I was recently asked to compare XenDesktop to VMWare View. I’m always happy to handle such a request because I love comparing technology, especially Desktop Virtualization technology. Many of the articles I read online are overly biast, or approach it from one stand point. Also, this technology is changing DAILY and many of the articles are outdated. I’m sure by the time you read this article it will be outdated, so take anything I say with a grain of salt, and also call a consultant to see where I’m right, where I’m wrong and what may have changed to make it so.
The way I approach any technology at any customer is pretty basic but a lot of tech people tend to forget this: the “right” technology is whatever technology makes sense for the customers environment. I hate to break it to you but there is no perfect technology. Apple has its place, as do PCs, as does Linux. As a consultant its my job to know the various technologies and help the customer decide which technology is the best fit for them. When it comes to XenDesktop and VMWare View this can be very tricky because, contrary to popular belief, they are both very good solutions, so some detailed questions would have to be asked to determine which solution is the best fit for you.
My conclusion (I’ll give it to you now while you are only two paragraphs into this article) is that the reason you’ll choose one solution over the other is going to come down to two factors, cost and comfort level. A business that has been running Citrix for years is probably going to go XenDesktop, a company that has been running VMWare for years is probably going to go View. If you haven’t implemented any virtualization technology, I recommend you stop reading this article on Virtual Desktop Infrasturcture and just focus on server virtualization, it’s the bees knees (whatever that means). The fact is both technologies compete on all levels, Citrix will win some battles, as will View. If some battles are very important for you and your company, I recommend you document those battles then do a proof of concept to see which works best for you. No matter what I share in this article there is nothing that beats a real world test. And no matter what I share, it’ll all be outdated withing 3-months, because thats the build schedule on both of these products.
So lets get into it. XenDesktop and VMWare View are two competing technologies that both try to deliver one thing: A desktop experience without the need of a desktop. The idea being to centrally manage an entire network, and to remove that pesky need to replace your workstations every few years. There are six main compentents that need to work together to deliever a workable desktop, they are:
Everything is virtualized right. Well that’s the idea, although there are some solutions out there that do this same concept but with all physical devices (you have the government to thank for that bright idea) both XenDesktop and VMWare View use a hypervisor of some sort. XenDesktop will run on HyperV, XenServer, or VMWare (ESXi/vSphere), VMWare View only runs on ESX. I have heard numerous times that 80% of XenDesktop implementations run on ESX, this is a key conversation peice that I will get into later.
Unless you want to create 100 desktops one at a time, you’ll need something to provision (create) a desktop over and over and over, as many times as we want (or have licenses for) all from one base image. In short, think Ghost. on steroids and throw that in a blender with some Data De-Duplication.
I think most people know what this is, I’m focused on Windows 7 or XP in this article. But without the desktop itself there would be nothing going on so I need to include it. Also there is some thinking you need to do here, such as did you know you cannot legally virtualize Windows XP unless you own the Windows 7 License with SA. Oh yea, thanks for that lawyers at Microsoft. To virtualize XP, you need to by the VDA license, however if you have SA on your desktops its free. Food for thought.
Another thing that needs a lot of attention is how we manage and build a desktop. Optimizating a desktop is one of the most important thing that you need to do to insure a successful POC, Pilot, or Production system.
To connect to that XP/7 Desktop you don’t want to use RDP (I hope). You want to use the latest and greatest shizzle there is, that’s Port-ICA+HDX on the XenDesktop side (its a version of their ICA protocol) and PCoIP on the View side. Of course you can run RDP+TCX (A Wyse technology) on the View side, but I’m focusing on the best performance out of both products. There is a use case for RDP, the most common one I have seen is “oh %^ * we bought THAT kind of terminal! Oh well, we’ll use RDP.” 🙂 I digress, the desktop needs an Agent so we can use these advanced protocols, nuff said.
This handles the connections to the desktop from the end point device (the client) to the desktop (the VM).
Unfortunately for all of us IT guys, there are applications that we have to manage. You know without them life would be so easy. ) Application deployment is where we will see the major differences in these products. Citrix has been doing application deployment for a decade, VMWare. not so much. However, they approach this from very different angles, both are very interesting and have their benefits.
So there you have it, those are the components. Via IT Magic we can make all of those work together to give a unique desktop experience that in the end when you ask your users “How do you like that new Virtual Desktop experience?” They will respond, “What are you talking about?” Yeah, in the end your users won’t know that you did jack. A year in planning and deploying and in the end your users get the same damn desktop. Good job. ) (Hopefully you are well aware of the benefits of virtual desktops and therefore I have no need to explain why having the “same damn desktop” is completely and utterly awesome.)