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Citrix vs. VMware: Virtualization Battle Plan Changes

By Kevin Fogarty, CIO
August 04, 2010 01:50 PM ET

CIO - In the wake of an analyst report certifying Citrix's XenDesktop 4.1 as the only product that fully satisfies all the criteria for enterprise-class desktop virtualization, Citrix Systems has come very close to conceding it will remain an also-ran in the market for virtual servers.

Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf blogged last week that Citrix had met all of the 52 criteria that the analyst company considers to be absolutely necessary in products designed to allow large companies to host end-user desktops on data-center servers rather than physical PCs.

The list includes functions such as the ability to create several levels of administrator, each with a different set of privileges to make managing large-scale VDI networks more efficient; the ability to record and audit administrative changes to satisfy regulatory compliance reporting requirements; and at least three years of support for all the products involved in a VDI rollout, Wolf says.

"In a small company that might only have two or three administrators, role-based access isn't a problem," Wolf says. "Enterprises that might have hundreds have to be able to delegate some of those functions."

One analyst company's criteria don't make or break a product or market, but any detailed comparison can help customers frame and answer their own questions about technology with which they might have little experience. For now, Citrix has the edge.

Citrix Meets Key Desktop Virtualization Criteria

"VDI is basically a two-horse race between Citrix and VMware, and Citrix has been on top with its offerings and installed base," says Ian Song, analyst for IDC. "In a cursory kind of comparison, VMware can match almost everything Citrix offers; it's in the nitty gritty that [VMware] kind of falls flat [by comparison]."

The "nitty gritty" includes the ability to include critical features as part of a vendor's own feature set, rather than using technology from partners, as VMware does by relying on PC-over-IP remote-display technology from Teradici rather than its own technology, for example. It has also not fully integrated the profile-management software it bought along with RTO Software earlier this year, Song says.

When Burton Group first published the desktop virtualization requirements list in May, neither Citrix nor rival VMware could satisfy all 52 requirements or the list of dozens of other features listed either as Preferred or Optional, though neither was far off, Wolf says.

"VMware has or is close to having all those features as well, though they're still lagging Citrix," Wolf told CIO. "If the [VMware View] 4.5 beta holds it will also satisfy all the Required criteria."

Rumors predict VMware will release VMware View 4.5 at its VMworld conference in August. Company COO Todd Nielsen told analysts in a July 20 earnings call that VMware View 4.5 would be released in September.

Partners Will Fight Server Battles

Though sales of virtual desktops still lag far behind the expectations most analysts and vendors had for 2010, Citrix' lead in virtual desktops has persisted because VMware lagged in both technology and marketing in the past, though it is coming up to speed now, Wolf says.

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