Ericom's 'secret sauce' is a transportation protocol called Blaze, which is an adaptation of RDP for terminal services, which is Ericom's historical strength.

Blaze is designed to improve speed for multimedia, like VMware View 4's PCoIP protocol. At press time, we received Ericom's WebConnect 6.2.2.0 and continued testing from beta software Ericom had sent. (The code we were sent was labeled as final, but we detected that we received a special build of Ericom's server software, so we can't reliably state at press time that our results are what you'll see.) Ericom insists this code is what you'll receive until the next release, and covers bugs we found in initial testing.

WebConnect can use many hosted VM platforms, ranging from ESX/vSphere, Hyper-V, XenServer, to Parallels Virtuozzo and Oracle VM. We initially tested their software with VMware's ESX 3.51, but had ongoing difficulties with that release. We then tested with VMware vSphere. Ericom claims wide directory services compatibility (we tested on Active Directory) with eDirectory, OpenLDAP, Sun's LDAP or IBM Tivoli.

The server software we tested was installed on Windows 2003 Server in a VM on vSphere. The Ericom Server software (which lives in a VM on Windows 2000/2003/2008 Server editions) can setup two kinds of VM pools for client use, static (where each user is manually assigned a specific VM) or dynamic VMs that can be either persistent or non-persistent instances. Once persistent, a user 'owns' the VM indefinitely as though it were a static use. This allows provisioning of static pools that's easier than VMware View or XenDesktop's method.

Our attempt at creating non-persistent linked VMs was painful, as the process of making new VMs crashed consistently, without generating an error message. Ericom's VM naming scheme limits the administrator's ability to name VMs to 10 characters (as it adds five characters as a suffix to each name). If one doesn't know this, the extended account name is too long, won't login and causes problems. The problem goes away if we create desktops manually, but then the ease goes away, too — and it wasn't fixed in the updated build we received. We later found that if the template VM was on a local hard drive, rather than the SAN, that the process worked; perhaps this is another bug.

VMs are required to have Ericom's tools installed on them, otherwise the VM can't be cloned for multiple images. Pools of images are then created utilising either static or dynamic images (with or without 'auto-sizing' — actually auto-cloning).

The upside to Ericom's VDI was that the clientside use was simple to configure and the updated Blaze code that Ericom sent came far closer to matching VMware's speed in our YouTube tests.

OUR VERDICT

Until Ericom's code stabilises, we can't recommend it. It shows much promise but seems to be a work in progress rather than a finished product.