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Unified Communications, PCoIP, VDI

UC Zero Clients – Your FAQs Answered

By Bruce Ford

Some of you may have seen our recent press release announcing our partnership with Teradici, in which we jointly announce the industry’s first Unified Communications solution for PCoIP zero clients. 

With over 1.5M PCoIP zero clients deployed, this represents a very exciting opportunity for CounterPath to extend the reach of our Bria softphone technology into the new and rapidly growing desktop virtualization market segment. I’ve captured a few commonly asked questions below, to help explain why this announcement is so significant.

CounterPath-Teradici UC zero client

What exactly is a PCoIP zero client?  

A PCoIP zero client is a small hardware unit that can be the size of a residential Wi-Fi router that plugs into a monitor on the user's desk. The client provides a secure channel back to the data center, where the virtualized desktop environment (e.g. VMware Horizon) is run. There are no files or data transmitted to the client;instead, PCoIP zero clients are based on the Teradici TERA processor that performs the decoding of PCoIP protocol at the hardware level, designed specifically for rendering encrypted pixels onto the user’s display. The zero client eliminates hard drives, graphic processors, security software, operating system and applications from the end-point, and is optimized for high performance. So not only is it ultra secure (for example, it protects against the Edward Snowden effect, whereby USB restrictions can be applied to prevent files being copied to an external storage device), but it is also significantly less expensive than traditional desktop environments. PCoIP zero clients are plug & play and can be set up within a few minutes.

How does UC work on a zero client?  

Typically, when deploying an application (such as e-mail, web browser or document editor) as part of a virtual desktop deployment, the application runs entirely on a server in the cloud. By managing all desktop applications in a centralized environment, there are significant cost efficiencies that can be achieved; it also allows end users to access their applications and associated data from any device.

However, in the case of a UC application, this approach is problematic, as the media stream must travel from the end point up to the data center and then back down again to terminate at the remote party’s end point; this results in increased latency (which is problematic for delay sensitive voice apps), as well as inefficient use of computing resources in the cloud. This is where CounterPath’s market leadership comes into play.

CounterPath has partnered with Teradici to solve this problem by splitting the UC client into two parts:  a highly optimized media engine that is capable of running within a memory and processor-constrained zero client environment, and a server side application that delivers the User Interface (UI), as well as less delay sensitive features such as Instant Messaging, Presence and Address Book; these two components are connected via Teradici’s PCoIP signaling channel. This approach (also called “hair-pinning”) ensures that customers can reap the benefits of a centralized app, while ensuring that the media stream is handled locally.

Besides zero clients, what other types of clients can be deployed in a virtualized environment?  

In addition to zero clients, thin clients (for example, Dell Wyse’s D10DP thin client running ThinOS) as well as traditional desktop and laptop environments are often deployed. However,  given the popularity and wide adoption of ultra-secure and easy to manage zero clients until now it has not been possible to deploy UC on a zero client. CounterPath’s first offering is targeted at this zero client environment. In the future, CounterPath plans to extend its UC support to additional end point environments, including thin clients. And while the CounterPath solution is initially targeted at the VMware and Amazon Web Services (AWS) ecosystems, the same architecture can be re-used in the future with other ecosystems.

To learn more about CounterPath clients and solutions, visit:

To learn more about Teradici PCoIP Zero Clients, visit:

Bruce Ford

About Bruce Ford

As Vice President of Channel Management, Bruce is responsible for growing CounterPath's global distribution network. Bruce brings 25 years of experience in product management, marketing, business development, research and development, and operations to CounterPath, with in-depth knowledge and experience working with leading cellular and fixed network operators globally.

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