There are several different technologies that can be used to deliver desktops to users. Citrix and VMware each make products that only support a subset of the different options. It's funny to watch them navigate the space, only talking about the specific ways they offer solutions and why their way is the best way. I've written ad nauseam about this over the past few years. (Here, here, here, here, here, and here, to get started.) While it can be confusing to figure out which technology (or combination of technologies) is best for your specific situation, you can break down the various options into a set of logical steps. For each desktop, ask yourself:
- Local or remote?
- If remote, multi-user (TS) or single-user (VDI)
- If single user, VM-based or blade-based?
- If local, running natively or virtualized?
- If local, streamed, or installed the old way?
It occurred to me last week that you could make a nice little flowchart that depicts these various solutions... something like this:
(This is similar to the application delivery technology flowchart that I created last year, except this one focuses on desktops.)
This flowchart drives towards the six boxes across the bottom representing six different technical methods, each of which ends up with a user using their desktop.
Any architect knows that different technologies are right for different use cases. But as of May 2008, there is no one vendor who has a solution that can work in all six ways. Ordinarily that wouldn't be a problem. But if a vendor becomes dogmatic about it, take a seat and enjoy a good show.
For example, VMware and Citrix are 100% on the same page when it comes to the value of remote desktops delivered via server-based computing protocols. They're even on the same page when it comes to the value of connecting those server-based computing users back to single-user Windows VDI instances. So far, so good. But then VMware diverges, lashing out against TS-based solutions and blade-based solutions, claiming technical superiority to VM-based solutions. How do they defend that? Imagine how a VMware sales rep escorts a potential customer through the flowchart, helping them make the decisions that are best for the them while ultimately ensuring the user ends up in a box for which VMware makes a product. It would go something something like this...
"Yeah, yeah.. remote is the way to go.. for sure! Uh-huh.. yep, that's right, single-user OSes do have certain advantages over Terminal Server.. good.. what's that? A blade? WHOA! STOP RIGHT THERE FOOL! Let me re-educate you as to why the one version of doing things that is the version we sell is better than the other way of doing things."
My point is that there are six boxes in the chart, and VMware can only get paid on two of them:
Citrix comes from a bit different perspective. At first you'd think this is good for cusomters, because they can actually get paid on four boxes instead of just two:
But the problem with Citrix getting paid on four boxes is that Citrix is getting paid on four boxes. (Remember those old Rally's commercials? CHA-CHING!) Here's how the conversation would sound from a Citrix sales rep...
"You want remote desktops? Sure, we can do remote. Single user or multi-user? Sure.. no prob at all. Single user is $75-275 per user. Oh, you don't like the user density of single-user hosts and you think that is too expensive? No problem, we can go Terminal Server to get you that savings you need.. Yeah, we offer it.. it's only 3x more expensive for our licensing, but yeah.. think of the power and cooling costs you're saving! So it's your call. Oh, you want both? No problem, let me just pull out my calculator.. we charge separately for these you know.. gotta keep that revenue up.. you know how it is.. so let's see... that's $425-$875 per user. And you have all your Microsoft CALs and your profile management solution already in place, right?"
And for the really adventurous customers, the Citrix sales rep continues, "You want to stream the local OS to the local desktop? No, no, XenDesktop doesn't do that.. Yeah, I know "desktop" is in the name, but XenDesktop is just for remote desktops... Why do you want local again? We don't really have anything... we're more of a remote... oh, you say it's on our website? Hmm.. ok, yeah, so another $250 on top of everything so far and you're set. But hey, did I tell you the hypervisor is free? I mean FREE free. Let's see VMware compete with that, eh?"
Sure, these examples are overboard, but they illustrate the point that it's strange that VMware and Citrix have to push specific technical solutions since their products each only support a few boxes on the chart. (Do you really want some sales rep trying to tell you that one technical solution is better than another across the board?)
Imagine if this was the auto industry. We consumers just want to be able to buy cars and trucks that meet our needs. VMware only makes pickup trucks, which to them is fine, because you're obviously a dumbass if you can't understand why everyone needs a pickup truck.
Citrix makes both cars and trucks--trucks like VMware for hauling stuff, and cars for hauling people. So you think you're covered! The only problem is Citrix doesn't put any seats in their trucks because hey, trucks are for hauling stuff, not people. If you want to haul people, then buy a car (which they also happen to make). What about customers who want to haul people and haul stuff? They should buy a car and a truck. And what if you want to haul people and stuff at the same time? No problem. You can put the car in the back of your truck.
And then Quest is over there on the side quietly making exactly what people want, but no one notices. And Ericom is over there on the side too, reminding everyone every fifteen seconds that they're there, but no one cares.
They only people not getting screwed in this whole thing are Microsoft shareholders. (Oh, and the bloggers. Bloggers heart crazy vendors.)