VDI is risky without multimedia support, NEC says

Specialized multimedia firmware on NEC's new thin client devices may make it possible – even enjoyable – for end users to run their desktops from a virtual machine.

NEC Corporation of America, a division of the Japanese electronics behemoth, is launching a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) bundle that can make it possible to deploy server-hosted desktops, even with end users that run graphics and audio-intensive applications.

Without the specialized technology in NEC's Virtual PC Center (VPCC), NEC claims that VDI is all but unusable in a thin client environment with applications such as Windows Media Player or a soft (IP) phone.

At issue is the amount of data generated by multimedia streaming applications, which quickly overwhelms the network that connects a server-hosted desktop and a thin client, said Ken Hertzler-Walters, NEC director for Virtual PC Center.

"If you're running on a PC, the data goes from the CPU to the graphics card and over the bus – no problem," Hertzler said. "But if you're on desktop running on a server and going to a thin client over the network, that's a big problem."

In fact, the amount of data in a typical multimedia stream is so vast that it could not be sated by extra bandwidth. "The de-encoded data is so massive that you could put in a 10 Gigabit Ethernet network and it could never begin to handle it," Hertzler said. "It's a non-starter, frankly."

NEC's solution is to include specialized firmware on its thin client, the US100. Called the NetClient, the chip decodes multimedia at the thin client itself, rather than back on the server. On the server side, VPCC also includes a multimedia accelerator filter (MAF) that intercepts multimedia decoding and passes the compressed data over the wire to the US100.

Hertzler claims that not only does the NetClient chip make multimedia run as well as on a local PC, it actually makes the system run better. "Think about it, when you load a program like Outlook, your video or phone stops working momentarily," he said. With the NetClient chip, however, "you won't have any of those interruptions."

Other components of NEC's VPCC include a choice of servers running VMware ESX and its SigmaSystemCenter management console.

The Virtual PC Server for 20 users runs on two dual-core 1.8 GHz processors and 12 GB of RAM. The 50-user model relies on 3.0 GHz dual core processors and 24 GB of RAM.

SigmaSystemCenter, meanwhile, performs connection brokering, monitoring and load balancing, and users and session creation.

NEC estimates that the three-year total cost of ownership of a VPCC deployment is $3,185 per user, compared with $4,552 for a traditional fat client, according to Gartner.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director

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