Citrix just announced the release and immediate availability of Version 3 of their VDI and desktop delivery product called XenDesktop. (UPDATE FEB 5 - Availability is in a few weeks.) XenDesktop 3 has several new features, including:
- Support for SpeedScreen multimedia redirection via ICA. (This is what geeks know as "RAVE," which has been available in MetaFrame / XenApp for more than five years.)
- Tweaks to how XenServer and XenDesktop interact, increasing the number of VMs you can run on a single physical server.
- OS streaming support (Citrix Provisioning Server) to physical desktops (in addition to virtual desktops in the datacenter).
- User Profile Manager v2
- Smart card support.
- Support for the same kinds of USB devices as XenApp.
- New branding element called HD-X (High-def Xen). (more on this in a future article)
Desktop OS Streaming to local workstations. (Wait.. that's new?)
In the past, I wrote that I thought Citrix XenDesktop was not that useful because it only worked for VDI scenarios. Citrix's Rob Hammersmith corrected me, telling me that the license of Citrix Provisioning Server that came with Ardence could also be used for offline desktops. I was confused about how I missed that point, and in fact I wrote a whole article that was somewhat of a retraction saying, "Whoops. I didn't know it did that. So yeah, it looks like XenDesktop is useful after all!"
But today's press release for Citrix XenDesktop 3 lists Provisioning Server support for local desktops as a new feature. So maybe I was right all along and Rob was wrong? (It's funny how I get a dozen emails from Citrix when I'm wrong in a way that's negative towards them. But when I'm wrong in a way that makes them look better than they actually are, I hear nothing!)
Regardless of whether I was actually wrong or not, the bottom line is that NOW FOR SURE Citrix XenDesktop offers the capability to stream OSes to local workstations.
Who has the best VDI product on the market now?
Certainly the short list (in alphabetical order) is Citrix XenDesktop 3, Quest vWorkspace 6, and VMware View 3. There are still no products that are ready to be used for general purpose across-the-board desktop replacement. (It's ok. We still have 16 months to wait.)
Since VMware View 3 does not have the Teradici software-based protocol yet, and since it does not have the bare-metal hypervisor, and since it only offers offline VM sync as an unsupported "local" feature, I'm going to officially swing back and go on record saying that I believe Citrix XenDesktop 3 is a better product than VMware View 3. (Yes I know that XenDesktop 3 doesn't have offline or bare metal hypervisor capabilities either, but those two things were the main reason I liked View 3 so much in the first place. Both Citrix and VMware are working on this stuff, so we'll see who gets there first with the most-usable product.)
I should also point out that I'm making broad generalizations when I say that I like XenDesktop 3 better than View 3. The reality is that because VDI is still a niche solution, both products are probably "good enough" for today's VDI deployments, and I don't have super strong feelings one way or the other. So if you're a VMware customer and your rep gives you good pricing on View, then go for it!
Finally, those of you paying attention noticed I just talked about which product I liked better between XenDesktop 3 and View 3. But remember my short list also includes Quest vWorkspace 6, and let me tell you, that product rocks! If you haven't checked out the Quest stuff in awhile, you're in for a real surprise. (Gabe's working on a full review that we'll post in a few weeks. In the meantime, here's a video that walks through the v6 management console) (Give the video time to load - it's about 90MB). Quest is still the only one of these three that offers full integrated functionality across single user (VDI) and multi-user (TS) hosts. And their EOP protocol is every bit as good as ICA from a user experience standpoint. (Although EOP does consume a bit more bandwidth as it is today.)