Is Microsoft silently building a better VDI?

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In the last two years pretty much every major vendor in the IT industry rushed to develop a rich VDI portfolio and roadmap. Each of them did its best to acquire promising startups, to announce new and highly efficient remote desktop protocols, to sign partnerships with OEMs for the next generation thin client.

From VMware to Citrix, from Sun to Quest, from HP to Verizon.
Even TV vendors like LG want to be part of the VDI game.
Everyone but Microsoft.

So far Microsoft preferred to stay under the radar as much as possible, even when they acquired Calista Technologies in January 2008, a small startup able to offload the remote client from the task of rendering any sort of multimedia resource; even when they announced some basic desktop brokering capabilities in the imminent Windows Server 2008 R2.

Now some concrete details are finally emerging and the Microsoft VDI strategy seems more interesting than expected:

…In the RTM version of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, GDI applications, media with Windows Media Player, and Aero Glass will continue using the client-side rendering for remote scenarios as demonstrated in the pre-release version. For the RTM release, client-based rendering will no longer be available for DirectX 10.1 / DXGI 1.1 and Direct 2D applications, instead this type of content will be remoted using host-side resources leveraging the enhanced bitmap acceleration capabilities in R2. This decision was made based on the feedback we received during the engineering and validation process, where the number one requirement was quality and robustness.  While this design change may impact the utilization of CPU and GPU resources on the host side for certain use cases, it provides a consistent approach to remoting multiple types of rich (2D and 3D) content across a broad range of rich and thin client devices.

As for running DirectX applications on Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V virtual machines, there will be the GPU offload hardware assist Calista technologies at some point in the future…

So basically Microsoft doesn’t just plan to integrate Calista technologies in RDP as already announced, but it also plans to elaborate on the virtualization host those multimedia contents executed inside the VDI virtual desktops (Brian Madden has additional insights about this).

The key point is that Microsoft knows a lot about the roadmap of the upcoming GPUs that many customers may be ignoring at the moment.
Those next generation display cards will be just another piece, along with a new remote desktop and a client hypervisor, of the very complex infrastructure that will have to build in the future to make VDI a really efficient solution.