Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box - Gabe Knuth - BrianMadden.com
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Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box

Written on Nov 16 2011 13,342 views, 9 comments


by Gabe Knuth

 

I'll start at the end - Regardless of what Citrix tells you, don't let the size of your organization dictate whether or not you use VDI in a Box instead of XenDesktop. The real reason for using one or the other should have absolutely nothing to do with the size of the organization or the number of VDI seats. Like choosing any VDI platform, it should be based entirely on use case.

Many conversations I have about VDI in a Box include a discussion about how it's slated for XX number of users. I had conversations with just about anyone who would listen at Citrix Synergy in Barcelona a few weeks ago, and I learned that while Citrix partners are touting VDI in a Box as a sub-500 user solution (or sub-1000, depending who you talk to), in some places in Europe, it's being sold as a sub-50 user solution!

To me, this means that, not only is Citrix conveying the wrong message about how to use VDI in a Box, they're also allowing partners (and possibly themselves) to use arbitrary numbers. That leads to internal competition between two completely separate VDI products. Worse, it means that sales reps and partners are left pushing the wrong product because of higher commission or margin (not that that's anything new), which isn't best for the customer. This kind of confusion is on par with that of Microsoft licensing.

For a few reasons, this all gets me pretty fired up. First, I've always had a soft spot for Kaviza. They've been an underdog with a really tight, simple solution. To see them get acquired just to compete against another product in their new company is not exactly what I hoped for. Second, while I was happy they were acquired by Citrix, it was with the hope that the simplicity of VDI in a Box would rub off a bit on XenDesktop, and that the two would either blend into a single, harmonious product or, at the very least, VDI in a Box would serve as an entry-level VDI product with a clear, easy upgrade path to XenDesktop.

So how can Citrix and its partners get it right?

In the short-term, Citrix can stop focusing on the number of users for the project. Yes, it's a factor, but so many other things come into play before number of users. Things like storage requirements, persistent vs. non-persistent VMs, and the need for FlexCast (which amounts to XenDesktop, XenApp, XenClient, and streamed apps) all come into play just as much. 

I mentioned this to a few people, and I was told that this is mainly used as a guideline for the company size to target (SMB for VDI in a Box, enterprise for XenDesktop). To me, this is even more useless, because now we're talking about targeting only sub-1000 person companies for VDI in a Box, and only 1000+ companies for XenDesktop. That means that a company might need XenDesktop or VDI in a Box, but never learn of it because the partner they're talking with leaves it out of the conversation based solely on company size.

Note: I do realize that this is how Citrix can say that the products don't compete against each other. If you say VDI in a Box is only for sub-1000 person companies and XenDesktop is for 1000+ person companies, then there's no competition because they're meant for different areas. As you can imagine, I don't think that's true :)

If you have an environment that doesn't require, say XenClient or XenApp and local storage with non-persistent VM's is ok, then you should absolutely be leaning towards VDI in a Box. Only then should you consider the number of users to see if your specific use case will scale properly. There are implementations of VDI in a Box that go well above 1000 users, so the precedent is already there that it will scale to accommodate the size of the vast majority of VDI deployments in the world.

The opposite is also true. Say you only need fifty users (regardless of company size), but your use case requires XenApp and XenClient, along with built-in App-V support and has high storage requirements. XenDesktop is probably going to be the product for you, even though it falls well below the 1000 (or 500) seat threshold.

So, it all depends on each specific use case, and that, to me, is the responsibility of the partner. Instead of selling the same solution over and over again (which is easy), they need to roll up their sleeves and actually discover the best solution for each customer. The problem is that the information their getting from Citrix is shortsighted at best, and downright misleading at worst.

How can this get worked on in the long term, then? I think Citrix has to get away from having two separate products that, let's face it, compete with each other. The "number of users" limitation is there to draw an arbitrary line between the two so that they can say they don't compete with each other, but that's pretty transparent (or at least it should be now). There are many good things about XenDesktop, but it is a very complex solution (a fact that VMware is very willing to reinforce). VDI in a Box, on the other hand, is perhaps too simple, with scalability concerns about it's grid architecture. 

Citrix would do well by trying to adapt the grid architecture to be more scalable (or at least prove its scalability) and incorporate that, along with the ease of standing up new servers, into XenDesktop. XenDesktop can contribute by adding in the FlexCast features and  Provisioning Server, which will help the image creation and maintenance processes where VDI in a Box catches some criticism.

There's probably a dozen ways to slice up the two products and repackage them, and it's not an enviable task. I do think, though, that it's a necessary one. Having two products that compete against each other in a niche market cannot be a good thing.

In the meantime, though, I'll bring it home. Forget anything you've heard about what size organizations should be using XenDesktop or VDI in a Box. Bring them both in, and put them through your specific use case. Compare your storage, VM state, application delivery, user base, and scalability requirements to each solution and let that determine which product you use. 

For more discussion on this, check out the podcast of the Brian & Gabe Live show that we recorded yesterday at about the 12 minute mark. Desktone's Peter McKay was our guest, and he and Brian shared their thoughts on this as well. They bring up how small business don't want anything to do with owning and running their own VDI environment, let alone deciding on a use case, among other things.

 

 
 




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Comments

Neil Spellings wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Wed, Nov 16 2011 4:30 AM Link To This Comment

At the VDI-in-a-box UK partners event, Citrix did state that the grid system did scale pretty much indefinitely and you could just keep on adding capacity to many thousands of desktop VMs.

I guess when you're reaching those kinds of numbers, unless you have a really simple environment the number of "gold images" are likely to start increasing, and at some point using local storage isn't going to cut it and you need to think about PVS.

VDI-in-a-box seems to be getting some focus now, and there's new CSP training for partners to take to qualify them to sell it, with technical training and certification coming in Q1 next year.

I think its simplicity (everything "in the box") gives it a real USP and Citrix would do well to incorporate some of these concepts across their other products to simplify their implementations.

Stephen Rae wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Wed, Nov 16 2011 7:24 AM Link To This Comment

Gabe:

Thanks for your article.

I may be misunderstanding a few things.

Part of flexcast is allowing for XenApp hosted and streaming apps integration with Xendesktop. Are you saying you cannot put a Citrix Receiver on a "VDI in a box" delivered desktop?

Why does implementing Xenclient or XenApp make it a requirement to use Xendesktop?

Robidog wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Wed, Nov 16 2011 11:56 AM Link To This Comment

Good point Gabe.

So, is there an article with a feature-by-feature comparison of VDI-in-a-box and XD?

Or even better a decision tree type of document that helps me understand which product fits where?

desktopsites wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Wed, Nov 16 2011 1:16 PM Link To This Comment

Thank You Gabe! Your 2 statements alone say it all :

1. " it was with the hope that the simplicity of VDI in a Box would rub off a bit on XenDesktop, and that the two would either blend into a single, harmonious product or, at the very least, VDI in a Box would serve as an entry-level VDI product with a clear, easy upgrade path to XenDesktop.";

2. " it all depends on each specific use case, and that, to me, is the responsibility of the partner. Instead of selling the same solution over and over again (which is easy), they need to roll up their sleeves and actually discover the best solution for each customer. The problem is that the information their getting from Citrix is shortsighted at best, and downright misleading at worst."

The global giants are pushing a solution (VDI) that may be (?) in demand for less than 2% of business case scenarios. What are the remaining 98% using or needing? Remote App / hosted delivery solutions... Not VDI.

And, as you said, to top it off, when sales rep's are being compensated on the push of this technology (VDI), they need a pay cheque. So, they'll push what they get compensated on first. Not taking into account what the business users may really need as their primary selling motivator.

Excellent write up Gabe. Thanks for saying it the way it is!!

Laura

SillyRabbit wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Wed, Nov 16 2011 1:45 PM Link To This Comment

3 years ago, many of us analysts were touting VDI-in-a-Box as the solution rather than the trainwrecks known as XenDesktop 2.0/ 3.0 or VMWare View (at that time). Simplicity is key to adoption but the major players did not want to erode their technology installed base.

I can the confusion actually increasing rather than decreasing.

Here's my take: Make XenDesk the VDI-in-the-Box solution (with the Kaviza solution) and still offer XenDesktop with XenApp for the MetaFrame/Presentation Server/XenApp installed base. VMW should offer their VDI-in-a-Box solution as a sub 500-user solution sold in increments (e.g. first 500 users is $$nnn dollars, second 500 users is $$nn dollars - 5%, etc.). The traction and foundation needs to be built from manageable building blocks otherwise the ROI is silly.

Gabe Knuth wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Wed, Nov 16 2011 5:08 PM Link To This Comment

@Stephen Rae - There's nothing stopping you from doing both VDI in a Box and XenApp (or XenDesktop, for that matter) by putting Citrix Receiver in a VDI in a Box VM, but my point is that in order to get the same Flexcast functionality with VDI in a Box that you'd get with XenDesktop, you'd have to, essentially, buy VDI in a Box AND XenDesktop (or at least XenApp).

markfermin wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Wed, Nov 16 2011 9:22 PM Link To This Comment

You nailed it, Gabe.  I blogged about this not long ago in my recent first-look review of VDI-in-a-box.  This is not something that should be exclusively targeted at the SMB market.  I see a greater potential adoption in the enterprise.  When I was an SE with Citrix, many of the pilots and PoC's I did for XenDesktop were for potential implementations of 200 seats or less.  I would loved to have had this to PoC with instead of sitting at a customer for a week trying to get XenDesktop working well with PVS, etc.  I think some of the technical folks at Citrix get this - I just hope they're not overridden by a marketing message that is far too narrow.  I am evaluating this as a potential enterprise ready technology offering.  For departmental deployments, branch offices, etc., it could be a great solution for quickly ramping up a virtual desktop solution with less complexity and effort than a full VDI deployment.  For many organizations it could bring desktop virt projects that were either dying or dead on the vine or otherwise "vaporware" into actual production!

Icelus wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Thu, Nov 17 2011 9:29 AM Link To This Comment

I think the strategy should be geared for the most optimal ROI in each scenario:

Desktops:

"VDI-in-a-Box: Server Hosted Virtual Desktops for simple SMB and Enterprise environments."

"XenDesktop: Server Hosted Virtual Desktops for complex SMB and Enterprise environments."

"XenApp: Server Shared Virtual Desktops for simple/complex SMB and Enterprise environments."

"XenClient: Client Hosted Virtual Desktops for simple/complex SMB and Enterprise environments."

Apps:

Base Apps installed in Virtual Desktops, simple environments don't require XenApp.

Long Tail Apps installed in Virtual Workspaces, simple environments don't require XenApp.

Departmental/Group Apps virtualized in XenApp for complex environments.

Icelus wrote re: Citrix needs to change its strategy for VDI in a Box
on Thu, Nov 17 2011 10:50 AM Link To This Comment

FYI, once Citrix purchased Kaviza it's considered apart of FlexCast. Just because it's a separate technology doesn't mean it's not considered apart of the suite, it just does what XenDesktop does and does not add an extra line item to the list like PVS, XenClient, and XenApp do.

FlexCast is just a pretty name that defines the array of technologies they use. Even though they call it a single technology, it really isn't.

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