Just Like Being There

I have something I want to sell you. It’s not a product or service. It’s not something you have to pay for. All I want to do is to write to you in confidence of a goal that should be primary to the computing experience. I dream that some day it will be possible to use a computer system from remote locations and have it seem like it is really where I am. We have come a long way and Citrix has done a great job of breaking new ground in this field. The time is ripe to advance the work that Citrix has already done and fulfill a vision that will make all the difference to us and our customers.

“Just Like Being There”. What does that mean to you? To me it means being able to use all the aspects of my computer system even though I am not there. It means I can run advanced 3D graphics and have it perform well. It means that it can support all my devices remotely and integrate with my local client. It means I have the latest technology to make the remote experience that much more real.

The goal: “To attain parity with local system performance and functionality”.

The vision: “To provide full spectrum coverage of user applications without noticeable degradation”.

The point: “To continue evolving the Citrix story to include more of the possible uses”.

To be completely honest, it is impossible to match the parity of local system performance due to bandwidth restrictions and built in latency due to routing. However, having an impossible goal is often the starting point for impossible things to become more possible. It is possible that technology solutions would provide enough improvements to guarantee that the link is not perceptively degraded for a certain threshold of latency and bandwidth. For example, a fully managed network (LAN or WAN) could guarantee enough performance to justify a “Just Like Being There” presence.

This concept came up during the initial design stage of PortICA. I realized that it would incredibly valuable to focus on getting the experience to be as local-like as possible. The goal would justify the work and the work would guarantee better performance and experience for the customers. We are not focusing on this goal for PortICA. The main goal is to port Citrix server technology to a workstation operating system (Windows XP).
I’m starting to think that we have been looking at this issue from reverse in the past. We tended to think of adding certain features to make a more compelling product. Often these features would enable some local aspect of the the client. Because there was no comprehensive vision/goal to make it “Just Like Being There”, we really didn’t have a road map of how to best derive what needed to be worked on.

As a result we have covered many topics but have not gone back to re-assess previous work to make sure it continues to progress towards the goal.

As an extension of this idea, it would be valuable to have a sense of how far we can make it seem like local. In other words, it would be good to know the threshold numbers that we can live with. This would translate to a certain distance away (latency) with a certain amount of data transferred per second (bandwidth). Perhaps it would be useful to quantify this in some way. Let me jokingly refer to it as the JLBT measurement (“Just Like Being There”). It would probably be more like a chart than a number but eventually it might boil down to a simple number (like an area measured by the two variables).

The point of this particular post is to share with you a vision. Over time I’d like to convince you of the merit of such a vision/goal/purpose/project. Please give me feedback either way. I’d love to hear your opinions. I’d love to also have help further enhancing this story. I think this kind of thing is in the best interests of Citrix and Citrix’s customers.

I found a famous ad from the 1970’s that captures the idea of being remote but yet seeming like you are there.  It is obviously only for audio but you get the idea.  The ad was for Maxwell tapes and it was a largely successful message.  They still use this image today on their tape cassettes.

Audio version of Just Like Being There

There is a video available as well for the Maxell commercial at YouTube.



Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

Posted in PortICA, Vision
3 comments on “Just Like Being There
  1. Hugh Tonks says:

    Another way of looking at it is not so much about “just like being there”, but more about “I want to be in two places at once”.

    I’d like to see GoToMyPC meld the host and client machines, so that each one’s drives appear as external drives of the other, and both machines have access to each other’s printers and other peripherals. If it can do this already, then I haven’t read the manual properly.

  2. The Blogospheric History of XenDesktop…

    There have been many good posts in the blogosphere about XenDesktop that I have bookmarked.  Since this site did not exist when all the posts were made,……

  3. I’ve never seen the underlying architecture, tho I’ve been utlizing since MetaFrame.. Can we look @ it from the perspective of website optimization? Instead of caching or edge servers, (cashing pages) on a Cacheflow (now BlueCoat Proxy), how about virtually allocating a bit of memory for the session so it “looks” like real time performance?
    We’ve been struggling w. the HP thinclients and application peformance on our Terminal servers in a military enterprise.. I know thine pain all to well.

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