Flash and RDP7.0. Still relevant?


In the age of Windows Server 2012 and more than that, 2008 R2 SP1 that brought you RemoteFX, why the hell is someone (me) writing about RDP7.0 and Flash?
Well for many simple reasons. First of all, I get asked about this on a daily basis. My wife, my kids, my dogs. They always ask me that, before I even sit down in the morning to get my cappuccino going.
Seriously, there is a ton of Windows XP out there and more than that, a LOT of Windows Server 2008 R2 as not everyone took the leap and went all the way to 2012 RDS and its mighty RDP8.
So all that said, RDP7 is still out there and strong, thanks to legacy clients (XP) connecting to it. In this case does not matter RDP7.1 and RemoteFX are on your server as the client cannot handle it and will fall back to RDP7.0. You can see this here:

RDP7.0 Client on XP SP3

RDP7.0 Client on XP SP3

Now, is it possible to run Flash on RDP7? The final answer, video to prove, is…

YES.

It is possible.

But there are some caveats and potentially HUGE ones. Before anything let’s watch a quick video (well not that quick) I recorded last night. It does cover YouTube, Flash and Windows Media HD on a 2008 R2 SP1 RDS Session, through a Windows XP SP3 box.

As seen on the video the main issue here is indeed bandwidth. I passed the connection through my loyal and reliable Apposite Linktropy Mini2 and monitored the bandwidth in all three cases. This is what I found roughly:

Youtube: consistently over 30MBits. Some spikes over 37.5Mbits.
We Chose the Moon Flash Website: Stage 1. Peaks over 25Mbits. 10s average close to 20Mbits.
Windows Media HD: 10s average in the 7.5Mbits range.

The key thing to understand here is, Flash is accelerated but NOT redirected while Windows Media HD is indeed redirected and decoded on the client. Just watching the video you can see WMV HD 720p playing full screen. No lag, nothing. Pure beauty.

Even YouTube/Flash played extremely well (my recording software, iShowU HD, for some reason introduced some audio stuttering with the latest version – pretty bad – and an older version was much better but still not perfect like the one I had before). Very smooth, great frame rate and audio in good sync. Also note I probably recorded at 15fps. Again, real life looks really good.

The problem really gets down to bandwidth, link quality and of course CPU (for Flash) with RDP7.0. If you want to run 50 people over a 10Mbits link to watch YouTube (like one of my customers DID want to do), no way it will work. This gives in a perfect case scenario around 200kbps per user. As long as the YouTube video is sized 32 pixels by 24 pixels, yes, it will work perfectly. They will need magnifying glasses but that is another story…

And if we factor latency and loss, well than you are screwed. Seriously.

The lesson here is, RDP7.0 on older clients against 2008 R2 SP1, can deliver Flash as long as you have infinite bandwidth with very little latency.
As far as I know such connection does not exist yet as of 2013. Maybe in 3102 but by then RDP 308 will deliver Holographic 4D content, with a separate virtual channel for smell, no problem.

Until then, please avoid Flash on RDP7.0.

Keep an eye for another post now showing the effects of latency and a comparison between RDP7 and RDP8, from a Windows 7 SP1 endpoint.

Cheers.

CR

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