Building for scalability, performance and user experience.
Roy Heaton CTO
1 Feb 2016
Since the initial launch of Inuvika OVD Enterprise in April 2015, our development focus has been on performance, scalability, management and user experience. We have made significant improvements in the platform in the last year. OVD had been developed over seven years as an open source product. The original development team joined Inuvika in order to make the improvements required for marketability. Inuvika has made a large investment in additional engineering resources. The result has been early successes with OVD being used in both education and healthcare, where access to both Windows and Linux apps is a requirement.
Let’s take a look at some of the advances up to our latest V1.4 release made available on January 29, 2016.
Improving platform performance, scale and management
With the launch of our initial release, our top priorities were to improve performance, stability of the platform and simplicity of system administration. The first goal was application server support for the latest Windows platforms and native 64 bit support for Linux LTS distributions. OVD now ships with support for Windows Server 2012 R2 and 2008 R2 application servers to support the latest Windows application requirements. Native support for Ubuntu 14.04, CentOS and RHEL 6 / 7 64 bit platforms was also introduced. With native 64-bit Linux implementations, a ‘chroot’ed’ environment is no longer required. To the admin, the biggest advantage is the removal of manual package management and all that entails. Now, all required packages and package updates are taken directly from the relevant platform distribution sources. Additionally, as OVD runs all of its core services on Linux, native 64 bit execution significantly improves overall performance and scalability of the platform.
We also introduced high availability for the File Server component which now supports an active-passive architecture and automatic failover. This means that existing sessions will continue to run normally in the event of a file server outage. Access to shared folders will be temporarily suspended during a failover, but no data will be lost. Additionally, the introduction of External Data Storage mapping provides Administrators with greater control over access to storage within the OVD environment.
Making the most of app license assets
One of the benefits of moving to a virtual application environment is better management of your application assets through centralized management and control. However, knowing who is using which applications and how they are consuming licenses is key to optimizing software costs. To help, Inuvika has introduced application license management. This provides insight into published application usage by tracking usage by user, user group, server and the amount of time an application was active. Detailed reports by application, user, groups or server are available to identify licensing needs and report on current license availability. With notifications based on configured license threshold levels or expiry dates, IT can proactively manage application delivery capacity, their license requirements and track consumption to ensure compliance.
HTML5 – works everywhere, zero client footprint.
Many of our customers use HTML5 clients as a widely accessible, mobile friendly, way for their users to access applications and desktops. HTML5 browsers are pretty ubiquitous, we find them on devices ranging from tablets and smartphones to Google Chromebooks and laptop PCs. They offer a simpler approach for both IT and end users because any device that has an HTML5 compliant browser has ‘zero install’ connectivity to an Inuvika server farm. Not only does this allow ubiquitous yet secure access, it also provides administrators with an alternative to having Java on client devices. With HTML being the language of the web, HTML5 based clients are a core development platform for Inuvika with our focus on performance and user experience improvements.
HTML5 and WebSockets
Release of OVD V1.3 saw the implementation of Guacamole 0.9.7, the support of WebSockets and much improved RDP translation for HTML5 connections. WebSockets (now the default communication mechanism) delivers full-duplex communication for connections. Importantly, and in contrast to HTTP’s requirement for multiple TCP connections, WebSockets requires a single TCP connection resulting in improved network utilization and user display experience. This, along with improved RDP translation capabilities, has also reduced server CPU resource and bandwidth requirements delivering better scaling.
It’s all about user experience
With virtual apps and desktops, it is important to deliver a consistent and rich experience for users, apps and desktop sessions. It should be seamless and appear as though they were delivered locally.
The latest releases have brought a number of user experience improvements for HTML5 connected sessions:
- disk redirection enables the upload and download of files to and from client side storage devices to server side application sessions
- audio support provides audio out capabilities to HTML5 client connections
- access to locally connected printers is available through PDF file printing
- RDP settings support font smoothing and Windows Desktop background
All client connections now benefit from:
- Automated Session Recovery – this provides automatic reconnection of desktop and seamless application sessions that have been disconnected intentionally or due to network drop out.
- Session Roaming – provides the ability to reconnect sessions from a different client device allowing users to move from one location to another or switch from one device to another.
Authentication and sign-on
While security remains a top concern for our customers, so does ease of use and a seamless experience for their users. We continue to extend our support for authentication mechanisms and federated single sign-on. The latest release provide support for:
- CAS authentication – allows an admin to use a CAS single sign-on server for OVD
- Windows domain single sign-on with Kerberos – enables single sign-on to OVD from a Windows client in an Active Directory domain. Users only need to login to the client machine in the domain and the credentials will be used to authenticate the OVD session.
- SAML 2.0 authentication support – A user that accesses OVD using a web browser can be authenticated through federated single sign-on using a SAML 2.0 Identity Provider. The user only needs to sign-on once to the Identity Provider to gain access to systems.
Let us know what you think.
So that’s the round-up. There have been many other defect fixes and system reliability improvements, alongside the major updates and feature additions we’ve talked about, to make OVD the enterprise class platform that it is today. We’re committed to deliver cost efficient, secure and simple to manage open source technology for app delivery. If there’s something you’d like to see in OVD or you have any other suggestions drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .