Citrix and VMware were among the main pioneers of VDI and are now in direct competition in a related market, DaaS. Both vendors are highly respected in this growing region.
First, a little background. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology was developed many years ago 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 offloading desktop workloads from the device to centralized servers, the device then becomes a way to connect a work platform. It does not contain applications; the device is only a way to access and view 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 to the Desktop as a Service (DaaS) model. DaaS provides virtual office services as well as applications that aim to enable a seamless remote workforce, allowing organizations to increase productivity and efficiency and strengthen security, and remove many of the complexities involved in VDI. Instead of managing the underlying hardware in the data center, these functions can be moved to the cloud and offloaded to an external vendor.
Both Citrix and VMware have strong VDI and DaaS offerings. But what is best for your business?
Citrix vs VMware VDI/DaaS: Key Features Comparison
Citrix offers well-established VDI and DaaS platforms. The focus these days is on Citrix DaaS (formerly known as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops). It provides cloud-based or on-premises desktop virtualization for Windows, Linux, and web applications and delivers desktops from multiple devices over any network.
The Citrix solution comes with many security features. Integrated HDX technology makes it easy to deliver multimedia and graphics applications without the delays sometimes experienced with VDI. A central cloud console helps manage on-premises workloads alongside cloud-based DaaS environments. The solution is available via a monthly subscription.
VMware also offers VDI and DaaS options. Ever since the market shifted to DaaS, the company has placed utmost importance on 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 between data centers and cloud flexibility – it’s deployable across 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 who rely on high-quality graphics. There are many flavors available. He understands:
- Customer-managed desktop virtualization infrastructure that can be deployed on vSphere in public clouds or on-premises.
- VMware Horizon Cloud that runs on Azure and can be deployed in minutes.
- Anywhere Workspace that allows employees to work from anywhere securely.
- VMware Workspace ONE, which adds more intelligence to a digital workspace platform
Both Citrix and VMware have good track records in the market, but VMware gets the green light because its DaaS features are a bit more comprehensive than Citrix’s.
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Citrix versus VMware VDI/DaaS: Deployment Comparison
Citrix is relatively easy to deploy and allows users to create more desktops as needed. It can run on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid setup. User reviews tend to put Citrix a bit ahead of VMware in terms of ease of deployment and technical support. Ease of use is an area that the company regularly addresses through updates and upgrades.
VMware has enough flexibility for users to deploy VDI and manage infrastructure in-house or in the cloud, whether in public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It includes a cloud-based console and SaaS management services. This facilitates the automation of provisioning and management of virtual desktops and applications and offers customization. Horizon 7 includes a Workplace Management (WEM) platform that enables users to manage, monitor, and accelerate the delivery of applications, desktops, and infrastructure to their environments, and ensures that data is secure in the data center.
According to user feedback, Citrix is the winner in this category.
Citrix vs. VMware VDI/DaaS: Comparison The integration
Citrix DaaS is optimized for Microsoft Azure integration. As such, it supports Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, and other tools. Moreover, it supports peripherals such as monitors, USB devices and webcams. But it can work in the cloud or on-premises and with Windows, Linux, and most web apps. In addition to 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 although VMware is more focused on its own ecosystem, user ratings give it a narrow win in this category.
Citrix versus 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 employee location or device.
VMware Horizon DaaS provides operating system-level anti-virus and anti-malware protection, as well as many other security features for secure remote access from any device. A close partnership with security company Carbon Black is built around a zero-trust model between users, apps, and devices. Device state, location, and user behavior are used to determine what, 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 versus VMware VDI/DaaS: Price comparison
Citrix keeps pricing fairly simple. Citrix Daas Standard costs $10 per user per month. The Advanced Plus version costs $13; this adds hybrid cloud and on-premises provisioning and the ability to run applications on both. Citrix DaaS Premium costs $20, which includes additional monitoring, imaging, and security tools. Premium Plus costs $23 and includes performance scan and security scan features.
VMware Horizon pricing is harder to decipher. Pricing is $3,116 as a one-time cost for the base version of VMware Horizon. But the versioning gets a bit complex. The next version is the same price but includes 10 users. The enterprise-class version costs $4,362 for 10 users. It’s hard to find out how it all works, how much it costs for more users, or how many users the basic version includes. The company’s documentation is long but obscure on the subject. The best strategy is probably to contact a sales representative.
However, it is likely that there are scenarios where VMware runs cheaper. But for price simplicity, Citrix wins. This is supported by user feedback. Users tend to rate price flexibility in Citrix more than VMware.
Citrix versus VMware VDI/DaaS: Conclusion
Which solution is the best? As usual, the answer is: it all depends. For on-premises workloads, Citrix is probably the right fit. The company has built its VDI business primarily in the on-premises space. He continues to excel at it. Security teams dealing with compliance standards and internal regulatory challenges will find Citrix a good choice. That said, its DaaS and cloud desktop capabilities are also strong. It offers a wide range of features to increase productivity in a secure way.
But VMware’s focus on the cloud puts it a bit ahead of cloud deployments. Some users note occasional issues on Citrix DaaS when accessing certain enterprise applications remotely, while others report connection issues. VMware seems to suffer less from these issues.
Organizations that have already invested in the VMware ecosystem will tend to look to Horizon DaaS. VMware also tends to score well in terms of robustness, security, and scalability for 50+ seats, and cost for larger deployments. Its security features are hard to beat, although Citrix does a good job of security. Similarly, the management feature for large deployments favors VMware.
Conclusion: For large deployments, VMware is probably the best choice. For small to medium-sized deployments, the choice of Daas is highly dependent on the specific environments. And for on-premises VDI, Citrix is the way to go.
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