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WILS: The Importance of DTLS to Successful VDI

One of the universal truths about user adoption is that if performance degrades, they will kick and scream and ultimately destroy your project.

image Most VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solutions today still make use of traditional thin-client protocols like RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) as a means to enable communication between the client and their virtual desktop. Starting with VMware View 4.5, VMware introduced the high-performance PCoIP (PC over IP) communications protocol. While PCoIP is usually associated with rich media delivery, it is also useful in improving performance over distances. Such as the distances often associated with remote access. You know, the remote access by employees whose communications you particularly want to secure because it’s traversing the wild, open Internet. Probably with the use of an SSL VPN. Unfortunately, most traditional SSL VPN devices are unable to properly handle this unique protocol and therefore run slow, which degrades the user experience. The result? A significant hindrance to adoption of VDI has just been introduced and your mission, whether you choose to accept it or not, is to find a way to improve performance such that both IT and your user community can benefit from using VDI.

The solution is actually fairly simple, at least in theory. PCoIP is a datagram (UDP) based protocol. Wrapping it up in what is a TCP-based security protocol, SSL, slows it down. That’s because TCP is (designed to be) reliable, checking and ensuring packets are received before continuing on. On the other hand UDP is a fire-and-assume-the-best-unless-otherwise-notified protocol, streaming out packets and assuming clients have received them. It’s not as reliable, but it’s much faster and it’s not at all uncommon. Video, audio, and even DNS often leverages UDP for speedy transmission with less overhead. So what you need, then, is a datagram-focused transport layer security protocol. Enter DTLS:

 image In information technology, the Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) protocol provides communications privacy for datagram protocols. DTLS allows datagram-based applications to communicate in a way that is designed to prevent eavesdropping, tampering, or message forgery. The DTLS protocol is based on the stream-oriented TLS protocol and is intended to provide similar security guarantees. The datagram semantics of the underlying transport are preserved by the DTLS protocol — the application will not suffer from the delays associated with stream protocols, but will have to deal with packet reordering, loss of datagram and data larger than a datagram packet size.

-- Wikipedia

If your increasingly misnamed SSL VPN (which is why much of the industry has moved to calling them “secure remote access” devices) is capable of leveraging DTLS to secure PCoIP, you’ve got it made. If it can’t, well, attempts to deliver VDI to remote or roaming employees over long distances may suffer setbacks or outright defeat due to a refusal to adopt based on performance and availability challenges experienced by the end users. DTLS is the best alternative to ensuring secure remote access to virtual desktops remains secured over long distances without suffering unacceptable performance degradation.

If you’re looking to upgrade, migrate, or just now getting into secure remote access and you’re also considering VDI via VMware, ask about DTLS support before you sign on the dotted line.

WILS: Write It Like Seth. Seth Godin always gets his point across with brevity and wit. WILS is an ATTEMPT TO BE concise about application delivery TOPICS AND just get straight to the point. NO DILLY DALLYING AROUND.


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Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.