VMware, Citrix lead in VDI tools, Gartner says

At many of VMworld’s major general sessions, VMware Inc. has stuck to its strong message of trying to bridge the gap between applications running on private and public clouds.

In taking this approach, it seems that desktop virtualization has taken a bit of a back seat for the company. Besides the announcement of an updated version of VMware View, the company’s virtual desktop management platform, VMware executives barely mentioned desktop virtualization at the company’s opening keynote.

To fill this gap, Gartner Research Inc.’s virtualization guru Chris Wolf held a session breaking down the key players in the server-hosted virtual desktop management space.

Citrix XenDesktop 4 SP1

The latest version of Citrix Systems Inc.’s offering was the first to meet all of Gartner’s required features list. Prior to the SP1 release, XenDesktop lacked the ability to delegate administrator duties through role-based access controls and change logging to provide an audit trail for what IT administrators are doing.

After rectifying those missing features in the latest service pack in late July, Wolf said XenDesktop became the first virtual desktop management tool to be truly “enterprise ready.”

For Wolf, the biggest remaining issue is the need for management consolidation. He said the issue is XenDesktop’s “Achilles heel” and the company needs to reduce the number of consoles needed to manage a XenDesktop environment, especially for large environments that can run thousands of virtual desktops.

“We don’t need a Loch Ness Monster of a management tool, we just need fewer consoles,” he said.

– leads in security and user experience
– flexible desktop and app delivery
– diverse endpoint OS compatibility (Mac, Windows, Linux-based environments)
– strong WAN support

– no security hardening guidelines
– management console

Wolf said Citrix has gained a lot of valuable experience with XenDesktop and have done a great job of listening to customer feedback. Enterprise customers can feel confident with a large scale deployment.

VMware View 4.5 Premier

With the latest release of VMware View, which was made available at VMworld 2010, VMware has caught up to its Citrix counterpart and met all of Gartner’s required features criteria, Wolf said.

In addition to role-based access control and the ability to log all administrative actions, VMware also added official support for Windows 7 and the platform’s ability to integrate with other enterprise software.

Wolf was particularly impressed with the product’s new Adobe Flex-based management console, which he said was completely revamped from the one featured in the previous edition.

According to Wolf, the management console in View 4 looked like it was developed by a “small Web company,” rather than a huge virtualization vendor like VMware.

– rich integration with vSphere
– capable of scaling to 10,000 managed desktops, twice the max capacity of Citrix
– ActiveDirectory integration
– simple to deploy

– no security health assessment to valid endpoint is secure when logging in
– USB device access restrictions
– no end user self-service component
– PC over IP still immature

Wolf said VMware View’s ability to scale up to 10,000 virtual desktops helps put it in the same class as Citrix’s XenDestop as an enterprise ready platform.

Not ready for enterprise, SMB players

Falling short of the “enterprise ready” benchmark is Quest Software’s Workspace 7.1 Enterprise and Microsoft’s VDI Suite, Wolf said.

In addition to lacking admin change logging and integration with other enterprise management software, the Quest product also lacks support for disconnected virtual desktops.

For Microsoft, Wolf said, the solution has limited scalability, as it’s designed to support only a few hundred desktops. Even Microsoft acknowledges this issue and actually recommends a joint solution with the Citrix product for its enterprise level customers.

Wolf said both the Quest and Microsoft products are well suited for smaller IT shops and advised companies stick to Citrix or VMware for large deployments.

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