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VMworld 2011: Dancing on Citrix’s Doorstep?

by Chris Wolf  |  September 6, 2011  |  7 Comments

VMware recorded a pretty humorous video that was unveiled at this week’s VMworld North America conference. A few minutes into the music video, VMware folks are literally shown dancing on Citrix’s doorstep (outside the Citrix office in Santa Clara). While this could be taken as a simple competitive prank, multiple conversations I’ve had with VMware’s end user computing team led me to believe that the dance was more of a metaphor for VMware’s confidence in their product portfolio. At the Gartner Catalyst North America 2011 conference, VMware announced that View 5.0’s PCoIP protocol enhancements would reduce bandwidth by up to 75%. Citrix’s Tal Klein quickly responded with his own take. Gartner is reserving judgment on the noted improvements until we complete our own thorough analysis and speak with early adopters in the field.

That being said, VMware is clearly trying to send Citrix a message. For the past couple of years, Citrix has had VMware on the defensive regarding endpoint clients and WAN support. Gartner’s own View 4.5 assessment also noted that View could not support the WAN requirements (e.g., >150 ms latency) common in many large enterprises. With View 5.0, VMware is taking a position that the last remaining holes in its architecture have been addressed: low bandwidth/high latency WAN support, and endpoint clients (e.g., iPad, Android, and Mac). I have been running View 5 in my lab for the past couple of weeks and have connected to my virtual desktop from my iPad at various locations and over various networks (e.g., conference Wi-Fi and AT&T 3G), and the performance has been solid.

Desktop virtualization strategy requires more than a few checkboxes, and VMware clearly gets that too. In previous years, VMware had not done a good enough job of articulating a complete vision to prospective customers.Most organizations realize that investments in technologies like virtual desktops require long term commitments. So many organizations are not basing purchasing decisions exclusively on what is available today. VMware needed to better articulate its strategy and roadmap, and they did it at VMworld.

The problem we are trying to solve is relatively straightforward – connect users to applications and data. However, we now have a lot more moving parts than we used to. Application delivery can come in many forms, including local installation, application virtualization, virtual desktops, server-based computing, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). In addition, user expectations have changed to where they expect to access applications and data from a variety of devices. So we’re no longer simply delivering applications to devices’; we’re delivering them to people. Inside Gartner, we often call this people centric computing. To many vendors in the space, this paradigm shift spells opportunity.

Here’s another example, I recently talked with an IT architect who asked me:

Why would our users need Dropbox when we give them WebDAV?

My response: “That’s exactly why they’re using Dropbox.”

At VMworld, VMware announced Project Octopus, which is intended to provide a true enterprise alternative to Dropbox and similar services. Project AppBlast is another innovation that was announced, which will provide access to Windows applications from any HTML 5 compatible web browser. That will also include access to applications on physical PCs. AppBlast is significant in that VMware is trying to provide an alternative to Citrix’s XenApp, while at the same time offer an on-ramp to VMware’s desktop virtualization offerings. Want your desktop apps on any device? AppBlast. Want your desktop “always-on” and highly available? VMware View.

Project Octopus will directly compete with Citrix’s “Follow-Me Data,” but the competition is really services like Drobox and Box.net. Many users are consuming those services outside of corporate IT. The winner needs to support the user’s devices of choice while offering the security and compliance features mandated by the typical enterprise.

The mobile space cannot be ignored either. VMware’s long awaited Horizon Mobile (formerly called MVP – Mobile Virtualization Platform), was also announced. LG and Samsung were part of the initial announcement. Carriers like this option because it allows them to sell two contracts while only having to subsidize a single phone. Of course, usability will be key. Also, keep in mind that this can extend beyond mobile phones to tablets as well. Of course any mobile/tablet offering that doesn’t include iPhones/iPads will remain limited in reach. Today, we really can’t say we support “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).” It’s more like “Bring Your Own Company Approved Device.” Bottom line – it’s a start, and VMware is clearly showing leadership in this space.

Citrix is innovating and acquiring solid solutions (e.g., Kaviza and RingCube) at a furious pace. One thing is for sure – they are not letting off the gas. For awhile, I was convinced that VMware would be OK settling for second place. Now I’m starting to question that. The VMworld announcements, including significant enhancements in View 5.0, a maturing Horizon App Manager solution that seamless connects users to SaaS applications, and forward-looking solutions like Octopus, AppBlast, and Horizon Mobile point to a solution set that’s hitting its stride. Citrix is hitting hard, but VMware’s emerging product portfolio combined with their video indicate they’re ready to punch back. What do you think?

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Category: client-virtualization  

Tags: citrix  vmware  vmworld  

Chris Wolf
Research VP
6 years at Gartner
19 years IT industry

Chris Wolf is a Research Vice President for the Gartner for Technical Professionals research team. He covers server and client virtualization and private cloud computing. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on VMworld 2011: Dancing on Citrix’s Doorstep?


  1. Chris,

    Excellent article. I completely missed the dancing metaphor in the video. I do have a question about your comment on VMware settling for 2nd place. From the figures I’ve heard, VMware has led the virtual desktop space from the beginning, but I assume this ranking excludes the XenApp sales. Anyway, I’m interested in how you see the respective market shares.

  2. Chris Wolf says:

    Hi Steve – thanks for the feedback and good question. In terms of pure SHVD/VDI seats, we have VMware and Citrix neck-and-neck (basically an even 50/50 split). That being said, Citrix has been winning the majority of deals in the large enterprise, especially over the last 12-18 months. So momentum has been on the side of Citrix, leading to my comment about a second place long term position.

  3. SAIYAM says:

    Please do something new. We can understand your feeling as you achieved longstanding milestone… Good Luck and Keep Dancing… 🙂

  4. Hi Chris,

    Nice article.

    To be honest I’m not really a fan of this marketing / blog war between Citrix and VMWare.

    Regarding View 5 improvements, I’m waiting “independent” tests to compare performances in all cases and see the results.

    Then, working mainly with large enterprises, the protocol is not the only cause of them selecting Citrix.

    The other major one, from what I’ve seen, is XenApp, making them able to provide a Windows 7 look and feel cheaper “shared” desktop really adapted for taskworkers.

    Not to mention the hypervisor independence if we are talking about SHVD ..

    I’m not doubting VMWare getting stronger & stronger on the desktop side but I’ll wait for everything to be officially available and working to make my opinion.

  5. Chris Wolf says:

    Great comments, Pierre, and I agree. At Gartner we are also reserving judgment until our own tests are completed. We have spent months planning our endpoint client and protocol comparison analysis, and the testing is just getting underway. We expect to have our results finished in early October. I am also collecting feedback from other independent third parties outside of Gartner. As you know, Gartner does not write any vendor-sponsored research, so our goal is to produce a trusted report on protocol assessment.

    Also, I completely agree on XenApp. SHVD is one means to an end. XenApp/terminal services is another, and both have their place, depending on use-case. XenApp is critical to many of our clients, and the bundled licensing that Citrix provides with XenApp has been a major factor in purchasing decisions.

  6. Thanks Chris !

    As you can imagine, I’m eagerly waiting for your tests results !

    Let’s hope that the competition between vendors will focus on making the Virtual Desktop solutions more and more complete adressing all customers needs instead of videos & blogs :O)

    Warm regards,

  7. Doug Dooley says:

    Chris – as usual, a very insightful blog post. Thanks.

    Your comments reinforce much of what I’ve posted on the Cisco blog recapping VMworld 2011: http://blogs.cisco.com/collaboration/vmworld-vegas-2011-recap/

    Be sure to check out Steve Kaplan’s instant reactions from the Cisco, VMware, Wyse Whisper Suite. We have 3 other short videos that are also worth checking out.

    Bottom-line: I agree with you. VMware has stepped up their game big time coming out of VMworld 2011. I really love what folks like Chris Young, Phil Montgomery, and the rest of the EUC team are showcasing. It’s super innovative – we simply love the post-PC direction they are driving on now. If we can combine our voice, video, rich collaboration and the immersive TelePresence experience to these next generation virtual desktops – we’ll have something that’s going to make legacy corporate PCs truly the thing of the past.

    Doug



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