VMware releases their new VDI product, View 3. Here's a 60-second overview

Today VMware released their new VDI product, called VMware View 3. View is a complete solution, combining the hypervisor, management tools, connection broker, and everything else needed into a single product.

Today VMware released their new VDI product, called VMware View 3. View is a complete solution, combining the hypervisor, management tools, connection broker, and everything else needed into a single product. As a complete solution, View's main competition is Citrix XenDesktop, although Quest Software, Ericom, Leostream, and others offer VDI products in this space that connect to other vendors' hypervisors.

The big new features in View 3

  • Enhancements to RDP - including multimedia redirection, true multi-monitor support, USB support for non-isochronous devices (flash drives, printers, scanners - yes, webcams, microphones, headsets - no), and full OEM of ThinPrint's printing platform.
  • View Composer - the linked clone / shared master / whatever-you-call-it technology that allows many users to share the same master disk image, which is dynamically combined at runtime with a delta differential image for that user.
  • General fit-and-finish - VMware's previous VDM product was really rushed out the door, and it felt like a product that was rushed out the door. View 3 is more integrated, the client is tight, and the whole thing feels more like a "real" product.
  • ThinApp - For application virtualization, VMware is now packaging ThinApp with View. ThinApp is still the same version (v4, launched 6 months ago), and it's the one component that's not integrated (from a management standpoint) with the others.
  • Partial support for any type of desktop - TS, virtual, or physical / blade. The the best features are only available on single-instance virtual desktops running on VI3, but you can get basic connectivity to TS and blade-based desktops as well.

The big things that VMware announced, but that are missing from View 3

  • Client bare-metal hypervisor - not there, not available
  • Teradici-based remote display protocol - not there, not available
  • Offline VDI - available as an "experimental" feature, which is a fancy way of saying it's now in public beta.

Can VMware View 3 really challenge Citrix XenDesktop?

  • A lot (a mean a whole lot, like 75%) of customers who use Citrix XenDesktop run it on VMware's infrastructure. If that's the case, then VMware is a much cheaper solution, at only $150 for the edition of View 3 that includes everything.
  • VMware's extensions to RDP, plus the ThinPrint stuff they've licensed, means that Citrix does not have as much as an advantage with ICA anymore.
  • However, Citrix has seamless windows application publishing. Citrix can dynamically compose a desktop made up of applications running locally, remotely, etc. VMware is focused on desktops, rather than apps, so while you can use ThinApp to get applications into a desktop, and while (experimentally) that desktop can run locally or remotely, with VMware, it's one or the other. With VMware, it's locally OR remotely. With Citrix, it can be locally AND remotely. (Of course just like many Citrix XenDesktop deployments will use VMware infrastructure, perhaps most View 3 deployments will use Citrix application infrastructure?

Pricing and Licensing

All VMware View products are licensed per concurrent desktop. Note that this is similar to Citrix, whose products are licensed per concurrent user. But the concurrent "desktop" versus the concurrent "user" also highlights the differences between the two products (and perhpas the two companies). With View, VMware is focused on Desktops, while Citrix is focused on applications.

VMware View Enterprise - $150 per concurrent desktop

VMware View Premier - $250 per concurrent desktop

  • All Enterprise components, plus
  • View Composer
  • ThinApp
  • Offline VDI (experimental)

If you already have ESX 3.5 / VI3 Enterprise, you can add View Enterprise for $50 per CCU, or View Premier for $150 per CCU.

Eating Crow

Last week, I wrote an article entitled, "Do you think VMware is catching up to Citrix in the desktop space? Balderdash! Citrix needs to catch up to VMware." I took the position that with all of VMware's VDI announcements and previews at VMworld a few months ago, their VDI products would soon be much stronger than Citrix's. I wrote that Citrix's VDI products are purely server-based computing, while VMware was going to be doing offline and client hypervisors and all sorts of great game-changing stuff.

Then less than a week later, VMware releases View 3 (yay!), and three-quarters of the cool new features they previewed are not in the product (***!).

  • View Composer - YES
  • Offline VDI - NO ("experimental" / public beta / whatever-it-is doesn't count)
  • Teradici-based protocol - NO
  • Bare-metal client hypervisor - NO

Citrix's Sumit Dhawan blogged a response in which he scolded me for comparing shipping products (Citrix) to experimental technologies (VMware). On this point he was 100% right. (He also contrasted points I made about the importance of offline VDI and the importance of VDI in general. On those two points, I stand my ground and defend what I wrote as I wrote it.)

Sure, today, VMware has announced more than Citrix about their future VDI plans. But since they just rev'ed their product and these features are missing, it's probably going to be awhile before we see this stuff from them. That's plenty of time for Citrix to announce their plans and start shipping game-changing features too.

(By the way, Eating Crow is an idiom in English which means "humiliation by having been proven wrong after taking a strong position.")

The bottom line

VMware View 3 seems to be a fine product. (I haven't actually used it yet. I'm downloading it now and will write more in the coming days.) It seems "fine" for SBC-based VDI just like Citrix XenDesktop is "fine" for SBC-based VDI today. The things that VMware is thinking about that will make View really rock are still future dreams of theirs, so for now, it's a toss-up.

It seems that VMware's RDP extensions should work for most folks. The View Composer should hold its own against Citrix Provisioning Server. (That will be a future article too.) The OEM'ed ThinPrint stuff rocks. VMware's virtualization infrastructure is second-to-none.

So who do you buy today? That too is a philosophical question. Do you extend your datacenter infrastructure out to your desktop (VMware), or do you extend your application architecture back into your datacenter (Citrix)? Or do you buy the interesting and perhaps more innovative technology from a smaller player (Quest / Ericom / Leostream) and add a third vendor to the mix?

One Final Note: This View 3 announcement is huge, and there is a lot to talk about. Today's article was sort of a quick brain-dump of the facts. Over the next several days we'll explore the other issues, components, and technologies in this space.

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UPDATE 1 -  DEC 5 - CORRECTION - Multi-monitor support is not part of View 3. More to follow as I figure learn more...

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