My EUC suite comparison for VMware vs Citrix
In my day job I spend a lot of time working with Enterprises developing strategies around their End User Computing (EUC) services. Once the strategy is developed it usually leads to the design of the EUC offerings. It is increasing evident that just being good at VDI is no longer acceptable. The following are services or requirements that are rapidly becoming table stakes for many customers.
- Application presentation – any app to any device
- Mobile app and data management (MDM, MAM)
- Enterprise fie sync and share
As many Enterprises and smaller customers evaluate offerings from Citrix and VMware they are increasing looking for a vendor that can provide solutions to satisfy their requirements. They do not want to have to use solutions from multiple vendors that do not integrate well together.
The following comparison is based on the product versions listed below. After the table I have broken each evaluation point out and explained why I rated them equal or why one won in my eyes. This does not intend to sway your view to or from either vendor, I am simply trying to shine light on how they stack up. Not every customer needs all of these capabilities at the start and might be able to wait for them to mature or could use a hybrid solution with the best parts from both vendors.
- VMware Horizon Suite (View 5.3, Mirage 4.3 and Workspace 1.5)
- Citrix XenDesktop (XenDesktop 7 and XenApp 6.5)
At this point both VMware and Citrix have very mature Virtual Desktop offerings. They are pretty close to feature parity today. Both vendors can for the most part offer the same features and satisfy similar customer use cases. Both VMware and Citrix have taken different approaches to some features like how they provision desktops. But for the most part they offer similar functionality for offering persistent and non-persistent desktops.
With VMware finally support graphics GPU pass-thru in View 5.3 they can now provide something that only Citrix was able to provide in the past. Overall I think that the products are very close and for this reason I consider it a tie or a push. You will likely make your decision based on familiarity with a vendor or other reasons.
Physical PC Management
This is the section where VMware really shines today with the Horizon Mirage offering. Today Mirage is leaps and bounds above anything that Citrix can offer for physical PCs. The Citrix options today would be to PVS your physical desktops or use the XenClient local hypervisor on PCs. Both of those options are not as user or admin friendly as Mirage. They also do not provide the management advantages that Mirage offers.
The portal offerings from both vendors are pretty close to a tie right now also. They both can broker desktop, app and data connections. Each portal can work with their application virtualization technology. Supporting SaaS based or web applications is also available for presenting applications.
The mobile management of phones, tablets and applications is heavily dominated by Citrix at this time. VMware entered this market late and is working building their offering in house, while Citrix elected to purchase an already mature offering that has been renamed XenMobile.
The XenMobile offering is flexible and offers support for multiple mobile operating systems. The current Horizon Mobile offering is very limited and currently only supports about 10 phones running the Android OS. The VMware offering is also being slowed in my opinion because they require the support of mobile carriers for their Android method. This results in slower growth and a limited number of handsets. There has also been little to now talk about tablet support.
I do think that VMware will eventually mature their mobile offering into a good product, but the question is will it take too long.
File sync & share
The file sync and share market is something that is becoming a pretty hot subject with enterprise customers. As they seek to enable mobility the ability to allow end users to use and share documents on their devices. This function is also a win for Citrix due to their purchase of ShareFile. This allowed Citrix to leap frog the home grown offering that VMware is developing with Horizon Data.
I think that ShareFile is a mature enough product that it can be consider as a point solution and adds even more value when integrated into their desktop offering. On the other hand Horizon Data is far too immature to be considered as a solution on its own and at this point still adds little value to the Horizon Suite offering. Just offering it free is not a win, it must offer value. And for it to be taken serious Horizon Data must be mature enough to compete with other sync and share offerings.
At this point it feels a little like I’ve been piling on VMware, but instead only hope that this is motivation. In the application space VMware has Thinapp as their application virtualization solution. Thinapp is a solid product and customers have good success with it. But the main limiting factor is that you can only run a Thinapp from a Windows OS. This prevents VMware from present applications to non-Windows devices or mobiles devices. This is a huge issue for many customers and will only continue to grow.
This is where Citrix wins the comparison again with their XenApp offering. Sure XenApp has been around for a couple of decades in some form and has not changed much, but it works and works well for the objective. This allows customers to present applications to nearly any device and operating system. This is a huge need because more and more customers are stating they don’t need a corporate desktop for all users and might only need to present applications.
In the networking space I think most people would jump to the conclusion that VMware has the vShield offerings and that they would be the leader here. I would disagree since if you build XenDesktop on top of vSphere you can utilize the same offerings. Where the difference sways in Citrix’s favor is around their Netscaler offering. The Netscaler started offer as a load balancer and has expanded in capabilities. It is able to offer edge access and advanced security rules and interrogation.
By coupling this type of functionality with Citrix’s desktop solutions customers are able to build flexible security rules for access content. This could allow users to access only specific shares or servers for example. The options are pretty open for what can be created in this space. This is a big win for Citrix even if it’s sold separate from the XenDesktop suite.
VMware has worked with F5 networks to enable some nice features around directing traffic for VMware View installs. But this does not compete with what Citrix is able to provide in the terms of integration today.
In the end I will state that I hope that VMware takes some type of development steroids and is able to rapidly advance the features in many of these products to even the playing field. I prefer the VMware solutions but they are increasingly unable to satisfy all of customers requirements.
Since publishing this yesterday there has been a good amount of discussion and feedback, which is really the goal. So I thought I would address a few things with my response to them.
Licensing – First thing to make clear is I understand that you would not get all of the Citrix product covered under a single SKU or license. As it is today XenMobile and ShareFile each require a separate license to be purchased. I am trying to paint the big picture of whats possible and not have a cost or licensing debate.
Hypervisor – Both vendors include their Hypervisor as part of the EUC suites. With VMware you get vSphere and Citrix includes XenServer. So in theory this could be a push, but obviously vSphere is a better product today, but XenServer is very capable of doing the job. So for me this would lean towards VMware but for others might not matter. I did not include in the main criteria because it does not provide any specific EUC features.
Monitoring – I left this out of the main comparison for the same reason as the hypervisor. It felt like this would be another push and does not add any features to the end users. They do add value to the admins that support the environment. VMware includes vCOPs for View with the Horizon Suite and it does a great job of managing the VM and below with some session statistics for PCoIP. While Citrix has EdgeSight and it focuses on the guest OS and up and provides more robust session and user experience monitoring and is tied into XenApp also. Both products are good for their space but the ideal solution would likely be a combination of the two tools.
About Brian Suhr
Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design