This week I had some time available to give Ericom Blaze a try. For those not familiar with the product, it is basically an add-on for Remote Desktop Services that accellerates RDP performance using compression/shaping techniques. It also reduces the overall bandwidth utilization and the effects of latency. Ok, this is all they say on their marketing materials in a nutshell.
The bottom line for me, when running the tests, was to determine two things: does it work? And given its costs, is it worth? After some not extensive testing, this is what I found out.
Dead on simple. Just load a server component that does not even require a reboot on all your RDS Session Hosts (or Terminal Servers as it is compatible with 2003/2008/2008R2) and their client on all your PCs and Thin Clients. They cover all sorts of clients, from Linux/OSX to Windows XP/Vista/7 and even Windows CE. Nice. I even recorded videos to show you how simple the install really is. Here you have them:
So here is the deal. No matter how good marketing is, the bottom line is if the product works. For these tests I simulated two different connection scenarios using an Apposite Linktropy Mini2 (a great device that deserves a review on its own). To determine how much bandwidth and latency I was going to use, I used the Speedtest.net website and the iOS app 10 (ten) different times and got the average numbers for each case. With these in hand I first created a baseline video where I use a plain RDP7 client on an XP SP3 box to connect to a 2008 R2 RDS SH and opened a simple PDF file and the Adobe Flash player website. Here you have the videos:
With that out of the way I then proceeded to simulate the two scenarions: cross country connection and 3G. For the cross country, my ten tests returned a 2.5MBits down/1.9MBits up connection with 108ms latency, from Ottawa to San Francisco. For 3G, 2.2Mbits down/330kbps up, 112ms latency (using the Rogers network in Canada from a metro location like Ottawa). Again let’s watch the results:
So what do I think of Ericom Blaze? Well the videos do not lie. It does help your RDS Session Host for sure but depending on the conditions this does not necessarily mean it is usable. IMHO Flash does get better but not to the point that makes it usable. Of course it will get down to the Flash content you have. I do expect Flash websites to work great. For video, at least on my tests, the audio was very choppy, choppier actually than with plain RDP7. But again, your mileage may vary. Bottom line is do I think it is amazing and that it greatly enhances RDP? No.
The second thing to consider, and to me the most important one, is the cost/benefit and here, again, IMHO, it fails miserably. At US$ 100-110 per USER, I cannot understand how anyone can justify such solution, considering Quest’s EOP does offer similar (if not better) capabilities in terms of RDP enhancements PLUS a lot more on the RDS SH side. And if you stretch your budget you are now in Citrix XenApp territory and its ICA protocol what does work great indeed.
Resuming: Blaze does work but it is not the silver bullet and may not be that great under certain conditions. Plus it costs. Way too much for my wallet.
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