July 4, 2011 - Sven Huisman

Hands-on with Ericom AccessNow for VMware View

Do you remember when you first saw Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect in action? Playing games without a controller! It looked kind of dumb at first, people standing in front of a TV making exaggerated and weird moves, but when you tried Kinect yourself for the first time, it was fun to do and it worked pretty well. However, after a while it turns out that Kinect is a 1.0 version with it’s own limitations and you’ll have to wait for a year before new games will come out that use all the capabilities of the Kinect.

This is kind of the feeling I have now about Ericom AccessNow for VMware View, the HTML5 client for VMware View. At first you think it’s probably not that good without a “real” VMware View client installed, but once you try it, you’re amazed how easy it is to setup and use it. After a short while, you’re starting to see the limitations the product still has and you’d rather wait for a next version which has more features and has a better user experience.

It’s been on my to-do list for a couple of weeks now, but finally I had some time to play around and test with Ericom’s HTML5 client for VMware View. So why would I need AccessNow for VMware View? According to Ericom:

“Ericom’s high performance HTML5 client is the first VDI solution to provide native support for Chromebooks, Safari, IE – virtually any browser using WebSockets and http protocols.”

In other words, all you need is a web-browser which is HTML5 compatible. It doesn’t require Flash, Java or any other software to be installed on the client.

Installation and configuration

Ericom AccessNow for VMware View is comprised of three installable components:

  • A collection of web resources (HTML files, CSS, JavaScript, images, etc.), which are installed on the View Connection server.
  • AccessNow server (WebSocket server) that is installed on the RDP hosts (the VDI desktops).
  • (Optional) Secure Gateway Service that provides secure, encrypted remote access to desktops and applications.

Installation was very easy. A simple “Next, Next, Finish” installation on the View Connection server and the VDI desktop. Keep in mind that only Windows 7 is supported as a virtual desktop. The Secure Gateway Service is optional, if you want to provide secure access to the virtual desktops. I haven’t installed it, because I was more interested in the User Experience.

No additional configuration is required, although you could tweak some settings like ports being used and change the default (self-signed) certificate usage.

User Experience

One of the advantages of using Ericom AccessNow for VMware View is that you just need a HTML5 compatible browser and don’t have to install a client. Since I use Internet Explorer 9 I immediately ran into the following error:

Websockets

So I need to install Google Chrome Frame if I want to use IE9 with Ericom AccessNow. I thought I didn’t have to install anything to use this product? Apparently, only the following browsers are supported:

  • Google Chrome 11 or higher
  • Apple Safari 5 or higher
  • Firefox 4 or higher
  • Microsoft IE 9 with Google Chrome Frame installed
  • Opera

And if you want to use Firefox or Opera, you have to enable WebSocket, because it’s disabled by default.

Back to my hands-on experience. I decided to install Google Chrome and this one worked immediately. I entered the Ericom address (https://<viewConnectionserver/Ericom/view.html), logged on and then the following screen was presented:

Ericom_logon

I pressed “Connect” and my desktop started. Here is a short video impression:

[swfobj src=”http://svenhuisman.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Ericom.swf”]Ericom user experience

[/swfobj]

It works pretty well as you can see. So what are the disadvantages of this product?

  • You need a HTML5 compatible browser with WebSocket support. IE9 doesn’t have this by default.
  • USB redirection and audio are things you want to use in a VDI scenario. These don’t work with Ericom AccessNow.
  • Two-factor authentication, such as RSA SecurID are not yet supported.
  • This version is intended for use with devices that have a physical keyboard and mouse. I tested with an iPad and although it works, I can connect to a virtual desktop, I can’t use the on-screen keyboard of the iPad.

Now, what are the use cases of this product? If I think of situations where I can’t install a client, in a public internet-area or at a customer’s computer for example, most of the times there wouldn’t be a compatible browser available as well. One use case could be if you have a Google Chromebook, on which you can’t install a VMware View client. Please comment on this blogpost if you can think of other use cases!

Conclusion

Unless you have a Google Chromebook or another device for which there is no VMware View client, I don’t see the use case for Ericom AccessNow for VMware View. It’s like the Kinect for Microsoft Xbox, it’s nice that you can play games without a controller, but the technology is just not mature enough. I don’t use the Xbox very often, but when I do, I use a controller!

xboxcontroller

Virtual Desktop Ericom / VDI / View / VMware /

Comments

  • K.Baggerman says:

    It’s good to see that there is a company that sees the gap in clients for View (based on the blogpost Brain Madden wrote a while back) and act on it. The idea of a “sort-of” client-less access is pretty good as well but it has to deliver the proper functionality. The use case of this client is limited to kiosk-like PC’s without the need of USB or Audio redirection I guess. If you use a Chromebook as primary device you’ll need USB and Audio redirection so you should probably get a device with an full featured client.