Tech: Microsoft RemoteFX architecture and features

Michel Roth, who works for the desktop virtualization division of Quest (previously known as the startup Provision Networks, which was acquired by Quest in 2007) and runs the blog wrote a great review about the upcoming RemoteFX functionality in Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7.

The review looks at what RemoteFX exactly is, what it can do (for Virtual Desktop Infrastructures and for Remote Desktop Session Hosts) and cannot do and how it works under the cover.

Some quotes from the article:

Concerning what RemoteFX is:

"…The most common misconception that exists today is that RemoteFX is a new display protocol that will replace RDP. This is not true. RemoteFX is an umbrella term for a set of technologies that will enhance RDP…


Concerning what it can do:

"…Anything! Well, from a display perspective at least. This is the really cool part. Since to the virtual desktop and its applications it appears that a “normal” GPU is available, almost all content can be rendered. RemoteFX is like a catch-all. Basically all kinds of “desktop content” can be viewed in near full fidelity in your virtual desktop…"

Concerning what it cannot do:

"…Of course RemoteFX isn’t the most brilliant thing since the seedless watermelon but it is pretty darn close! There are a couple of characteristics – I would not call them drawbacks – which you have to be aware of though:

•LAN only.

•Need for a GPU.

•No OpenGL.

•Hyper-V R2 SP1 only.

•Windows 7 SP1 only…"

And finally the conclusion from Michel:

"…Many people complained that Microsoft took too long to implement the Calista technologies into what was clear from the first minute- RDP. I personally think that Microsoft wanted to wait until all the pieces were in place to start yet another game of chess (or a more violent sport) with their good friends VMware. These pieces are not only assimilating the Calista technologies into Windows but also building the RemoteFX Ecosystem. They even decided to include a major feature as big as RemoteFX into a service pack which is pretty uncommon for Microsoft.

If it wasn’t clear, RemoteFX is (in many ways) Microsoft’s answer to PCoIP. In fact, in the same announcement that talked about RemoteFX, Microsoft also announced another feature of Service Pack 1 called “Dynamic Memory”. Dynamic Memory could be perceived to be as a countermove against VMware’s “memory overcommit”, which many people agree is one of the big things lacking in Hyper-V today. The comparison is very interesting, but beyond the scope of this piece. Regardless of what Microsoft wants to achieve with RemoteFX (or Service Pack 1 as a whole) RemoteFX will have a great impact on desktop virtualization. It will change the way we buy servers, it will change the client devices we buy (and why we buy them) and it will change the “RDP user experience”. I am not saying it will happen overnight but in time it will happen.

A question that I get a lot as well is if I think if RemoteFX will replace all other remote display protocols such as Quest EOP or Citrix HDX. I think RemoteFX will not replace these protocols. Even though there is some overlap – in particular, RemoteFX is similar to Citrix HDX 3D Pro – Microsoft has created an ecosystem around RemoteFX that allows for partners to embrace and extend RemoteFX. It is much more likely that RemoteFX will be supported by protocols from these, and other, vendors, who will continue to extend and enhance Microsoft’s Remote Desktop platforms…"