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Can VMware's Horizon 6 go toe-to-toe with Citrix XenDesktop?

VMware has made big strides to compete with Citrix in application and desktop virtualization, but there are key areas where Citrix still holds an edge.

In the desktop and application virtualization market, VMware has been working to build up products that can compete with the long-time leader in that space -- Citrix. It's clear VMware Horizon 6 was developed to wrestle customers from Citrix XenDesktop and XenApps; the two platforms support the same basic purpose -- access desktop instances and applications on any device from any connected location.

The two platforms are more alike than they are different. Any variances will only fade as competition between VMware and Citrix intensifies, but there are three general distinctions for XenDesktop.

First, XenDesktop may be a good choice for heavy graphics tasks. Horizon does everything on the server side -- and that's the pure expression of VDI. But even with Blast 3D optimizations, some taxing visualization work like CAD or CAM might overwhelm a server-side VDI instance. Citrix notes that XenDesktop can utilize client-side rendering resources if available to improve heavy graphics performance. This can be a big deal when the client-side is a workstation with a high-performance graphics adapter installed. The ability to detect and dynamically adapt to client-side resources can be a huge benefit to other types of content like Flash, Windows Media and other real-time audio or video media.

Second, Citrix touts a very high level of personalization for desktop instances using Citrix Personal vDisk (PvD) which can "remember" and re-apply any desktop personalization in subsequent connection sessions. Without such personalization, users are stuck with whatever vanilla VDI image the company provides. This forces the business to create multiple desktop images, which requires more time and management. Applying user-driven personalization to a single -- or few -- desktop images can greatly ease image management and control while providing more user satisfaction.

And finally, Citrix XenDesktop claims to emphasize the potential of VDI on mobile devices, while also allowing mobile devices to only use virtualized applications -- rather than accessing applications through a virtualized desktop. How well this claim is actually justified will depend largely on the skill of the IT staff responsible for organizing and deploying the images and applications on either platform.

The move to a centralized desktop and application delivery paradigm can be a complex and challenging effort that should never be undertaken lightly. This requires extensive proof-of-principle testing and evaluation of the Horizon 6 product along with a comprehensive assessment of the enterprise LAN and WAN connectivity. Adoption should proceed in careful phases, starting with non-essential desktops and applications. This can offer valuable experience and reveal potential areas for infrastructure improvement. Once a solid foundation is established, the organization can scale up centralized deployments to other users.

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Would you consider switching from Citrix XenDesktop to VMware Horizon 6? Why or why not?
My enterprise currently uses Citrix XenDesktop and we have been very happy with the results. This system has been in use for a good piece of time and has never let us down. Because of this we are not looking to switch, even to the VMware Horizon 6 which has received great reviews and results. Our thoughts are "if our system is not broken, why fix it?" We are staying with the Citrix XenDesktop.
Seems there really are pros and cons for each of these. What it might boil down to is the need of each specific client.
Was this written like 2 years ago? VMware is not lacking in any of the three areas that you mention. vSGA, vDGA and very soon vGPU all achieve the graphical use case. AppVolumes and the recent Immidio acquisition take care of persona and app delivery to pools of desktops. Perhaps you have heard of AirWatch? Owned by VMware and the market leader in mobile device and application management. Horizon can publish applications to any device, including your mobile device. The fact is Citrix is on the ropes in this space and are playing catch up with VMware at this point. vSphere 6's Instant Clone feature when enabled in Horizon is going to revolutionize desktop pooling with the Just-In-Time Desktop.