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Citrix VDI - Microsoft - VMware Bakeoff

Citrix VDI - Microsoft - VMware Bakeoff

Recently Network World did a bake off comparing Citrix VDI-in-a-Box,false

August 2013

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Citrix VDI - Microsoft - VMware Bakeoff

Recently Network World did a bake off comparing Citrix VDI-in-a-Box, Microsoft and VMware VDI technologies and reached some interesting conclusions. 

You can read the full article here. Citrix edges VMware, Microsoft in VDI face-off by Tom Henderson & Lars Johnson of Network World.

Citrix VDI-in-a-Box 5.2  was used in testing.  Citrix VDI-in-a-Box 5.3 which was released June 28, 2013, was not factored into the testing. XenDesktop VDI was not part of the testing either.

One of the biggest strengths noted in the article was Citrix’s VDI-in-a-Box platform, noting it could run just as easily on VMware 5.x, Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Citrix XenServer.  The article mentions success running on XenServer 6.1 in particular.  I would not recommend that particular flavor of XenServer to anyone.  There have been 39 hotfixes released since May 14, 2013 for this particular version.  6.2 has to this point been much more stable, as have earlier versions as well.

If you are still in a Windows XP world from a desktop perspective, VDI-in-a-Box 5.2 will allow you to deliver Windows XP SP3.  Microsoft includes support as far back as Windows XP SP2.

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Source: Citrix edges VMware, Microsoft in VDI face-off by Tom Henderson & Lars Johnson of Network World.


VMware Horizon View did a better job of managing images out of the box than Citrix VDI-in-a-Box, but both Citrix and VMware have add-ons to assist and make this one point a non-issue.

From a Citrix perspective, you still have the option of running the Microsoft RDP protocol, which is, essentially, the old Terminal Services protocol, now called Remote Desktop Services (or RDS for short) or Citrix’s more feature rich protocol, HDX.

The protocol debates of Citrix ICA/HDX  vs VMware’s choice of PCoIP are essentially over now.  The reviewers noted no preference of protocol for high speed links.  They preferred PCoIP on slower links with unpredictable latency.

Citrix scored big points for their client side technology, with Citrix Receiver, which provides for connections from not only Windows devices, but also Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, and Blackberry.  This, and the wide array of server hypervisor compatibility cost them points in another area, though.  The Network World testers found Citrix lacking in its security configuration out of the box, presumably because it has to be compatible with so many different types of architecture.

The security issues were easily addressed, but Citrix VDI-in-a-Box 5.2 does not default to the “high security” side.  VMware Horizon View, on the other hand was identified with being much more security focused out of the box, with strong certificate based security.  This is a fair comparison.

Perhaps one of the strongest components of the VMware Horizon View tool set is View Composer which allows for a lot of individual customization to occur in the delivered images.  For the sake of keeping the testing apples-to-apples, this functionality was not used.  There is an extra charge for this feature, but to be fair, this feature is key to many implementations and very important to get end user buy-in.

For testing purposes, I can see where it makes sense to skip this feature, but this will not happen in the majority of the real world deployments.

Licensing, the reviewers discovered, is complicated.  Not for the products themselves, but for the underlying Microsoft licensing needed depending upon your deployment model.  To that end, it is worth noting that Citrix VDI-in-a-Box and the tested Oracle platform (though no longer being updated) do not require Active Directory.  VMware Horizon View and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services do. 

To summarize for the big 3, the products work well and can scale.  The protocol battle is essentially done, with your individual use case being the determining factor.  Device connectivity and hypervisor flexibility options are going to lean Citrix, if you need them.  If iOS and Android devices are not sneaking around your environment, and you are a Microsoft shop, you can safely keep it all in the Microsoft family.  Security out of the box is going to lean VMware.

There are no more huge glaring holes between the products in general terms, but once a use case is applied, the direction you will want to go could be sorted out very quickly.

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