Have Citrix and VMware lost focus by trying to provide complete solutions? Is that even possible?

Let's start of the week with a discussion. Do you believe the "total solution" will be available from a single vendor?

Let's start of the week with a discussion. Do you believe the "total solution" will be available from a single vendor? Or is that a relic of the last decade?

Think about how our world is expanding. At first we focused on Terminal Server for remote Windows desktops and Windows apps. Then we got into application virtualization, both on the Terminal Servers and the clients. Then we started focusing on user profile management, again both on the Terminal Servers and traditional Windows clients. After that we started looking at SSL-VPNs and remote access to those Terminal Server environments. Then we got into VDI and client VMs... Eventually we said we were in the "Windows delivery" game (for both desktops and apps).

But no sooner than we realized that did we start to look at other, non-Windows applications. First it was delivering web apps to our users, both in-house and SaaS. Now we're thinking about delivering native mobile apps for iOS and Android. That takes us into the MDM/MAM space. And who can forget the data? In the old days we provided simple file shares for our users, but nowadays we have to provide Dropbox-like functionality too.

And of course, the list goes on and on...

Now let's think about how we've traditionally dealt with all of these things. In 2003, Citrix launched their "Access" marketing campaign which centered on them providing access to all the data and apps that users need. They had MetaFrame for Windows applications and desktops. They had just bought Sequoia for a web portal. Over the next few years they branched into the networking space by buying several companies, including Net6 for an SSL-VPN, Netscaler for performance and security, Orbital Data for WAN acceleration. So at this point your "Windows access" company was also competing in these other areas to provide the entire "solution." Customers had to decide whether they wanted to buy the complete solution from one vendor or build it piecemeal from lots of different vendors.

Of course it didn't end there. Citrix got into the app virtualization and profile management space. They bought a hypervisor. They bought client virtualization and user management tools. They bought cloud framework tools. The announced mobile application management capabilities for CloudGateway. They bought a Dropbox-like tool called Sharefile. They bought a web collaboration company. They can deliver secure native email clients to iPhones and Android devices. Again, the list goes on...

And of course VMware is doing the exact same thing, (just in a slightly different order). VMware created a great hypervisor and datacenter platform. Then they bought a VDI connection broker. Then they bought an app virtualization company and licensed a remoting protocol. They bought or built a bunch of apps for end users, including email, collaboration, office productivity and in-house twitter-like tools. They built their own Dropbox-like data sync tool. They're building products to connect in-house users to Windows, web, and mobile apps. They're getting into MDM and MAM.

So over the years, both Citrix and VMware are expanding their "solution" as we expand our definition of what we deliver to our users. Of course the vendors want to provide that one stop shop for the users, ideally with a single product and a single license (which will never happen—not their fault though). But as end customers, we're stuck asking ourselves whether we want this from one company? Do I want my Windows delivery company to build my SSL-VPN? Do I want my datacenter virtualization vendor to build a desktop client?

There are so many ways that this becomes painful. Vendor focus. Product quality. Licensing. Core competency. And it's ironic that as we're reading more and more about web standards and open connectivity, we're faced with the vendors doing everything they can to ensure that their solutions only work with other parts of their solutions. (Desktop delivery platform only works on their hypervisor. Data management client is built into their desktop receiver client. Their SSL-VPN can only see inside their protocol...)

So where does this leave us? Is anyone considering Citrix or VMware for the "complete" solution? Or is that an anachronism? Is there any true advantage to buying everything you need to deliver end user computing from one place? Are these companies destined to turn into CA, Symantec, or IBM? What else are we not thinking about here?

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The question is...they don't have much option.

Companies,  especially the big ones, give lots of value to "one stop shop" solutions, must because of support.

They don't want to call 2,3  or 4 companies that do not agree about who is the responsible for your downtime.

And in Citrix case, they are trying to eliminate the XenApp dependency as the future is probably all web. This "cloud fever" is their chance...



Good post. I think a more appropriate comparison than CA or IBM, though, would be Microsoft. The other amazing thing is that the rate of acquisitions by both Citrix and VMware appears to be accelerating. Recent Citrix purchases include Podio, Virtual Computer & Ring Cube. With VMware we have Wanova and Cetas.

In my experience, most organizations do seem to like purchasing entire solutions from one manufacturer; they see the obvious synergies involved. A continuation of the rapidly increasing sales of both organizations would be the ultimate validation of the strategy.


Portals always tried to get everything in... including other solution and third party componants... See WebSphere or Weblogic. they succeed in some companies, failed in others and finnaly found their place in the infrastructure.

Now,"application/desktop new management" solution are expecting to get out of tactical deploiement and become more strategic... which is leading to get an "application and desktop portal" type of things that will try to get everything in, have connector to other solutions and third party componants...

this is the sense of history... Let's wait to see which place they will finally have.

My opinion : could be great to get a single application/services portal for all users whatever the devices are (both for the users and for the enterprise)...


It's the Wal-Mart syndrome. Is it better? Well, it depends. People love cheaper prices, but they hate it when they find that they can't get what they really need, as well as the lack of expertise by the employees. But if you want cheaper prices, that's what you have to put up with.

These companies keep getting into more and more areas of technology, with the goal of giving customers more and more value for the price, but in the end nothing is really free. We are just getting more value from the vednor by giving up value from the overall market.  

It's no different than a small town that used to have a great hardware store, that had everything you could ever need, and employees who knew what they sold, that was then put out of business by Walmart selling half the hardware they carry sold by employees who know little about hardware. Is the town really better off? They are getting cheaper hardware, but then when they need some specific hardware Wal-mart doesn't carry what they need. Or when they need some expertise on hardware, the Wal-mart employees are of little help.  

I'm not saying it's wrong, or that another way is right. I'm just revelaing that it's not possible, regardless of the marketing these companies put out, to have your cake and eat it too.

Ask yourself this... what is Wal-mart focused on? hardware? groceries? clothing? electronics? what?

The answer is they are focused on selling everything cheaper? You can't focus on hardware, and sell everything cheaper. You can't focus on groceries and sell everything cheaper. You can't focus on clothing and sell everything cheaper. In order to sell everything cheaper, you have to lose focus on everything. This is the Wal-Mart syndrome.


All good points.  I question whether the flurry and accelerating pace of acquisitions and resulting "diversification"  within both product portfolios is of questionable long term value.  I might be wrong, but I sense less of a propensity in the enterprise market to flock to an all-in-one vendor for a complete solution.  I hate to say it, but it almost seems like a shotgun approach to productization - build or acquire a little of everything and hope that one of these technologies is a major cash cow down the road and sees mass adoption.  It sometimes seems to be a scramble to maintain a profitable level of relevancy through technology buzzwords and trends that may or may not survive in the real marketplace.  The downside is exactly the "Wal Mart Syndrome" that Rob described - I mean just look at VMWare's "products" section of the website.  Really all we're choosing in the end is akin to whether you like the experience and/or have brand loyalty for Target, Wal Mart, Costco, etc.


Thanks brian for this overdue discussion! My point: as you mentioned dropbox. Why is dropbox market leader? Simplicity, ease of use and plain "works". Mixed up with Robs excellent Wal-Mart comparison brings me to my field experience - especially in Enterprise Environments. On the technical side i see more and more deterioration of product quality especially on the points where those newly aquired technologies are beeing mixed in to the old, fairly stable and relativly easy to use technological ecosystem.

One can never be sure what the story tomorrow is going to be and what products will be dropped, refurbished, blown up, mixed in ...

On a technical point of view you tend to get more and more problems when you try to follow this one stop shopping strategy ...

I sure hope management still has the vision to not loose focus. We are still on a long trip to the future non Windows desktop (lower D).

I dont like the idea of the gap opening up more widely between marketing and technically sound solutions for the next years to come. Giving sane consulting to enterprise customers is hard enough nowadays.


Good post, Brian. The practice hardly seems anachronistic, as seemingly every tech company, including VMWare, Citrix, and Apple, is packaging products as a single-solution ecosystem. But smaller companies will continue to need a la carte offerings that better suit their budgets and that allow for growth and flexibility.


All in one is ok... except when it comes at the expense of interoperability.  

Vendor reps are very quick to play the "you won't be supported" if you use another vendor in the stack card.

E.g. using this article to misrepresent why you can't use another SSL VPN vendor:  support.citrix.com/.../CTX131547


Well, at my last employer we used Citrix as an all in one solution.  Having a single supported platform and the classic "one throat to choke" strategy worked for us.  While net6 was a disaster, the Netscaler AGEE is a great product as is the rest of their Netscaler feature set.  The biggest issue I saw was that Citrix engineers have had the number of hats they have to wear increase exponentially.  This has caused some clashes with other IT groups as Network engineers may see systems folks stepping on their turf as the “Citrix” team started deploying load balancers, SSL VPN’s and packet shapers.    

1996:  Wanted Citrix Administrator, must know:

NT 3.51/OS2 Warp maybe plus Citrix

2002: Wanted Citrix Administrator, must know:

Windows Enterprise Edition (TS Server), Web Interface, MSAM and Citrix Presenation Server

2006: Wanted Citrix Administrator, must know:

Windows Terminal Server, Citrix, SSL VPN (Net6 or CSG), application isolation (anyone remember AIE), SoftGrid, Citrix Streaming Server, Web Interface Server, Endpoint Analysis, and Portal administration.  (CAG Advanced)

2009:  Wanted Citrix Administrator Must know:

Windows Terminal Server/RDS, Citrix XenAPP, XenDekstop, Edgesight Database, Citrix Streaming, APP-V, Web Interface Server, SSL VPN, Netscaler Load Balancer, WanScaler/Branch Repeater,  Application Firewall,  endpoint Analysis, user Profile management and Cloud Computing!

2012: Wanted Citrix Administrator must

Windows Terminal Server/RDS, Citrix XenAPP, Xendesktop, Edgesight Database, Citrix Streaming, APP-V, Web Interface Server, SSL VPN, Netscaler Load Balancer, WanScaler/Branch Repeater,  Application Firewall,  endpoint Analysis, user Profile management ,Cloud Computing, Cloud Gateway, Cloud bridge, Support Citrix receiver on ipad, iphone, Android and Blackberry, Citrix Storefront, VDI in a box and AppDNA

"...then she swallowed a bird to catch the spider...."

It does seem like we stack technologies to meet the end goal but for  a lot fo folks, it works pretty well.   Personally, I liked having end-to-end control of my environment.  

In an age where it seems like there are no more generalists, you can't accuse Virtualization folks of not having a broad skill set.