The next war: Citrix’s Type 1 client hypervisor vs. VMware’s Type 2. Who wins? Not the customer

Citrix and VMware have been challenging each other on several fronts over the past few years. It seems like every few months a new proxy war pops up (over simplicity of installation, display protocols, disk cloning capabilities, etc.)

Citrix and VMware have been challenging each other on several fronts over the past few years. It seems like every few months a new proxy war pops up (over simplicity of installation, display protocols, disk cloning capabilities, etc.). Last week we learned of the latest battle: What type of client hypervisor (Type 1 or Type 2) is better for local VMs / offline VDI?

When VMware started talking about the features of the upcoming View 4.5 earlier this month, they started pumping up the benefits of a “Type 2” client environment where the corporate VM runs on top of the existing laptop’s OS. (This is similar to VMware ACE, Workstation, Fusion, etc.)

Then at Citrix Synergy last week, Citrix made a release candidate available of Citrix XenClient, a “Type 1” bare-metal client hypervisor that installs directly on a client device in place of a general-purpose OS like Windows.

Of course anyone who’s been in the IT industry more than a few minutes knows there’s no “one size fits all” solution. What’s unfortunate is that Citrix and VMware seem to have forgotten this, as VMware is really pushing the benefits of Type 2 client environments and bashing Type 1 solutions, while Citrix is touting the benefits of Type 1 environments and bashing Type 2.

Type 1 versus Type 2 client VM environments

I’ve written quite a bit over the past few years about the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 environments and why you might choose one over another, but here’s a quick refresher:

Type 1 bare-metal client hypervisor advantages

  • Hypervisor can “own” the device, for security, performance, SLAs, etc.
  • Users can’t break the base environment
  • Possibly more secure due to the smaller attack surface of the hypervisor
  • Better performance since your “OS” is a purpose-built hypervisor instead of a general purpose OS (And the user can’t run something stupid in the host OS that will degrate VM performance)

Type 1 bare-metal client hypervisor disadvantages

  • Very small hardware compatibility list
  • Destructive install

Of course when we move over to the Type 2 list, it’s pretty much the inverse of the previous list:

Type 2 client hypervisor advantages

  • IT doesn’t have to “own” the device
  • The user can install their own hypervisor
  • Adding the hypervisor doesn’t destroy the existing OS
  • Runs on just about any existing hardware that can run Linux, Windows, or Mac

Type 2 client hypervisor disadvantages

  • Possibly not as secure since the client can’t “trust” the base. (End user could run a screen recorder, key logger, etc.)
  • No guarantee of performance (End user could run a crazy app in the host OS that would have to share resources with the hypervisor)
  • Two OSes to manage (host OS and guest VM OS)

Which type of client hypervisor is better? Again, it depends, It Depends, IT DEPENDS. Right off the top of my head, I’m thinking:

Use cases for a Type 1 bare metal client hypervisor

  • IT owns the device (and thus can pick from from the small HCL and can make sure the hypervisor is there)
  • User experience is most like traditional laptops today
  • Users aren’t smart enough to understand the whole Type 2 thing

Use cases for a Type 2 client hypervisor

  • The user owns his or her device
  • Temporary workers (contractors with their own laptops)
  • Users with their own devices working from home
  • Users who are savvy enough to maintain their own base OS

I’m sure that none of these six lists is complete, but I’m just trying to outline some of the things to think about as you consider where Type 1 and Type 2 client environments will fit into your overall desktop delivery infrastructure.

How VMware and Citrix are fighting this battle

Unfortunately it seems like both Citrix and VMware are taking somewhat fundamentalist (almost dogmatic?) stances on where Type 1 or Type 2 environments fit. (Type 1 for Citrix and Type 2 for VMware.)

This is crazy because Citrix talks about this whole “FlexCast” thing where they purport to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all delivery mechanism. And they show that they can do Terminal Server, VDI, OS streaming, and now client hypervisors. Great! But then they go on to talk about why their Type 1 client hypervisor is a better approach than Type 2. And it’s like, “What?? What just happened to all that awesome messaging about FlexCast? Shouldn’t there be a FlexCast Delivery Option #5 that’s a client-based VM for Type 2 environments?”

But VMware’s no better. They first started talking about a Type 1 bare-metal client hypervisor back in 2008. And they spent the better part of the past two years talking about how much better Type 1 environments are than Type 2 (as they prepared to position their future Type 1 solution against current Type 2 solutions like MokaFive, MED-V, or RingCube). So now all of the sudden VMware decides to do a Type 2 solution instead, and it’s like they suddenly forgot about all the reasons they liked Type 1 over the past two years!?!

I can’t imagine any customers choosing to buy View because VMware’s Type 2 local client is better than Citrix’s Type 1. And I can’t imagine anyone choosing to buy XenDesktop because Citrix’s Type 1 local client is better than VMware’s Type 2.

I hope that both Citrix and VMware are each able to offer both Type 1 and Type 2 clients at some point in the near-ish future. And I hope that customers don’t become the collateral damage in this latest war.

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