color depth: 16 bits per level. (reduction of 10-15% of bandwidth only for entire server to switch)
Allow Visual Lossless Compression: Disabled
Audio over UDP: Disabled
Client audio redirection: Disabled
Client microphone redirection: Disabled
Desktop Composition Redirection: Disabled (prevents DCR is preferred over Enhanced ThinWire)
Desktop Wallpaper: Disabled (ensures uniform background color)
Extra color compression: Enabled (reduction of bandwidth, increased server CPU)
Additional color space threshold: 8192 kbs (default)
Heavyweight Compression: Enabled
Lossy Compression Level: High
Lossy compression threshold: 2147483647 Kbps (default)
Menu animation: Prohibited (reducing bandwidth by not using menu animations)
Minimum Image Quality: Low (always apply additional compression top sharper image)
Moving image compression: Enabled
Optimization for Windows Media redirection over WAN: Disabled (WMV prevents the WAN towards the client)
Overall Session bandwidth limit: 150 Kbps (for non-GMP, maximum bandwidth per session)
Progressive compression level: medium (required for enhanced thin wire)
Progressive compression threshold: 2147883647 Kbps (default)
Target frame rate: 15 fps
Target minimum frame rate: 10 fps (default)

3. snowball heavy tuned implementation of this policy came in the test situation, the average at 16 kbit / s. A value that we absolutely did not think we could get to in the beginning. In the user tests it was revealed that it still worked well on the environment, despite all the limitations that we had set in the policy.

After all changes were made in the production environment, we see that an average session now uses around 30 kbit / s. Slightly more than in the test environment, but certainly not values ​​that we complained about. Users can operate well and be happy.

Incidentally we discovered when testing behind it at a pass-through application (where users first connect to a published desktop and then launch a published application on another server), the ThinWire Plus configuration on both servers must be running. If we did not see we increase the bandwidth usage to the client again significantly.

(all my colleagues, thank you for providing the performance measurements!)

Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp – Understanding the HDX “Extra Color Compression” Policy

  • Update (16th Aug 2015) – Now a CTX: CTX201802 – FAQ: HDX Extra Color Compression (ECC) Policy in XenApp and XenDesktop

Extra Color Compression (ECC) is a policy that can be applied to control how HDX manages bandwidth vs. quality and other resources (e.g. CPU). It is documented in the XenDesktop and XenApp product documentation here.

What is Extra Color Compression (ECC)?

Continue reading Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp – Understanding the HDX “Extra Color Compression” Policy

Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp: Setting Graphics Policies – it’s simpler than it appears!

I get an awful lot of inquiries about the graphics mode policies available for HDX in Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp. The GUI shows a vast array of options and its clear from how haphazardly they seem to be set in support call logs that many users are confused as to what these do and actually fail to realise most of the settings pertain to a legacy graphics modes that they aren’t using. Continue reading Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp: Setting Graphics Policies – it’s simpler than it appears!

HDX and H.264 Artefacts in Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp

Desktops are made of pixels

Images and desktops that make your screen consist of pixels. Your desktop in the datacenter or on your physical PC can be represented as a bitmap, where all the pixels are represented by 4 values: Continue reading HDX and H.264 Artefacts in Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp