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Microsoft and Others Vying for Desktop Virtualization


Four public companies are working to capitalize on the future of technology.

3. VDI: This technology is also a server-based computing solution, however, it remotes graphics for both the application(s) and the operating system. It differs from TS in that each user actually has their own desktop delivered from the server (TS provides shared applications). This means one doesn't need a client operating system, or if they do, VDI will run as a "desktop within a desktop". The advantages (secure, fast provisioning, multi-computer access) and disadvantages (very high cost, lack of end-user benefits) are more thoroughly detailed in Why the Hottest New Tech Solution Will Go Cold.

Vendor capabilities (in alphabetical order):

  • Citrix Systems offers all three -- TS (XenApp), AS (XenApp), VDI (XenDesktop). Citrix Systems, in its enterprise software business, is as close to a pure play DV vendor as exists today.

  • Microsoft offers all three -- TS (Windows Server Remote Desktop Services), AS (App-V, MED-V), and VDI (VDI Suite). But one should note that at the present time, native Microsoft capability in TS and VDI scale poorly. As a result, Microsoft partners with Citrix Systems or Quest Software to be enterprise-capable. Microsoft has a huge desktop business, and is playing catch-up in this technology shift.

  • Quest Software offers TS and VDI -- The company offers an enhancement to Microsoft TS and offers VDI (vWorkspace) on any platform. Quest Software has a very diverse line of enterprise software management tools, and vWorkspace is a small but important division.

  • VMware offers AS and VDI -- VMware offers AS (ThinApp) and VDI (View), but no TS offering. VMware dominates the server-virtualization market with vSphere, however, some pundits argue the company "just doesn't get the desktop."
Vendor strategy, from cruising altitude:

Citrix Systems

Citrix Systems has a complete, integrated stack of technology for delivering DV (TS, AS, VDI) -- including data center, network, and desktop. In my opinion, Citrix Systems offers the most complete end-to-end solution on the market.

XenApp revenue (TS, AS) has been hurt by the recession, in concert with the decline in the number of remote knowledge workers. To combat this erosion, Citrix Systems has positioned its VDI offering XenDesktop at the top of its product line (the high-end license includes TS, AS, and VDI). This represents a clear strategy designed to upgrade the vendor's huge XenApp (TS) customer base to its full DV suite.

To simplify (perhaps oversimplify) Citrix Systems' strategy, the company is planning to upgrade a material chunk of its large customer base from XenApp licenses to XenDesktop licenses, at a higher average sales price. Although XenDesktop can run on theXenServer (Citrix Systems), Hyper-V (Microsoft), or vSphere (VMware) hypervisors, Citrix Systems would prefer to sell its entire stack of technologies for DV, from the data center to the desktop. Were this any other ISV, it would be a solid strategy.

However, Citrix Systems brings a whole new definition to the term "co-dependent".

This strategy ultimately puts Citrix Systems' partnership with Microsoft at risk. When Citrix Systems sells its full product line, it competes with Microsoft rather than complementing it. (A future article about desktop virtualization will elaborate on the fine line Citrix Systems must navigate with Microsoft.)
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