Despite the substantial business advantages of virtual desktops, such as giving users access to their applications from any web browser and allowing on-the-fly desktop provisioning and deprovisioning, employees who have bad user experiences with virtual desktops will throw tantrums. A 250ms latency on your WAN might not bother someone who's using it for storage or email, but when you virtualize the entire desktop, that half-second round trip for data can make even simple and otherwise quick tasks unpleasant. Virtual desktops can also raise complaints about things such as poor multimedia support and slow web-browser performance.

Quest Software is attempting to improve the end-user experience on virtual desktops with its Experience Optimization Pack (EOP), an optional add-on to Provision Networks Virtual Access Suite 5.10, a virtual desktop and application delivery solution for VMware Infrastructure, Windows Terminal Server, and Hyper-V platforms. The EOP is an extension of RDP used to connect to Microsoft Terminal Services and uses several techniques to improve the experience of using a virtual desktop.

Paul Ghostine, vice president and general manager of Quest’s Provision Networks division, said that because the software can’t really do anything about latency, EOP addresses end-user complaints with techniques that can hide it. For instance, EOP eliminates the appearance of typing lag by using local text echoing, so users see what they type as they type it, even on a WAN with noticeable latency.

EOP also gives users improved media playback quality, Ghostine noted, because the software redirects media streams from websites directly to clients and plays them with local codecs. This approach has the added bonus of reducing strain on the server and the RDP pipeline, as the server doesn’t have to decode the media and send visual data for each frame. Support for two-way audio is added with EOP and web browsers on virtual desktops perform better with EOP. More information about Quest’s virtualization software is available at Quest’s Provision Networks site.