Microsoft and Citrix...Is there a competition brewing?

Listen to this podcast

Brian and I have been talking, most recently on Brian Madden TV, about how Microsoft and Citrix have become competitors since each has a VDI solution. With their product lines and release dates fresh in my mind, I thought I'd take a look and see if there is anything to this growing sentiment that Microsoft and Citrix are becoming "frenemies."

Brian and I have been talking, most recently on Brian Madden TV, about how Microsoft and Citrix have become competitors since each has a VDI solution. With their product lines and release dates fresh in my mind, I thought I'd take a look and see if there is anything to this growing sentiment that Microsoft and Citrix are becoming "frenemies."


These "Microsoft hates Citrix" rumors have been going on for so long now that I forget when they started. "Bear Paw," which was the code name for what was to be Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003, was slated to be the "Citrix Killer." Since then, people have been looking for ways to "do it without Citrix," and each new version of Windows Server brings new features to RDS that people hope will allow them to leave Ft. Lauderdale and take up residence permanently in Redmond.

In the past, it was easy to look at Citrix and Microsoft as friends. Every time Citrix sold a XenApp (or Presentation Server, or MetaFrame) license, Microsoft sold a TS CAL, so it was like Microsoft had a whole fleet of non-Microsoft sales reps selling their product.  Microsoft didn't care if people chose XenApp over Remote Desktop Services, because they sold the license anyway. That arrangement continues to this day, and not just for Citrix. Quest is a big fish in the SBC world, and has a good relationship with Microsoft. While Citrix, Quest, and smaller companies like Ericom compete against each other, Microsoft is cool with it all.

2007 was a sign of things to come, although we didn't know it.  It's when Citrix acquired XenSource, and turned out their own hypervisor - XenServer.  Microsoft followed with Hyper-V in 2008, and later formed a partnership with Citrix in the face of stiff competition from VMware.  The partnership between Citrix and Microsoft meant that there would be some commonalities between XenServer and Hyper-V, namely with the disk image container and the management of the virtual machines.  The thing is, if you chose one product (rather, the management products to support those hypervisors), you essentially weren't choosing the other. This is the beginning of Microsoft actually taking sales away from Citrix. A huge deal?  Not really, but a sign of things to come.

In 2009, Microsoft released the VDI Suite, which we kind of look upon as the first time Microsoft really started to take on Citrix in the desktop virtualization space. If you think about it in the same terms as the Citrix/Microsoft relationship with XenApp and RDS, it's hard to find any common ground. The products do the same thing, and it's not like XenDesktop rides on top of VDI Suite and enhances it the same way that XenApp rides on top of RDS. For the first time in desktop virtualization, if you chose Citrix, Microsoft lost out.  And, if you chose Microsoft, you'd have no reason to follow that up with Citrix.  That's competition! Of course, Microsoft still receives licensing dollars for VECD, but they get that either way.

Up to this point, mid-2009, it appeared that Microsoft had been leading the charge for competition.  VDI Suite has an edition that contains the full capabilities of RDS, a full feature-set that, at the time, only Quest (Microsoft's "other" SBC partner) could lay claim to.  In late 2009, however, Citrix announced that XenDesktop 4 would also be including the features of XenApp, which boils down to a single-SKU competing product to VDI Suite. (I suppose it's worth noting that, if you use the XenApp features of XenDesktop, Microsoft still gets the licensing dollars for the RDS CAL)

What we're starting to see is a little like a tug-of-war between Microsoft and Citrix.  It could be all coincidental, but ignoring the features and looking at the products themselves show that there is definitely some competition going on here. Whether or not either party says that "want" to compete or not is irrelevant--the fact of the matter is that they are competing, even if it's unintentional.

What does this mean in the short/long term?  Short term, I think we start to get some of those little features that we've always wanted. It's already happening, actually. The XenDesktop 4 change of single SKU for XenDesktop/XenApp is a big deal, as is the more refined, almost single, management console. Long term, it's tough to say. Competition is usually good, leading to more innovation and better products, but few people go up against Microsoft and win.

One last thought: A lot of the same ideas here can apply to Quest, a company that also says they have a great relationship with Microsoft. Their vWorkspace product competes with VDI Suite every bit as much as XenDesktop does. There's no hypervisor element, so it's a little different, but there's still some conflicts.

I don't want this to sound like a tabloid, and I'm not trying to stir up any ill will or anything, but when I sat down to look at it, I saw a trend. What do you think?


Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

There are only two ways the Citrix arrow moves to the right. One, is if VMWare's own arrow moves left (or even gets back on the scale at all?).  The other would be if the Management of Citrix really screwed up and ruined the relationship.

The ecomonic argument can be made between Microsoft any just about any of the players in this market.  Hopefully one or more of these players makes a really good solution soon that we all want; then we, they, and Microsoft all win.


Gabe certainly not a tabloid thought in there at all, you are hitting upon something very real here. I’ve spoken to friends at Microsoft about this before and their advise to me always follow the money to understand what MS gives a sh1t about. I.e. What are they selling now.

So what is MS trying to shove down my throat currently? SA with MDOP as a sweetener. They are not trying to sell me VDI or TS Cals. With VECD nobody is rushing out to buy VDI. VECD is here to stay until I predict the vast majority of people have upgraded to fat PCs on Windows 7 so MS can keep selling device based software and slow innovation for the world for another 8 years while they enjoy the profits. VECD needs to be user based, that’s the future. MS don’t care about TS or desktop virt. They make money from fat PC sales period. Citrix on top of TS cals was just a free revenue stream for them in an area they don’t care about. The TS team has no power vs. the client teams. MS tell me App-V is the greatest thing since sliced bread if only I would buy SA and MDOP and even more for Systems Center on top of that for advanced management capabilities. I am implementing desktop virtualization, don’t give a sh1t about App-V or MDOP, don’t need a single piece of software there, especially sh1tty Med-V. If I want App Virt I can use a number of cheaper options. I already own ThinApp from VMWare, I have Citrix streaming/Tarpon as a feature, and if I want to really solve a problem I have a much better isolation engine from XenoCode.

MS hates Citrix streaming, because it does not help them with SA/MDOP sales. CONFLICT as my MS friends explain to me is already here. This allows Quest to play new  in town and simply copy Citrix  and just sell TS Cals because they help sell SA/MDOP. If I am right, this would just further underline how arrogant and stupid MS really are. They allow VMWare to take control of VDI, even if that is a small part of the total desktop market worldwide since MS will slow adoption with VECD. Perhaps that as is as far as MS thinks in this space. Slow VDI, if it takes off we’ll buy our way in because we can, our focus is next gen destkop in the cloud.

The real questions here are going to be what is Citrix going to do to innovate to remain relevant as MS just makes their VDI a bit better over time? Will Citrix continue with their streaming if what I am saying is true? I think they should. Is Microsoft humble enough to understand that they need the Citrixs of the world to be strong to hurt VMWare while they figure out Bing, Xbox, Windows Mobile, Azure etc? Quest will have no volume impact. Hey if MS wants to sell SA/MDOP why not let the likes of Citrix extend App-V so they can stop competing on streaming and focus instead on the bigger prize winning against VMWare on the desktop?


Hi Gabe,

Even though this comment can never be considered an official statement from Quest I would like to share what I perceive to be very important about the strategy that Quest follows with regard to Microsoft.

It is indeed tempting to say that "One last thought: A lot of the same ideas here can apply to Quest, a company that also says they have a great relationship with Microsoft"

You are somewhat right, however there is a big difference between Citrix and Quest:

Quest (vWorkspace) does not want to compete with Microsoft. Period.

That is why we:

* do not push another Hypervisor

* do not push our own Application virtualization

* use RDP in stead of a proprietary protocol

* the list goes on...

In the case that there is overlap, such as in 2008 R2, for example, we try to remain true to our promise to not compete. So for example: in 2008 R2 Microsoft introduced their own Bi-directional Audio (which is pretty solid by the way) where Quest vWorkspace already used to have that. So now, when you connect to a 2008 R2 RD Session Host, Quest vWorkspace's Bi-Directional audio will be disabled by default and Microsoft's will be enabled.

Quest (vWorkspace) simply aims to embrace and extend the current >2003 /XP platforms to provide a clear value-add for out customers (and Microsoft).

Without going into detail I would recommend everyone watch Quest this quarter to see another example of this strategy materialize. That might be an even clearer example of how we definitely do not compete like Citrix does but provide a very clear value-add to the native Microsoft SBC and VDI platform features.


Michel Roth.

(a Quest employee)


I understand what you're saying, Michel, but whether or not you want to compete or not is irrelevant.  The fact is, Quest had a capable product, that Microsoft didn't offer, built on the technologies that Microsoft has, and in large part due to the partnership with Microsoft.  In spite of that, Microsoft released a product that competes with vWorkspace.

Quest can make small changes like using Microsoft's bidirectional audio instead of their own, but if a customer says "we're considering either vWorkspace or VDI Suite," what happens? I think it's unlikely Quest or Microsoft simply backs down.

And that's really my point with this article.  Everyone is saying "We're wonderful friends with Microsoft," but underneath that is clear competition, regardless of whether or not any of the companies want it there.


Great now we have an emerging MS B I T C H that will do anything to try to gain market share with marginal innovation. If MS takes a dump perhaps all Quest employees should take MS certified dumps. Quest is just a small feature add to MS, locking people into MS management tools and pretending to be open. Limited thought leadership here, just a copy cat company looking to make a buck making little impact to really move things forward and pretending as Quest still to be a forward charging innovative company like Provision Networks who were trying to change S H I T. RedHat has much better thought leadership in this area as an emerging vendor in this space. What a f’ing disappointment, I had high hopes for innovation, not anymore. Just another MS B I T C H that will get 3% market share and make a lot of noise. I am glad VMWare View is here to get people to think non MS and glad that Citrix offers many options that give me choice outside of crappy RDP plus I don’t have to buy SA and MDOP which are $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.


Here goes appdetective again!!! All vulgarities and zero substance! Did I not recommend that you get a Xanax prescription, you moron???

I'm starting to believe that AppDetective is none other thn Brian Madden herself. Otherwise, why would she let that idiot go on and on like that? Besides, only a self-proclaimed evangelist like Brian would acknowlege this freaking yahoo by making his "prophecies" the centerprice of a recently published article.

AppDetective = Brian Madden


Why is this any different than TS vs XenApp?  Everything you wrote Gabe is the same exact argument that can be used for TS vs XenApp.


When did Brian change genders? did I miss something??? should we call him Brianna now?

@edgeseeker - you are wrong. Appdetective adds valuable and entertaining comments to an otherwise (sometimes) dry section. at least he has b@lls to speak his mind. I think it is great appdetective has his anti-establishment rants it reminds those of you who have been drinking Microsoft coolaid what scam/ripoff they sell. keep ranting aptective.


Edgeseeker, if you actually had any valid believes of your own perhaps Brian/He/She/It would allow you to share them....Of course that starts with a valid comment on the posts first. How’s your global scalable Parallels rollout going? Have you been sold Quest to manage your Parallels  environment and now are just angry that you should have bet with MS? I’ll leave it at that, not interested in a flame war with somebody who has no insight. I think you are first person ever to have your comments deleted on so perhaps this is your second claim to fame. Good luck for 2010, look forward to your contribution to the community that let’s us see beyond the marketing slides and vendor BS. Or will you like last time make make school girl comments to refute a point for the sake of it and follow me around this forum?


I'll turn off comments if this continues to drift off topic.  It's an important thing to talk about, so let's keep it going.


Hi Gabe,

(I am not going to join the frenzy going on but)

When you say "I think it's unlikely Quest or Microsoft simply backs down", that is actually not true in most cases. From what I have seen (and heard from my colleagues) is that it is actually very likely. If a customer can do with just 2008 R2 (for example) we walk away, we shouldn't be in there. Our aim is to service customers that need more than the out of the box experience which thankfully is not always enough. This a very strong Quest tradition and not just for vWorkspace.

This is not rocket science but the way we have decided to do business. I just think that we are more of a clear value-add (versus overlap/compete) than "the other guy".

Just my two cents.


@ Jeff - To me, the difference is that XenApp enhances TS, so going with the Microsoft solution does not necessarily take a sale away from Citrix because you have to have the Microsoft piece before you can get the Citrix piece.

That's different from the VDI Suite/XenDesktop or VDI Suite/Quest dynamic, because a choice of VDI Suite means that you're not choosing one of the other products, period.


@Gabe  - but to Microsoft why do they care?  If someone goes with any other VDI product a Win7 and VECD license is still sold.  I don't see how MS even cares.  Your right, the  other vendors may care but MS doesn't.  My point is, why would Microsoft consider any of these other solutions as a competitor since they get the money no matter what?


@Jeff, that was the case before the VDI Suite bundles came out, but now Microsoft has a complete package, sold as a bundle of products on a per user basis and separately from Win 7 and VECD licenses.  

That's the key - everyone's getting screwed on licensing no matter which solution is chosen, I'll give you that. That aside (since it's the same for everyone), there's still a choice to make: Microsoft, Citrix, or Quest, of which you can only have one.  And that means the other two lose out.

Naturally, VMware, Symantec, and others are in there, too, and they are also in this competition, but the key here is that Citrix and Quest have longstanding partnerships with Microsoft.


I'm not getting involved in this flame war, but I'm not sure I follow you Appdetective on how Quest just has small add on's to MS and locks you into MS management tools...have you even seen Quest vWorkspace?  If anything Quest provides people (like myself) an alternative to Citrix's ridiculous SA costs.  THAT, my friend, is competition, not which hypervisor you choose to run on.

Until you're running VDI on Ubuntu desktops and OpenOffice or Xterm for SBC, isn't everything an add-on to MS?  Irregardless if it's Quest, View, XenDesktop, MS still gets paid as long as you run a Windows OS, oh yeah and they also get paid on the Office, Visio, Project, OCS and CoreCAL licenses too in VDI, TS or traditional PC.

"I am glad VMWare View is here to get people to think non MS " is running XP/7 VM's in a hypervisor with a real shitty front end and display protocol that still pales in comparison to ICA getting people to think non-MS???

Hey, I love to rock the anti-establishment movement any chance I get, but I don't think your comments make much all means...clarify, I always enjoy your perspective.


Are MSFT really selling lots of MDOP? I'm told it's one of their biggest sellers and I just can't see it.

I have real problems with them locking MDOP away to SA customers only. On the flip side I guess you need to get some value from the SA investment.

SA, as a concept, is really hard to chew for me. You're telling me that I need to commit to paying you every year for 3 years to have access to new features when my users barely use the ones available and for you to fix the problems in your products as others uncover them! Hang on....shouldn't you be paying me???

Can you tell we don't have SA and to be honest we are quite proud of the commercials that have materialised in regards to stepping out of an EA some time ago.

(rant off topic....apolgies)

I'm still not sure why MSFT should care about Citrix to be honest. The old TS CAL for every XenApp is now compliemented with the VECD with every XenDesktop (every f%$king year). Not sure if anything really changes in the relationship.

Keep up to passion gents !!!


All the products mentioned here (article and posts) have a significant cost implication for people in the SBC and/or VDI space.

I encourage everyone to really flesh out all the costs of both SBC and VDI and make an informed judgement on what they do with both approaches.

Virtualisation in the data centre ripped out a lot of cost. Applying virtualisation to end user computing doesn't have this same benefit IMHO.

When "business agility" is the main aspect of the marketing slides...... READ "this sh!t is going to cost me bucket loads".


Make no mistake, this isn't brewing - it's BREWED!

(My 2 cents of course!)

As appdetective's MS friends said - "follow the money".

"There's gold in them hills" - and the grand poobars at MS, CX and many others have known this for some time now. Whether they intend to compete, or consider themselves in competition or not is irrelevant - the reality is - they are - simply by virtue of the fact they're after the same prize...

According to Gartner "the HVD market in 2009 was expected to be around $1.5 billion... and is expected to increase to $65.7 billion by 2013... which will be equal to more than 40% of the worldwide professional PC market". - and that's just one element of desktop virtualization !!

Regardless of what they have or will say in the public forum regarding their position relative to others, they pinned their ears back in the boardroom a while ago, and we're simply witnessing one of the earlier phases of this scramble up that hill for that valuable DV market share gold.

The accelerated product innovation and development in this space over the last few years is testimony to this, and will continue as startups emerge, with some doubtless being acquired and integrated by the big guys in order to turbocharge their respective scramble over the coming years.


I think AppDetective is Zack de la Rocha.  Why?  Because Zack is way anti-establishment and isn't doing much of anything after the breakup of RATM.  Trying to figure out how Zack knows much about our industry now...Hmmmmm ;)


@Tony. Yes I’ve seen vWorkspace and yes they have done a nice job on an integrated mgmt console and some nice enhancements to RDP AKA EOP, but you still the MS crap on top for $$. There are key sticking points.

My users don’t give a F about EOP. It’s nowhere near as good as ICA/HDX. On LAN PCoIP kills it hands down. For SBC and VDI, I need the best possible user experience over diverse networks. There is only one real world MATURE option ICA/HDX today. All the rest of the solutions equal tons of compromise. My business sponsors also don’t give a F if the mgmt console is pretty, that’s my problem. They want to hear about features that they give a crap about, making my life easier is not one of them. Just go look at what VMWare is doing. Zimbra, Spring source are taking them in new directions and adding to their value making their Hypervisor sticky, although they may not be able to execute on all fronts. I admire the balls. Pretty console is old news.

The Citrix SA cost argument is bogus in many use cases. Quest forces you to buy SA/MDOP because they have no application virt offering, nor the balls to do anything here. Without it you have a half assed solution, and that’s one of the reasons why Quest has less market share than Red Hat in VDI who also don’t have an app-virt solution. Citrix does not force you to buy, which is good for lot’s of customers, but pisses MS sales off. Also SA costs in many cases is legacy XA folks, new XD 4 pricing irrespective or your view on lack of CCU for higher end editions coupled with discounts they give especially now make this is a premium for more features that makes sense for many. Yes I would like to pay less too, but hidden costs of so called cheaper offerings and what they really represent need to be factored in. Also having ESX, Windows and ICA, gives customers a good vendor mix to play against each other to avoid lock in.

@Clayton. Just ask your local friendly MS Rep what they are paid on to answer your MDOP question. That’s what matters not implementation or quality of product to them. Anything that stands in the way of that is a problem for them, and Quest are out there trying to convince the world that they are the new girlfriend in town that will help. For Quest this is a great strategy. They have no market share, so suck up to MS as much as possible to be pulled into deals. It’s the obvious thing for a tier 3 player to do. Do not believe for one second the comments from Quest in this thread that they don’t want to compete. Read them as they have no better option.

Citrix competes with MS on a number of fronts. Just look at their GoToMeeting product vs. LiveMeeting. The only advantage of LiveMeeting is that one can host it internally. Otherwise it sucks. That does not mean MS and Citrix are at war, it’s just worked out. Same goes for many of the other products.

However as Gabe points out there is something else going on. I just don’t believe the fight is at the VDI level today based on what I have learned, it’s at the SA/MDOP level, hence the BS games from Quest. If MS weren’t so stupid and arrogant, they would react to the opportunity that @Keiran points out and align their partners behind them to go after the real opportunity of desktops and letting VMWare get a hold.....

@Shawn, I just talk to Sales reps and follow the money. Often helps bring bottom line clarity to what’s really going on.


I'm officially boycotting any further posts like this.   Don't read, don't respond, let him/her argue with static.  Have a nice life.


I use vWorkspace for virtual desktops that have a particular use case and set of applications for which I paid for the VECD licenses. But did not purchase SA for desktops. I could use any application virtualization platform I choose to pay for on the virtual desktops just as I can on physical desktops as well as TS. As in all things; variance in complexity can change drastically upon implementation to production environments.

As for the topic of this article, contention is obvious  where offerings overlap, but it hasn't reached the critical point where partnerships degrade into wholesale relationship killing. There is still to much to be gained by working together.


That's great news.

We've actually found the guy that's purchased a VECD license.

I was starting to believe that the person didn't exist.



@Patrick. This is not the Beging edition of a blog that toes the party line. You guys are out there making statements that show your true colors as pushing the MS agenda, You can choose to ignore that and feedback from the sales teams  or demonstrate via innovation why anybody should care.


With all respects to the individuals @Patrick Rouse @Michel Roth

The reflections made in the main article and comments by the author are all very valid. The hard critique and pointing out the obvious contradictions as stated by AppDetective is self indicted hurt by the spokesmen of Quest in this thread, none of which should fall on behalf of the messenger, except of course the faul language and walking on the very thin line. But give or take, that’s the signum and trademark of AppDetective. I ‘m rather beaten to bruises when my arguments fail than served with milk and honey, or is that thought too far off of political correctness?