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.


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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Wasn't expecting anything from them this soon so it's got to be worth a look. Some of the missing bits are only relevant to specific use cases so this could be a significant development for some users. The pricing looks very attractive (compared to the stupidity of Citrix's). Problem is, I really need one user interface and management tool-set for SBC and VDI - can't see VMWare delivering that any time soon.


Wow Brian, that was fast! The release ist just 3 hours old! By the way, additionally to the OEM'ed printing components, Thinprint is offering add-ons to VMware View which allow the usage of dedicated printservers and thin clients with virtual desktops. Check dotprint.thinprint.com/euen


Great info. Do you know where I can find more about their true multimonitor feature?


The true multimonitor feature was licensed from Wyse. (It's the "multi-display" part of TCX.


FYI, VMware licensed the multi-display and multimedia stuff from Wyse. The USB is their own.. not the Wyse TCX USB.


That took longer then 60 seconds....


It would be interesting to see a comparison between PVS and View Composer, as to how the stream the OS to the desktop/vdi instance.  Also what protocol its using.  Brian, do you plan to do a technical comparison on the brokers and streaming products (both app and OS streaming)?


I will be doing an in-depth comparison of PVS and View Composer. View Composer does not use a streaming protocol because it does not stream the images. It's getting / assembling vmdk files from shared storage. (So it has the effect of acting like PVS in a VDI scenario, but it is not like PVS.)

I can do a broker comparison too. As for the app streaming / virtualization, I might need to enlist someone like Ruben to help out with that. He's done presentations like that at BriForum in the past (ThinApp vs. SVS vs. App-V vs. XenApp Streaming), and he's much more knowledgeable there than me.


Hi Brian,

Thanks for the feedback.  Personally I am more curious as to how PVS compared with View Composer.  I'm quite familiar with PVS and highly recommend it, however I can not seem to find much about Composer and the nuts and bolts as to how it works.





How does this product stack up against XEN Server with Provisioning Server combination and ability to serve up virtually unlimited numbers of static XP sessions using a single disk file image?  The VMware product still requires a 1 to 1 ratio of SAN storage to VM whereas the Citrix product can do 1 to 1000 or whatever the hardware configuration can handle?  Seems to me that this alone would blow the VMware offering out of the water?


I want to raise a general question about Virtual Desktops at all (and I may get hammered for this, but that's okay)...

I talked with Gus Pinto about this for awhile at BriForum last Spring, too...

Here's a question:  Why a "Desktop" at all??  Users -- including me -- need a "desktop" (or a computer of any kind) for one reason:  To get to their "stuff"... Apps, Data, Mapped Drives, Printers, Devices (CD/DVD, flash drives, etc.) and Storage ("My Documents", Home Directories, etc.)...

ALL these things can be made available via Published Apps; even Content can be published... So why not do away with that extra layer of complexity, and focus primarily on getting these Resources published (via a Web Interface page) directly, to Users?

I understand the concept of a SAN-based, "find-me-follow-me" Desktop, and all the "cool" features that go along with it, but I just don't see why publishing the *things* a User would need isn't a more preferable solution...

Just a question... :)



Gordan Payne from Citrix is blogging about "Client Hypervisors!"



Regarding Brain Murphy's comment  

"The VMware product still requires a 1 to 1 ratio of SAN storage to VM whereas the Citrix product can do 1 to 1000 or whatever the hardware configuration can handle?  Seems to me that this alone would blow the VMware offering out of the water?"


The View composer includes link clone functionality  which, allows for multiple VM to operate off one master image, with only a differential created, each diff file starts a about 64KB and can grow to about 1GB due to the page file size growth in the diff VM. So the storage Ratio is no longer 1:1. If you have a 10GB master image the worst case is 1:10 and you can work out the best case...

What composer also allows is for the VM to be refreshed or blown away. Creating a new diff  VM for a user with a new 64kb diff of the same image or potentially a new snapshot or layer of the master image with an upgrade, patch or new app installed.

It also allows sandboxing of user data and app settings. which can be applied to a new VM at logon allowing user setting and data to move with the user to a new VM possibly XP to Vista, Similar to assigning / streaming virtual apps from NAS.

This also could allows for a policy of blowing away the VM at logoff and creating a new VM at logon, based on the current or upgraded master image or associated image layer. This would ensure diff VM files remain small making storage efficiency even better and ensuring  the user desktop is always up to date.  It could also be used as "last know good" or “always good” to stop viruses or user created issues.

Depending on the usage cases the combination can be very powerful for desktop management.


Response to jm007

Thanks for the information, I was not aware of this capability relative to VMWare.  

My team recently implemented the XEN solution (Server, DDC, PVS) behind a pair of ICA Proxies (Netscalers) and WI 5.0 (multiple behind F5 VIP).

I have to admit that I am not fully apprised of all the VMWare desktop product versus XEN Desktop.  Is there a comparison matrix out there that discusses differences with costs comparison?

Question, you answer speaks to the storage but what are your thoughts regarding the centralized web interface portal (WI 5) in combination with the advanced ability of ICA protocol versus RDP.  

Does VMWare have a centralized interface, ability to create load balanced desktop groups, and I'm assuming that a connection is established using RDP on TCP 3389?  

What are you comments relative to ICA versus RDP over the Internet (I'm speaking to WAN performance, security, printing, graphic intense programs, and so forth).

With the XEN product, it basically converts the Windows XP workstation into a miniature Citrix server thereby giving you all the benefits of ICA in a smaller package and isolated environment (to certain degree) versus the shared server (published applications or virtual desktops).  

I look forward to your response.


Response to Brain Murphy,

Regarding a web interface VMware’s version ( Secure connection server) it can provide SSL encrypted connections, Single Sign On, Smart Card Authentication, RSA Secure ID Integrations for two factor authentication, DMZ deployment and secure AD integration through ADAM.

The Unified Access acts as a connection broker for VDI, TS, physical and Blade PC access, a through desktop client or web interface. The Secure connection servers (SCS) scale well and can sit behind load balancers, in VDM2 I think the recommendation was 1 SCS per 1000 users.

I don’t have a comparison matrix, but I am sure Brian will have something soon?

I agree with Brain on some of his posts. VDI is not a full solution just yet but VMware are very close to the ideal. In my opinion there are still two main components missing, a better remote access protocol for enhanced graphics and client side hypervisor to check out DC managed VM’s to, so you only manage one VM centrally rather then a VM and Laptop OS. Possibly some enhancement to offline functionality, potentially having the option to select what type of changes or delta’s to check back in, for example user data changes only or full VM changes.

ICA is better than RDP due to RDP’s build in latency and ICA’s Virtual channels. I am not to sure about all the enhancement to the RDP protocol itself in View, However, thinprint (includes WAN print compression ), TCX-MMR (for multimedia) and TCX-MDS (for multi-display) from Wyse have been included in Views protocol enhancements and once the publicized Teradici graphics enhancement are added it should be complete. But they have also hedged there bets working with Sun’s ALP, Pano Logic’s Console Direct and if you want to pay for ICA licensing you can use that too in you VMs.

Hopefully View client hypervisor come sooner rather than later, VMworld Europe 2009 would be good, rather than VMworld 2009. One thing is sure it will change the face of desktop management.

Who knows maybe MS can still pull something out their hat to Wow! us.