Category Archives: VDI Battle

XenDesktop 5.6 FP1 vs. VMware View 5.1

XenDesktop 5.6 FP1 vs. VMware View 5.1




Citrix has by far the most powerful policy system.  It can do endpoint analysis to ensure that the device meets a specific list of criteria for access or to have reduced access.  What this means in the real world is that is that everyone can Copy\Paste, Print save to local drives when their PC\iPad\MAC\Thin Client is on the internal network but as soon as they go home they cannot do any of those same things, but the real kicker is you can make trusted groups that are allowed to do everything internally and externally.  This is just the simplest security scenario for Citrix that most people use the sky really is the limit.



VMware works on Entitlements (kind of like Citrix) but the problem is that the entitlement gives them access to that virtual desktop anywhere in the world because they either have access or don’t have access there is not a dimmer switch like Citrix.  The only way you can secure stuff is to do it with Group Policy using AD only but it will not be able to detect the client IP so the internally to externally it will all look the same.  So in some deployments where View was a possibility the security limitations killed it.

Security Winner, Citrix (Everyone needs a dimmer switch instead of a simple light switch, especially if you are under any type of compliance)





Citrix has been doing application virtualization for over 23 years and Virtual Desktops was just new natural expansion of the same code so they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel they just had to put a new tire on it for VDI.  With that new tire they were able to keep all the same security and scalability and the conformity of their holistic solution.  XenDesktop 2.0 was released in 5-20-2008 and has sold millions of licenses, granted some of those licenses we just used for XenApp Published Desktops or to get Provisioning Server for XenApp but there are still some huge deployments of over 50k real virtual desktops in a single deployment.



VMware VDM\View was released on 4-30-2009 and it was pretty much a flop out of the gate for anything outside of the LAN or smaller deployments.    It wasn’t until version 4.0 in 2010 PCoIP was added and that helped out dramatically but across the WAN it would still start to fall apart with its bandwidth requirements or its slowness would just make in inoperable.  Things have got a lot better but the main thing to remember when it comes to history is that VMware was the king of virtualization and had never delivered a desktop across the LAN or WAN until 2009 when they got into the desktop virtualization game.  Their integration to ESX and vCenter their two oldest products has been great the whole time, there have been a couple hiccups along the way but Microsoft, VMware and Citrix had just as many along the way.


Maturity Winner, Citrix (Older isn’t always better but they have been on the pulse of the industry to keep up with the needs)


Holistic Solution



Citrix since they bought NetScaler in 2005 they have a load balanced and HA solution from the firewall back since then.  The integration with their networking product NetScaler has only got better in the past 7 years where if you are deploying any environment with more than 200 users or you have to meet SLAs Citrix has made it easy to buy one solution.  Since they own a Load Balancer(NetScaler), WAN Optimization (Branch Repeater), Hypervisor and XenApp + XenDesktop along with ShareFile, Podio, GoToMeeting, XenClient and all their Cloud connectivity options you are getting a full suite to do whatever you want.



VMware has only one strong ally in the View battle is their hypervisor ESX which has been dominant since its release in 2001.  Their hypervisor is definitely awesome and the things that it can do especially when there are more than one site.  What we have found over the years especially with XenDesktop and XenApp deployments the need for those higher end features are not needed because XenServer is bundled with XenDesktop licenses which keeps a nice support model when there are issues.  VMware has an agreement with Terradici to use the PCoIP protocol, they don’t own any load balancer so with their solution you have to purchase a load balancer to ensure the Connection servers availability.  Compared to Citrix the amount of products that support their technology goal are lacking you do get the best hypervisor but that’s it everything else has to come from somewhere else.

Holistic Solution Winner, Citrix (Having a big product line helps out here for anyone starting fresh)


Device Support



Citrix really has done the best with this since its inception of those devices and XenDesktop and XenApp.  Citrix was the one who started to coin the term BYOD because with their technology it was finally possible and could become a corporate reality due to its security and product maturity.  LPS had great success with XenDesktop and XenApp when the iPad was released because Citrix had a client the day it came out and then as new devices are created Citrix has focused development on all the big sellers which gives your user base a choice of around a billion devices.  When it comes to Thin Clients almost all Thin Clients exist because of Citrix and regular RDP so there are thousands of models that are compatible from all the major vendors.  The WYSE Xenith family is my favorite thin client for XenDesktops or Published Desktops from XenApp out there due to its simplicity and its performance.  WYSE ThinOS would be the best model for XenApp and published applications.



They have been a little slow on the rollout of clients.  When it was first released in 2010 VMware relied on a WYSE iPad application until they released their own.  The same scenario play out with MACs where View 4.6 was when the first MAC client came out in 2010.  A dedicated thin client took a while to have ones that were Zero clients instead of just Windows 7 or XP thin clients being your only option.  The WYSE P Family is my favorite VMware zero thin client due to its simplicity and its performance.  Since 2009 VMware has introduced a client for Mac, iOS, Android and Linux to be competitive with Citri

Device Support Winner, Citrix (More Devices=More Better)

Image update Method



Citrix since 2008 has been using Citrix Provisioning Server (formerly Ardence) to maintain the XenDesktop images.  Provisioning Server streams the operating system across the network which is very cheap to scale.  It operates under the simple deployment model is that a target device boots up it talks to the PVS server and with is MAC address it determine which operating system they will get (Windows 7 or Windows 8) which will point to one hard drive or another call the vDisk which is just a .VHD file.  This means updating from Windows 7 to Window 8 is as simple as changing a setting on the PVS server and rebooting the desktops.  We have updated thousands of desktops or hundreds of servers in just a couple minutes.  This is the biggest strength in my eyes because that is what matters, how longer does it take to patch and update a desktop and get it out to the users in a non-disruptive way that is fast and will not kill the storage or servers.  A 500 user deployment would cost you just cost around 5GB per desktop which would be 2.5 TBs.


When View first came out its huge weakness was the amount of storage space that was needed.  For 500 desktops with 50GB hard drive would mean you would need 25 TBs just to store the VM, which is why it didn’t get anywhere for a while.  Then in 2010 VMware introduced Linked Clones which allowed them to use one parent VMs with their snapshotting technology to make all the desktops from that parent VMs.  With a 500 desktop deployment with 50GB image would just cost you around  8GB per desktop (in some cases less) would come up to just 4TBs which is more a whole lot better.  Then the biggest thing is its Achilles heel is the how the Re-Composition works when you have to do a desktop update it is a disruptive update and it can take as little as 15 minutes to as long as a couple hours depending on the number of desktops.  During the Re-Composition or update the storage is getting pounded and the VMs are being deleted and those couple of Gigs per desktop are copied to hundreds of desktops.  There are ways to make a VMware View update non-disruptive but in most cases it means that you have to have a N*2 deployment so you can get all the desktops ready and then just let the users cut themselves to the new image the following day.  We have had some clients that have found out the hard way that they cannot do a update to the desktops during the middle of the day due to the stress that is put on the storage and then the servers as each desktop powers on and gets back on the domain.  Since most of the update horsepower is happening on the storage instead of Citrix which is happening over the Gigabit or 10 Gigabit network which will become a lot cheaper.


Image Update Winner, Citrix (Non-Disruptive and fast updates)

User Experience

User Experience (LAN)


Citrix has been the king in this space for around 10+ years when multimedia over Citrix was really starting to be needed.  They came up with Flash Redirection which was the biggest step because it allowed the YouTube age to get their fix without killing the server or having a horrible user experience.   Citrix has continued development on this and it works in a very adaptive way based on the horsepower the endpoint has and the connectivity to switch back and forth.  On the LAN there really isn’t a fight between VMware in most cases depending on what is going on.



When VMware View was using RDP things could get a little clunky on the LAN but now with PCoIP it will work pretty much flawlessly where it will look really really close to Citrix sitting right beside it with the same endpoint horsepower.   PCoIP has done a great job with Flash Video and Windows Media redirection\compression to rival Citrix on the LAN.  It will almost always in any side-by-side test use more bandwidth but on the LAN it may not matter.


User Experience (WAN)


Citrix was created for the WAN when there was just dial up and RAS servers so it has had to be a very thin protocol that isn’t very chatty to ensure good user experience in a hub and spoke deployment.  Citrix without its WAN acceleration product  “Branch Repeater” it will do good in high latency deployments up to around 100-300ms depending on the workload, and it you have poor connections to your client offices you can just implement their product “Branch Repeater” and get even more out of the same Pipe while reducing the amount of bandwidth needed.  Depending on what version of XenDesktop or XenApp you purchase this WAN optimization is included you just have to purchase the physical or virtual appliance.


With the release of View 4.6 to 5.0 things have got a whole lot better on this front where it can operate okay on poor connections but in almost every head to head test we have done it always uses more bandwidth and there are not a lot of options to fix that since they do not have any WAN optimizations products.  At around 100MS latency doing the same thing on View and XenDesktop it will respond pretty similarly but if the connection gets worse than that the protocol will start choking itself.


User Experience Winner (LAN),  Tied (It is really close on the LAN)

User Experience Winner (WAN), Citrix (Above 100ms VMware can start falling apart)


Printing and Peripheral Drive Support


Citrix used to have a bad name with their older XenApp versions MetaFrame and Presentation server for printing problems but since 2001 they have been working hard to fix it.  Now their universal print driver will work with around 70-90% of printers out there without having to install those print drivers on each desktop or application server.  They have even made a Universal Print Server which can take it to the next step in simplicity.  When it comes to things other than printers Citrix’s USB, TWAIN and COM redirection has been rivaled by none. There are some limitations just like with anything but it has been a long time at LPS that we haven’t been able to get something to work using those redirection methods.  The main thing they bring with their security is USB security to only allow or disallow certain types of devices globally or make exceptions for certain employees.


VMware has had a rough road with this but with their addition ThinPrint they helped to close the gap on printing where they are neck and neck with Citrix when it comes to printing.  USB support and other peripherals does work there are some limitations but the big thing for most clients is that USB pass-through is either on or off there isn’t a dimmer switch for certain users or exclusions to certain devices.


Printing and Peripheral Drive Support Winner, Citrix (Slight lead because of security)


Doing it Differently


Citrix has the options with it suite of technologies to use it XenApp technology to publish a desktop that looks just like Windows 7 and feel like it to hundreds of users per physical server unlike a traditional VDI deployment from Citrix or VMware.  In a typical VDI deployment you will only be able to fit 100-175 desktops on a single physical server.  The density differences have lead us down the road in the Citrix practice to use XenApp Published Desktops and Applications first before using VDI and only doing true virtual desktops for a minority of users unless there is a compelling reason to do VDI only.  Then with Citrixs new RemotePC technology takes VDI to a whole new level by using the PC at your desk and layering Citrix security and session brokering to allow you to access that PC from anywhere in the world with just a couple virtual servers and database.  This will take off for people who want the VDI experience to their existing PCs without buying all the physical servers or storage.  In almost all cases real VDI vs. XenApp will cost and take around 3 times the resource for the same number of users.


Citrix just does desktops right now even with version 5.1.  They have introduced Horizon late 2011 and it hasn’t really taken off because of its scalability and security limitations just like VMware View.  Their ThinApp technology is powerful but it doesn’t have the security and same delivery infrastructure like Citrix does.  Horizon is a direct competitor to XenApp but in our eyes it will have around 10 years to catch up.  From the first release there are some nice features that gave it a good head start against Citrix but it has a long way to go.

Doing it Differently Winner, Citrix (Flexibility gone right)

Management Consoles



Citrix was the worst at this point since XenDesktop 2.0 but in 4 years it has got a lot better.  They have cut them in half but they still have more management consoles when you add in all their other supporting technologies but when you compare VDI Only management consoles it is a little more fair to Citrix because they have a whole lot more products, this isn’t a excuse but it is just a simple fact.

XenDesktop Management Console List:

  1. Desktop Studio (MMC, Manage the Deployment)
  2. Desktop Director (Flash Based Web Page, Help Desktop Management)
  3. Provisioning Server Console (MMC, Manage the Images and vDisks)
  4. Web Interface\StoreFront Services (MMC, Mange the Web Servers)
  5. vCenter, XenCenter or SCVMM (EXE, Manage your VMs)

XenApp Management Console List:

  1. AppCenter (MMC, Manage the Deployment)
  2. Desktop Director (Flash Based Web Page, Help Desktop Management)
  3. Provisioning Server Console (MMC, Manage the Images and vDisks)
  4. Web Interface\StoreFront Services (MMC, Mange the Web Servers)
  5. vCenter, XenCenter or SCVMM (EXE, Manage your VMs)


VMware has been the winner here for the least number of consoles since its creation.

VMware View Management Console List:

  1. View Connection Manager (Flash Based Web Page, Manage the Deployment)
  2. vCenter (EXE, Manage your VMs)


Management Consoles Winner, VMware (Less is better)


Hypervisor Choice



Pick from the three main leaders VMware, Citrix and Microsoft.  This has helped make the decision for some of our clients due to the cost of ESX alone and not the really the features that XenServer has over VMware.



You can only use VMware ESX to host your desktops.  The good thing is that they changed their pricing model to reflect when you run desktops vs running servers so it is cheaper that it was just a couple years ago but there is a cost you have to be aware of.

Hypervisor Choice Winner, Citrix (More Choices=More Better)



From what we have seen over the past 4 years with the Virtual Desktop craze Citrix is the leader in almost category and with its maturity and product depth it makes it a simple choice.  There are some specific deployment types that VMware View makes sense but due to its two main weaknesses security and image rollout keep it away from most clients deploying it.  Using XenApp instead of real VDI from either partner is in almost in all cases better and cheaper in every way and with the XenDesktop Enterprise or higher license including it just takes it to the top of the options list and then we will VDI what XenApp cannot do.

Citrix XenDesktop vs VMware View Part 2

The Battle Round 2

Protocol Smotocol Who Cares?

This one is probably the hugest public debate between VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. Every version that comes out or every quarter some report comes out saying the other is better.

The Big Kid List: VMware View 4 PCoIP and RDP Citrix XenDesktop ICA(PortICA if you want to get nerdy)

So the basic debate is always on which of these uses the least amount of bandwidth and then the on the flipside which one has the best multimedia support. I think this protocol debate can be broken down into a couple more sub-categories. (No one talks about any of the last two categories in my short list when they talk about the protocol debate)

1. Bandwidth 2. Multimedia 3. Multimedia with Thin Clients 4. Device and OS Support


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Bandwidth is the biggest fighting point between the two for sure. Every week someone will release something (totally third party… right?) and say it 10 times better or 40 times better. From what I have read and researched there are more things talking about how much smaller ICA is over PCoIP and especially when compared to RDP.

With that being said you will see lots of things that will say the other is better, so who or what can you trust? (Trust the VDI Ninja!) I think this one you can call 1st place Citrix XenDesktop and a distant 2nd is VMware View with PCoIP (with RDP being a distant 277th place) when you compare ICA to PCoIP. In every test I have done internally and externally for clients ICA wins every time no matter how menial the task or how graphics intensive.

One thing that has made me uneasy with VMware View has to do with PCoIP and the agreement with Terradici. They don’t own the company (which I think is whack move for them, because it shows their priorities to server virtualization and not desktop virtulization) but they just have agreement that they will continue to work on it for them and OEM it in their View product line. Terradici was a hardware based ASIC chip (which is awesome!) and now it is software, which made some people uneasy (Including the VDI Ninja). With PCoIP making a huge difference for VMware and they are finally getting some traction on the product with that addition and it was a semi-good decision for them(They should have committed all the way!).

I just wonder what will happen as a whole to Terradici as a company since their hardware sales are down because of their new found focus on their software version for VMware. Can they survive as a company with these changes in their own internal culture of hardware-based acceleration to now software-based acceleration just for VMware View? (How much is VMware paying to make that kind of change to their business model?)

Citrix + 1 VMware + .50

Multimedia (All are not created equal)

This also comes back to Bandwidth because there are pros and cons to watching Avatar on a Virtual Desktop. In almost every test I have seen, when a test is doing flash or just watching a video VMware it always consumes more bandwidth, which is why still in most cases it is suited for a LAN deployment. Citrix has their new terms for ICA and it is called HDX and it actually works and isn’t just some sales mumbo jumbo(Citrix has the history with this protocol winning against everything in the past and it is going to take a lot of R&D to de-throne them). I have been at client’s messing with some of the HDX advanced settings and without any other third party add-ons (WYSE TCX aka Steroids for ICA and RDP) it sounds great and looks great.

I have been at a couple presentations ran by VMware sales guys for VMware View 4 and they will show some video but they don’t show sound, and if you ask them about that they will just slip past that and say it works we just didn’t turn it on(You may need the nunchucks to get the real answer). What they meant to say is the audio in most cases sucks and there isn’t a lot of tweaking that will help make it more better. I’m not going to watch Avatar with English subtitles (Screw That!)

As a whole package XenDestkop and Multimedia across the WAN and LAN is pretty much awesome for what it is. I have seen Bentley Micostation on XenDesktop render a building across 3G better than View on the LAN and to me that says it all. In environments where Multimedia is not a big deal on the LAN and especially the WAN then VMware View is fine in most cases as long as the other shortfalls are okay with you. With Virtual Desktop replacing in most cases you are replacing a computer that could play Avatar without any hiccups so you have to make sure this requirement is met.

Citrix + 1 VMware + 0

Multimedia with Thin Clients

When it comes to Multimedia teaming up with Thin Clients the obvious leader has to be WYSE. They have developed steroids for ICA\HDX (Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp) and RDP (VMware View, (No PCoIP for you!!!(Yet…)). With this add-on technology you can do some amazing things with Flash Re-Direction, Video Acceleration, Multi Monitor Support and USB Support. With this a VMware View and a Citrix XenDesktop environment can operate even better in those caveats that TCX juices up.

I worked with a client that was doing English as a second language class where it was web driven with flash and on top of that the student would have to speak into an old analog headset and record their selves reading phrases for the teacher to listen to. In this scenario VMware View and Citrix XenDestkop on the LAN performed well with a little crack and pop on the audio(more on VMware on the pauses within the recording), and a little flash stiffness (about the same for both).

Then we turned on TCX in both desktops and the differences were amazing, the audio was great and flash of the website showing the lesson had no stiffness to it. Then we stepped up the ante and took this to a T1 with about 100ms latency to the datacenter and then XenDesktop shined through big time it was still just as good on the LAN but VMware had degraded to a unworkable state just within the desktop. We turned on PCoIP on and then turned off TCX and the desktop experience was okay but the audio and flash video experience was horrible.

This real world scenario and others like it I have done have proved it for me. Try it yourself and see.

Citrix + 1 VMware + .25

Device and OS Support

This to most doesn’t seem like a protocol thing but I think it should be in this category, because this is why we want our users to go to a flexible virtual desktop and it would be nice if they could get it from anywhere and from any device.

With my first Citrix XenDesktop Demo over two years ago when it came out I was able to show it from XP, Vista, 7 RC Candidate, Mac, Server 2003, Server 2008. Then a while later the Citrix Receiver came out and I could show it on IPhone and then Steve Jobs keeps making new toys and now I can show it on a IPad. Being able to show that flexibility of XenDesktop and or XenApp spiked lots of client’s interest to the almost endless possibilities of access.

With my first VMware View demo (aka VDM at that time) around the same time frame I was able to get it up and going real fast but I could only show it from a XP Thin client and XP OS and that was it. No Vista, 7 RC Candidate, Mac, Server 2003, Server 2008. This caused a bunch of problems for the clients I talked to at that time and they were asking me why it was like that and I had to say “I don’t know.” Over the past two years they have added OS’s to their list but still lacking seriously on mobile devices. They are using WYSE to help them get to mobile devices (WYSE Extender). But that to me doesn’t show that they are trying to go any device and anywhere like Citrix.

The flexibility of these solutions is very important in most clients eyes and from these first demos to even today Citrix XenDesktop wins hands down and it is no contest when compared to VMware View

Citrix + 1 VMware + 0

Total after Round 2

Citrix 5 VMware .75

Citrix XenDesktop vs VMware View Part 1

VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop have been battling since their inception. I have seen their flaws and strengths in hundreds of environments. I can hopefully let my opinion be known so you can make a good decision.

Dynamic Access Based Policies (easiest way to explain to anyone that doesn’t know all the Citrix sales mumbo jumbo)

I think is one of the biggest reasons why it wins in most environments is because of its Dynamic Access Base Policies (aka Citrix Policies, Advanced Access Control, Smart Access)

In summary this is what I mean about Dynamic Access Base Policies:

User Logs into their virtual desktop at work and they have a company registry watermark and or they are just within a certain internal VLAN. When the user logs in from this location they can copy and paste and print\scan and has access to their local computer’s hard drive to copy something from the virtual desktop to their computer (Danger Will Robinson in most cases)

Ring, Ring, “Come and get your kids they are yacking everywhere” (User walks away from their desktop by either locking their screen or just letting their screensaver kick in, they are still sitting at their word document that Lumberg wants tomorrow)

Pick the kids up and take them grandma’s house and hop on the internet on her clunker of a computer and install the Citrix client and login to your virtual desktop then pick up where you left off in the word document but now you cannot copy and paste, you cannot print\scan and you cannot get it to your local home computer and this is because of this Dynamic Access Base Policies. User then saves their work on their home drive or shared drive and then heads back to work and then he can print it out and make sure he puts a cover report on his TPCS report (So he doesn’t get Lumberg’ed)

This to me is huge! I cannot see how VMware View can stand up to something like this. This is the one of the reasons they fail competitively that I have seen. If I’m a company and have to deal with any compliancy policies like HIPAA, SOX, PCI, COBIT and 5 million others that are out there you have to have things like this (It is not just a want!). If you want to make your desktop environment flexible, consistent and secure you have to know that when someone goes home they are not syphoning off data and causing problems for you and ultimately the whole company.

To accomplish the same thing in VMware view you would have to create two desktop groups one that has client access on and one with it off. The user would have to log into whichever based on where it is VMware is going to pick it for them. On top of this basically trust system where you have to decide who gets it both ways or just making everyone have it or don’t have it , you have just doubled your administration. How did I just double my administration you might ask? With two desktop groups you will have to maintain the images for both the restricted access and the Free Willy access which means when it is time to make the plunge from Office 2007 to Office 2010 you will have to do the provisioning process twice which depending on how many desktops that can get very painful and take the rest of your day.

Round 1 Total Citrix XenDesktop +1 VMWare View +0