Citrix have been making a fair bit of noise about their end-client (Receiver) being available and supported in-conjunction with partner ThinLinx on the Raspberry Pi, which with peripherals is proving a sub-$100 thin-client, capable of handling demanding graphics and frame rates (fps) of 30fps or more (YouTube is usually 30fps).
The Raspberry Pi and other low-cost end-points such as the Intel NUC are capable because they support hardware decode of protocols such as H.264 and JPEG used by HDX/ICA, they have SoC (system on a chip) hardware designed to handle graphics really very well.
There has been a lot of excitement in the industry and community, with traditional thin-clients typically costing $300-$600 the Pi offers potential cost savings but also the opportunity to use VDI/Application remoting (XenDesktop or XenApp) in scenarios where it wouldn’t have made financial sense.
There have been some stunning videos demonstrating the potential of this new class of low-cost endpoint such as:
- Early videos from the Citrix HDX development team:
- CTP Magnar Johnsen’s videos:
- “Wow this is so impressive. Autocad inventor on a @Raspberry_Pi delivered over wan with @citrix xenapp + @NVIDIAGRID” see it here: https://twitter.com/MagnarJohnsen/status/730694001297379330
- Thomas Berger from Citrix’s demos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScdsdPJNssI&es_p=1767674
And what do all these videos have in common – THEY WERE ALL RECORDED USING SERVERS BACKED BY NVIDIA GRID virtualized GPUs (vGPU or GPU-sharing via XenApp and GPU pass-through)! Because:
- If you have effective hardware decode on the client you need your server to be able to keep up and pump out high frame rates and visual quality
- With low cost clients virtualized (shared vGPU or XenApp GPU-sharing via passthrough) offers a cost effective way to boost the graphical power of the server without the need for a dedicated GPU per user
The Citrix Pi project highlights the power of using hardware encode and decode on GPUs. With the GPU able to take the brunt of the workload leading to:
- Battery and power savings
- The opportunity to offload server CPU for the protocol encode on the server boosting scalability, whilst Citrix only currently have hardware encode for their Linux VDA. With VMware Blast Extreme and NICE already offering it. The opportunity for NVIDIA GRID customers to see future value, as Citrix catches up, are there. The Pi project and VMware / NICE developments are vindication that this is where the industry is going – there are simply many tasks associated with virtualizing graphics that GPUs are best suited to.
- Tests with blast extreme and NVENC shows up to 51ms lower latency on screen updates and lower CPU usage http://blogs.vmware.com/euc/2016/02/vmware-horizon-blast-extreme-acceleration-with-nvidia-grid.html so the potential for Citrix to emulate is clear.
Savings on the end-client costs is likely to change the balance of VDI deployment costs, allowing customers to invest more in the server data centre and freeing up budget for GPUs to access the user-experience improvements, benefits of consolidation and power savings. It really doesn’t make sense to have high-end workstations or PCs dotted around remote locations in use for a few hours a day for many customers anymore.
Once you get GPUs into a data centre, many sys admins report a reduction in costs associated with sluggish performance and helpdesk calls. It’s not just high-end graphics benefit from GPU-acceleration but regular office applications, browsers and unified communications (Cisco Jabber, Skype, etc). You can read more here: https://www.virtualexperience.no/2015/11/05/mythbusting-browser-gpu-usage-on-xenapp/ and also here: https://www.citrix.com/blogs/2015/12/03/gpu-for-the-masses-with-xenappxendesktop/.
Exciting times! I somehow suspect we’ll see Citrix make (quite rightly) quite a bit of fuss over the Pi at their upcoming Synergy event! A performant end-client though needs to be fed by a performant server and NVIDIA GRID is a great match.
- Citrix Blog: Can the Raspberry Pi Disrupt the Thin Client Market.. And the PC Industry
- Citrix Blog: Citrix, Raspberry Pi2 & ThinLinx: High-res Graphics Client for $50!
- Citrix Engineering’s Martin Rowan’s Excellent website on the Pi on Citrix: http://www.martinrowan.co.uk/
- Magnar Johnsen’s Blog: How to get awesome video performance with XenApp and Raspberry Pi thin client
- Information on Citrix thin clients: https://virtuallyvisual.wordpress.com/2015/12/27/understanding-thin-clients-for-citrix-just-got-a-whole-lot-easier/
- Explanation on how Citrix Receivers and SoC are architected to use hardware decode: https://virtuallyvisual.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/understanding-citrix-ready-certification-and-thin-clients/
- Early development blog from Citrix: https://www.citrix.com/blogs/2013/12/13/raspberry-pi-xendesktop-pt-2-build-your-own-all-in-one-personal-thin-client-for-150/