Prediction: By end of 2016, VMware Horizon will be neck-and-neck with Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp

I predict that by the end of next year, VMware Horizon 6 will be neck-and-neck with Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp in the enterprise. I base this prediction on talking to many customers (several of them very large), who are seriously looking at Horizon 6 as their next platform to replace their current XenApp 6.

I predict that by the end of next year, VMware Horizon 6 will be neck-and-neck with Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp in the enterprise.

I base this prediction on talking to many customers (several of them very large), who are seriously looking at Horizon 6 as their next platform to replace their current XenApp 6.x environments. In fact I’d say that almost every company is considering it (as they should—competition is a good thing), with many saying it’s a forgone conclusion that they’ll migrate from XenApp to Horizon during their next update cycle.

The “next update cycle” is the key here. VMware released Horizon 6 with RDSH & published app support 16 months ago. Typical XenApp refresh life cycles are longer than that—more like 3-to-5 years—so while 16 months of Horizon 6 has been long enough for customers to start to look at it, but it hasn’t been long enough for the bulk of upgrades to actually take place. (Also keep in mind that most enterprises were focused on Windows 7, but with it’s EOL now less than five years away and with Windows 10 out, customers are starting to think about their longer term plans for what’s next.)

The mere fact that VMware now has a competing product to XenApp is certainly worth some percentage of the market. But when you combine that with Citrix’s missteps, you have an environment where VMware could make some very signifcant gains.

If you look at everything Citrix has done wrong in the past few years and put it into one single list (something which Elliott did for us), does not look good for them. To summarize it, the bulk of the buzz around Citrix is about how badly they’re screwing everything up, while the buzz around VMware is how they’re doing everything right.

This kind of echoes Gabe’s point from last week which was essentially, “Do you think Citrix is better now than they were three years ago?” (This reminds me of Reagan’s famous 1980 pre-election speech, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”)

First they killed and then un-killed XenApp. Then they created XenApp 7 and tried to get customers to adopt it, but experienced backlash since XenApp 7 loses key features that customers have come to depend on in XenApp 6.x.

Then Citrix spent more than half their keynote at Synergy talking about experimental future things like the Internet of Things rather than their core products.

Citrix has provided “Tier 1” integration between their mobile apps and ShareFile, despite the fact that most of the enterprise world is going with products like Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive—none of which smoothly integrate with Citrix’s clients. (So customers are essentially penalized for going with their choice of file sync products.)

On top of that, Citrix is now competing with Microsoft in several key categories. Despite the decades of partnership, many key components of the XenApp/XenDesktop suite (XenServer, ShareFile, XenMobile) now directly compete against similar offerings from Microsoft. (I say “compete” because if you buy the related Microsoft product, you do not need the similar product that Citrix offers.)

Meanwhile VMware has been doing everything right. They have been quietly updating Horizon all this time.They’ve made key hires (Sumit Dhawan, Shawn Bass, plus many others). They have AirWatch which is one of the industry leading EMM platforms, but they smartly are not forcing customers to use it.

And of course the vast majority of Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp environments are on vSphere already anyway. So VMware “owns” the infrastructure and is growing “up” the stack to the application delivery, while Microsoft is sitting at the OS level and expanding “down” to the infrastructure. So Citrix is getting pressure from both sides.

Historically speaking, Citrix dominated the RDSH / published apps world with XenApp. I don’t know what the actual marketshare data, but it was a lot, like 90%-ish.

But when it comes to VDI, Citrix didn’t have the same kind of lead over VMware View. Now that VMware added RDSH and published apps (and the hypervisor that most people use), they’re saying all the right things while Citrix is trying to figure out their story around XenApp 7, claw back some goodwill they lost, pick a new CEO, and deal with an activist hedge fund who many people fear will slice the company and sell off the pieces.

What about Citrix inspires confidence now in the XenApp space for the next upgrade cycle?

What about VMware inspires confidence?

What do you think is going to happen as we enter the next round of upgrades?

The tides are changing…..

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If you do a technical analysis of the EUC features where Citrix and VMware have similar offerings (e.g. XenDesktop vs Horizon View), the Citrix technology is mostly superior. So if Customers are switching away from Citrix then it's generally for non-technical reasons. VMware merely needs to make their products "good enough" and the non-technical reasons (e.g. support, marketing, pricing, single vendor) will sway customers to their side.


Man... I dont know.

Vmware is doing some cool stuff. And I think you may be able to make that claim or more on the desktop to desktop side purely comparing VDI solutions. VMware seems to have more "admin friendly" features there but on the RDSH/XenApp side...

Have you ever tried RDSH and published apps with VMW today? its more like a check box to them. There is no real management, automation, load balancing parameters?  Concept of multi sites and what not.

Now if we are talking straight customer adoption on new builds... maybe something there. But how many new RDSH farms are being built compared to 5-10 years ago (or more).

but technology wise, a farm of any size would struggle trying to shift to VMW and their RDSH support. Their current implementation is really about VDI with small nod to RDSH.


Citrix has a HUGE install base, which will not change anytime soon, and they just signed up with Nutanix to weaken the Hypervisor stranglehold over time with Hyper Converged Infrastructure, which VMware has no momentum behind with their EVO X play.  That’s why I think VMware is trying to move into management to add value on top to weaken the Citrix value proposition and why Citrix stupidly are trying to build defense with junk like AppDisk layering instead of just buying Unidesk.

@Brian, “They have AirWatch which is one of the industry leading EMM platforms, but they smartly are not forcing customers to use it,” I don’t think so. VMware is going to make us throw up EMM with all their EMM can manage Windows 10 rhetoric, which isn’t going to work for them. That is their weakness and blind spot that Citrix has smartly not copied, or fear of Microsoft…  I think confidence will be won by who takes us forward with real solutions vs. marketing. Citrix is lost currently and VMware is trying to sell us EMM. So I think both fail, game set and match Microsoft unless somebody with a brain and set of balls says F all of you, we need to do something different that solves problems that people care about moving forward. That’s not VDI, RDSH solutions or EMM… These are fan boy products for those who don’t think, nothing more.

@Ron, from what I see and read, the market is still growing although at single digits. If that was not the case, I don’t think either would say they are still growing new licenses in their earnings call.  It’s true that VMware is winning new business. Yes Horizon is still not there but is catching up fast, but in a slowly shrinking market that is trying to get to the future with both in turmoil due to Elliot. Elliot is f’ing with both Citrix and VMware, so this gives me even less confidence in both. Games set and match Microsoft… Ugh I hate those slow moving, status quo, monopoly m***r f***ers!


Well, as much as I like Horizon for its simple robustness and the excellent composer's deployment mechanism, there are problems with it too. You need to configure authentication options at (security/connection) server level, needing extra servers for multiple authentication scenarios. If VMWare could improve on the 'portal' functionality, providing easy and reliable PCoIP andHTML5 to the backend without needing more than a couple of brokers you might even have a point. Still, the richness of the Citrix portfolio and proposition, the ICA/HDX protocol and the vision behind it all would lead me to believe Citrix will not be equaled or overtaken that quickly.

Apart from the Citrix-VMWare debate it will be interesting to see whether we will need published desktops and applications as much in this webbased/cloud era. If I owned a large company I'd want to abandon managed clients completely, just supply chrome-like endpoints and the URL's to the cloudbased backend, and place one or two rich fat clients for each 5-10 users for specific purposes. Maybe not achievable just yet, but that future is coming closer and closer I feel.


Good article.  I'm a XD/XA shop and really like Citrix and their products, but they have really lost their vision.  Mark T should have gone a long time ago, the Xenapp thing was a total disaster, XA 6 support was extended, I'm sure it'll be extended again, missing features in XA 7.x, really who was the project manager here???  Fire that guy for F'ing that up and pissing off decade long customers.  Citrix had it all and they really tossed it to the wind.  While I love the EUC space I'd be foolish to say that I'll never switch so I really do watch View / Horizon space closely, webinars, white papers, etc,etc.  I suspect in the next 24-36 months I may switch if the feature parity and easy-ness is there.  Netscaler is freakin awesome to integrate with, their broker manager?  Not so much.  Who wants F5 throw into the mix, not too mention the other stuff you would be losing.  They have lost some really big deals, deals they shouldn't have.  I really can't think of anything that Horizon does better other than the integration into vSphere which for me is a dead issue since the integration works and is painless.  Sure I wish I had CBRC on XD, but it's not a big deal, especially if running PVS which is free and tried and true.  But I run Pernixdata FVP for my server VM's so I just throw that at my VDI stuff and wammo, problem solved on IOPS.  I do wish PVS was more like MCS, but hey you can't have everything.  Recomposing is dead simple too with XD.  Sure I like Airwatch and it is the market leader, much more so than Xenmobile so they got that going for them.  Time will tell though if Citrix can get its mojo back.  


PS - Now that vSphere 6 supports 3D with XA/XD even less reason now to switch to View.  For the past few years, that was really one of the few reasons shops were deploying Xenserver, granted vSphere 6 adoption won't be over night, I get that.  I'm in no rush to move to it anyways with stable 5.5U2.  VMW has amazing marketing, I give them that, but when us tech guys dig into it and do feature parity / EU testing, watch out.  

PPS - A large hospital in South Florida dumped XA and went with View about 1.5 years b/c the higher ups thought it would be a good idea b/c of the marketing FUD ended up going back to XA b/c it took 2 days to recompose 10,000 sessions on the View pool.  With PVS, it was less than a few hours from what I was told.  


Which key features are missing in xa7?


(The original location of this doc on was called "Features not in XenApp 7." On the new page it's called XenDesktop 7, but you can see that the features they're talking about are for XenApp.


@Brian, you mentioned the progress VMware made with Horizon 6.1 (or whatever it's called), but many of the comments today mention other missing features... How long until RDSH and published apps on Horizon have parity with XenApp 6.x? And by neck and neck, do you mean just feature parity or do you mean new licenses sold? I guess we'll see how many improvements they announce at VMworld.


VMware has been working to raise the bar but it was their bar to raise and contrary to popular thought Citrix is not standing still. Elliot’s activist investor pressure is having the desired effect but I think they accelerated change at Citrix, not caused it, it was just a matter of time.

I don’t think the race is as close as you indicate. Citrix has at least 120 million users with XenDesktop and XenApp and is in 98% of the Fortune 500. Those are numbers from an IDC report, not me.  I don’t think VMware is even 20-25% of that.  While VMware have made some moves that are finally getting Citrix customers to do a double take at some new bells and whistles, actually getting a customer to jump ship from Citrix to VMware is easier said than done. Do you know anyone ever fired for choosing Citrix over VMware?  It’s like the old adage in the tech industry, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM vs. taking a chance on #2.”

I am also curious of what “seats” VMware is actually counting.  Are they counting the multitude of View/Horizon seats that have been rumored for years to have been thrown in with vSphere/ESX Server deals?  Or are they counting actual installed and in use licenses?

Aside from any technology advancements, VMware, while leader of the datacenter with server virtualization, still has a lot of market catching up to do to be on par with the enviable Citrix customer user base and partner ecosystem. While it seems the tightly knit ecosystem strategy waned for a few years, Citrix has made improvements in the last couple of years that have it back in full force. Three examples include the new and rapidly growing CUGC user groups, the return of Citrix Summit for partners a couple of years ago, and the impressive 25,000+ Citrix Ready technology partners.

No doubt, Citrix finally has some competition but with apx. 80% of the market still owned by Citrix I think it’s too early to proclaim VMware will break even with them in a year.  

So who will win? That’s almost like asking if Apple or Android is better. Both will be around for a long while. Customers are the real ones that stand to benefit with increased competition.


@Brian: You did realize that the KB article you quote is 18 months old and 95% of these features are in XenApp 7.6 today? In addition 7.6 has a few features which were not in 6.5. So, yes there was a feature gap, but (with a few exceptions) this has been closed. In fact I´m a bit shocked to see you talking about this in such a way...


..what I also wonder is why you assume that Citrix will stand still waiting for VMware to catch up...


I wish Shawn Bass would way in on this


Hello everyone.  Of course I saw this thread and despite Nathan's request I do not want to get into the technical differences between Citrix and VMware simply because I don't believe that most people would view me as unbiased even though I personally don't think I've drunk the kool-aid just yet.   That being said, VMware has made a monster amount of innovation in this space in a very short period of time.   While I agree with Brian's prediction, I don't think the time table is correct at all.

I would like to echo Jason Smith's comment that competition is good for customers and it benefits the whole industry.   So let's do this!


I am curious of thoughts on Dell's vWorkspace.  I reviewed it about a year ago (v 8.5?) and felt it was pretty close to features in XA 7.


H iBrian

If by "VMware Horizon 6 will be neck-and-neck with Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp in the enterprise." you mean new licenses sold in 2016, I think you might not be too far off, but if you mean total licenses in use, then no, not by a long way.

Citrix's biggest problem is that it's already put a check in every box on the features list, and is having to invent new boxes to continue to retain its superiority.  In contrast 'all' VMware has to do is keep plugging away until its feature complete.

Grossly over simplified, Citrix is approaching Bugatti levels of development, its built the pinnacle of engineering in its domain, but there’s too few places in the world where you can exploit it to the full.

More interestingly, and to continue the motoring analogy, Sphere3D's about to do for RDS what Google is about to do for cars.



There are a lot of XA only shops out there who do not need XD.

Bundling products is a way to screw the customer.

Citrix should again come out with a XA AppCenter management interface for XA7.x.

The Management interface of XD studio is too disruptive to the traditional administrator who has been using the easy AppCenter administration tool for the past 10 years.

The Citrix product and parts name changing game strategy is so unfriendly to customers.....but that is another topic.


@Scott Wilson, I work for Dell and focus on vWorkspace.

If you are after a solution that is simple and easy to work with rather than a Bugatti then vWorkspace is definitely worth reviewing, and the nice part is that it is very cost effective.


Companies moving away from Citrix to VMware, well they have to be crazy or just SMBs. I saw many companies complaining about cost and VDI (Citrix) just because of poor design and understanding of implementation. Long millions disastrous designs just because architects and engineers are useless. Horizon, it’s amazing what can be done with marketing.

It's almost end of 2016 and VMware is not even close to Citrix.
They get new clients just because of the brand, lower prices, lack of Citrix admin skills. Uh and I forgot people think VMware is better.
You were wrong but that's not the point here and I'm not glad you're wrong. The point is that since some time, VMware doesn't add new features. Up until now it was quite easy to be a really fast adopter (aka copy-cat) but currently they lack the finesse Citrix has and it started to be really hard for them to add new features.
In 2014 I said that in 2017 they will be comparable but I'd say now that 2018 might be the year.
This is 2019 now and Vmware is still Vmware and Citrix is still doing what they've been known to do best.  Horizon is on maybe 30% of VDIs out but Server based VDI is probably 90% Citrix.  I don't know any company that uses exclusively Vmware Horizon for Server based VDI.  Many places Horizon desktop VDI but Citrix Xenapp server hosted apps or desktops in specialized depts or for remote access.