From what I’ve heard and read in the past few weeks, one of Citrix’s competitors has made it clear that they are now very focused on desktops. Not that we needed announcements from them to learn that, given how they responded to the Citrix XenDesktop 2.0 release earlier this year.

But let’s be frank about VDI. Let’s not act like it’s more than it really is. If Citrix learned anything from its customers at Citrix Synergy in May it’s that customers don’t believe that VDI is solution for 100% of a company’s desktops. The good news for these customers is that Citrix agrees.

VDI is a tool, much like a hammer. But a hammer can’t do everything. I ought to know. I’ve been called “Hammer” since I was a kid, and I learned long ago that I can’t do everything.

But when one needs to put a nail into wood, nothing beats a good hammer. Well… except maybe a nail gun. In fact, if VDI is like a hammer, then VDI combined with a storage consolidation solution is like a nail gun.

The first VDI solution that provided storage consolidation was Citrix XenDesktop 2.0, which is why the industry responded so greatly to the XenDesktop 2.0 release.

The competition is close to releasing their version of a VDI storage consolidation solution. So soon the market will have two nail guns to choose from. However, Citrix and its competitor took varying technological approaches to “turn a hammer into a nail gun”.

If you have any familiarity with power tools, looking at the difference between electric and compressed air nail guns is a good way to understand the difference between Citrix and its competitor’s storage consolidation solutions.

Quite simply, the force that propels the nail in an electric nail gun is electromagnetism. While the force of electromagnetism is certainly capable of doing the job, unfortunately the investment in an electric nail gun is limited. That is to say, the only useful purpose the electromagnetism used within an electric nail gun has is its ability to pound in a nail. Your investment in an electric nail gun provides no benefit to you when you need to do something other than hammer a nail. The electric nail gun is similar to the approach the competition took in their storage consolidation.

Citrix’s solution on the other hand is like the compressed air nail gun. Not only is the force of compressed air capable of pounding in a nail, but the air compressor that powers the nail gun can power many different tools other than just the nail gun. The air compressor can power wrenches, drills, sanders, grinders, power washers, and even painting tools. In fact, users of power tools prefer the compressed air tools because they are lighter (less overhead) and more powerful (more efficient) than those powered by electromagnetism.

Citrix Provisioning Server is the air compressor in Citrix’s nail gun (Citrix XenDesktop). Just like an air compressor can be hooked up to different tools, Citrix Provisioning Server can also be used as the force behind other Citrix tools, such as XenServer, XenApp, diskless PC solutions, and even load balanced web applications. And much like the air compression powered tools, the Citrix tools powered by Provisioning Server require less overhead and are more efficient.

But let’s not get into a head to head battle between the two storage consolidation technologies. We could, but there will be plenty enough articles and blogs about the technologies. Let’s take a step back from the technology and look at the differences between who is trying to sell you what.

The problem with the competitor’s storage consolidation solution is not the technology. To be fair, the technology they use in its storage consolidation is actually quite good as well, although it does have its limitations and issues (but what technology doesn’t?).

The problem with the competitor’s solution is the epitome of the old cliché “when all you sell is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Not every customer needs to drive in a nail, yet to the competition every customer looking for a better way to manage desktops looks like a customer who has nails to pound, when in reality a customer may have only a 20% need for pounding nails. What if the other 80% of their need would be best served by a different tool?

The fact of the matter is there are numerous approaches to delivering desktops. Only one of those ways is VDI. And there are use cases where VDI is the most appropriate. Then there are use cases where the Terminal Services method is most appropriate. Then there are cases where the diskless PC/network boot solution is most appropriate. In fact, there are cases where the traditional desktop method is most appropriate (assuming application management tools are being properly used). The virtual machines method (whether it be remote, like VDI, or local) is but only one type of desktop tool, yet the competition wants you to use virtual machines (remote or local) 100% of the time.

The competition’s limitation to virtual machine solutions becomes even clearer when we look at their new VDI storage consolidation solution. Only virtual machines can benefit from it. It’s of no use to other methods. And really, the truth is why would we expect it to benefit any other methods? Virtual machines is all they do.

But don’t let them keep you from thinking outside the virtual machine box. There’s far more to managing desktops than just replacing them all with some form of virtualized machine. Instead, use the right tool for the right job.

In fact, what other company knows better that customers don’t believe that one tool works for every use case than Citrix? For over a decade Citrix tried to convince the world that every user should be on Terminal Services. But Citrix finally got it that there isn’t one tool that fits every use case. Customers want the right tool for the right job. So now Citrix is no longer a one trick pony, and sells a wide range of tools to manage desktops.

Because of that history and change, Citrix is the company that won’t try to sell you a nail gun when what you really need for your particular situation is a pneumatic wrench, even when the competition is trying to sell you a nail gun.

Citrix saw the true value of Provisioning Server when they bought Ardence back in 2006. Basic tools that are engineered to be interchangeable and benefit from one another create a great set of tools. This is the whole concept behind Citrix’s soon to be released Workflow Studio product.

If you haven’t used Citrix Provisioning Server yet, in a VDI solution is a great place to start. Once it’s in your environment you can start hooking up other tools to it, and begin to see what a great investment an air compre… er… Provisioning Server is.