Citrix and VMware have been among the leading VDI pioneers and are now competing head-to-head in a related market, DaaS. Both vendors are well respected in this growing area.
First, some background. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology was developed many years back as a way to virtualize the desktop. It enables access to enterprise systems from almost any PC, smartphone, or tablet. Servers, applications, files, and services are made available to authorized users. How? By transferring desktop workloads from the device to centralized servers – the device then becomes a means of connecting a work platform. It does not contain the applications; the device is solely a means of accessing and viewing the data.
VDI technology has come a long way in recent years. While some still deploy it using in-house hardware, the market has shifted toward the Desktop as a Service (DaaS) model. DaaS provides virtual desktop services as well as applications that are aimed at enabling a seamless remote workforce, allowing organizations to raise productivity and efficiency and heighten security, and to remove many of the complexities involved in VDI. Instead of managing the underlying hardware in the data center, those functions can be pushed into the cloud and handed off to an external provider.
Citrix and VMware both provide strong VDI and DaaS offerings. But which is best for your company?
Citrix vs. VMware VDI/DaaS: Key Feature Comparison
Citrix offers well-established VDI and DaaS platforms. The emphasis, these days, is on Citrix DaaS (formerly known as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops). It provides either cloud-based or on-premises desktop virtualization to Windows, Linux, and web applications and ensures desktop delivery from multiple devices over any network.
The Citrix solution comes with plenty of security features. Built-in HDX technology helps with delivery of multimedia and graphics applications without the lag times sometimes experienced with VDI. A central cloud console provides management of-premises workloads alongside cloud-based DaaS environments. The solution is available via a monthly subscription.
VMware also offers both VDI and DaaS options. Since the market has gravitated toward DaaS, the company is giving the heaviest emphasis to its VMware Horizon DaaS platform. Features include multi-tenancy for greater security, a unified platform to provision and manage multiple workspaces, as well as geographic scalability across data centers and plenty of cloud flexibility – it is deployable on private, public, or hybrid clouds. VMware offers an advanced Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) as a desktop feature that supports graphic designers, architectural and mechanical design professionals, and similar power users that rely on high-quality graphics. There are many flavors available. It includes:
- Customer-managed desktop virtualization infrastructure that can be deployed on vSphere in public clouds or on-prem.
- VMware Horizon Cloud that runs on Azure and can be deployed in minutes.
- Anywhere Workspace that enables employees to work from anywhere securely.
- VMware Workspace ONE, which adds more intelligence to a digital workspace platform
Both Citrix and VMware have a good track record in the marketplace, but VMware gets the nod due to its DaaS features being a little more comprehensive than those of Citrix.
Also see: Why Cloud Means Cloud Native
Citrix vs. VMware VDI/DaaS: Deployment Comparison
Citrix is relatively easy to deploy and lets users spin up more desktops as needed. It can run on-prem, in the cloud, or in a hybrid configuration. User reviews tend to place Citrix a little ahead of VMware in ease of deployment and technical support. Ease of use is an area the company has regularly been addressing via updates and upgrades.
VMware has enough flexibility so users can deploy VDI and manage the infrastructure internally or in the cloud, whether public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It includes a cloud-based console and SaaS management services. This makes it easier to automate the provisioning and management of virtual desktops and apps and deliver personalization. Horizon 7 includes a Workspace Environment Management (WEM) platform that allows users to manage, monitor, and expedite the delivery of applications, desktops, and infrastructure across their environments, and ensures that data is secured back in the data center.
Per user feedback, Citrix is the winner in this category.
Citrix vs. VMware VDI/DaaS: Comparing Integration
Citrix DaaS is optimized for Microsoft Azure integration. As such, it supports Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, and other tools. Additionally, it supports peripherals such as monitors, USB devices, and webcams. But it can operate in the cloud or on-premises and with Windows, Linux, and most web applications. As well as Azure, the company lists integration with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft App-V, VMware vSphere, and more.
VMware Horizon has deep integration into the VMware technology ecosystem, including vSphere and vCenter. It also integrates with Azure and other cloud services. Users rate its integration capabilities higher than Citrix.
Both solutions offer plenty of integration options, and while VMware is more focused on its own ecosystem, user ratings give it a narrow win in this category.
Citrix vs. VMware VDI/DaaS: Security Comparison
Citrix DaaS comes with multi-factor authentication, real-time monitoring, session watermarking, password management, and protection of access permissions and policies based on location or device of employees.
VMware Horizon DaaS provides desktop-level OS anti-virus and anti-malware protection, as well as plenty of other security features for secure remote access from any device. A close partnership with security firm Carbon Black is built around a zero-trust model across users, apps, and endpoints. Device state, location, and user behavior are used to determine which, if any, corporate resources users can access. Carbon Black brings to the table endpoint security, AV, Behavioral Endpoint Detection and Response, and more.
VMware wins on security.
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Citrix vs. VMware VDI/DaaS: Price Comparison
Citrix keeps pricing fairly straightforward. Citrix Daas Standard is $10 per user per month. The Advanced Plus version is $13; this adds hybrid cloud and on-prem provisioning and the ability to run apps on both. Citrix DaaS Premium is $20, which comes with additional monitoring, imaging, and security tools. Premium Plus is $23 and that includes performance analytics and security analytics features.
VMware Horizon pricing is harder to decipher. The pricing is $3,116 as a one-time cost for the basic VMware Horizon version. But the versioning gets a little complex. The next version is the same price but includes 10 users. The enterprise-class version is $4,362 for 10 users. It is difficult to unearth out how this all works, how much it is for more users, or how many users the basic version includes. Company documentation is lengthy but murky on the subject. The best strategy is likely to contact a sales rep.
However, it is likely that there are scenarios where VMware works out cheaper. But for simplicity of pricing, Citrix wins. This is supported by user feedback. Users tend to rate the flexibility of pricing in Citrix higher than VMware.
Citrix vs. VMware VDI/DaaS: Conclusion
Which solution is best? As usual, the answer is: it all depends. For on-prem workloads, Citrix is probably the right way to go. The company built its VDI business primarily in the on-prem space. It continues to excel there. Those security teams dealing with compliance standards and regulatory challenges in-house will find Citrix a good choice. That said, its DaaS and cloud desktop capabilities are strong, too. It offers a wide range of features to boost productivity in a secure way.
But VMware’s cloud focus puts it a little ahead on cloud deployments. Some users note occasional issues on Citrix DaaS when accessing some enterprise applications remotely, while others mention connection issues. VMware appears to suffer less from such problems.
Those organizations that have already invested in the VMware ecosystem will tend to gravitate toward Horizon DaaS. VMware also tends to score well on robustness, security, and scalability for over 50 seats, and cost for larger deployments. Its security features are hard to beat, although Citrix does a good job of security. Similarly, management functionality for large deployments favors VMware.
Bottom line: For large deployments, VMware is probably the best choice. For small and mid-sized deployments, the choice of Daas is heavily dependent on the specific environments. And for on-prem VDI, Citrix is the way to go.
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