Did I just read that!

On February 9th, there was an interesting press release from VMware that was brought to my attention over the weekend. After reading it, I was rather perplexed as VMware makes the following statement:

“The TCO of an SBC deployment used to deliver all applications to users is 8% to 13% lower than that of a locked and well-managed PC deployment, and up to 44 to 47% lower than that of an unmanaged desktop deployment.”

This quote is clearly referencing Gartner as the source as evidenced by the following statement in the press release:

“Research firm Gartner recently compared the TCO of personal computers versus what they term server-based computing (SBC).”

I totally agree with VMware and Gartner, these are great TCO numbers. SBC saves a ton of money for many use cases such as Task Workers. Citrix has been doing this for a long time and SBC represents the Hosted Shared desktop model that is included as part of XenDesktop.

So why was I perplexed?

Well, VMware is clearly inferring that their View platform can deliver this type of TCO. This would be great for VMware except for the fact that the world for a long time defines SBC as Remote Desktop Services (formerly known as Windows Terminal Services) or Citrix XenApp and VMWare does not offer an SBC solution. VMWare only offers VDI as part of their hosted desktop offering.

Perhaps I am missing something?

Since VMware references Gartner, a very respectable industry analyst firm, as their source. I decided to look for a report I recalled from 2008 that I used as reference prior to joining Citrix. I wanted to understand if perhaps my definition of SBC was inaccurate. After a quick search I found the report available as a free download on various sites, with a direct link here. Nowhere in the report does it talk about SBC being anything else but a mature client architecture that delivers substantial TCO with the right group of users. Very much in line with the philosophy of XenDesktop that offers multiple desktop virtualization models to suit different use cases and budgets. While the numbers in this report are different from what the press release says, I do assume that the latest report referred to is an update. I don’t have Gartner’s permission to use that report or quote from it, but I am confident that if the fundamental definition of SBC was changing, somebody at Citrix would have been consulted as part of the process.

Surely something can’t be right here, so I thought let me go and check to see if there is anything in the desktop geek community that I may have missed. I checked Brian Madden’s site and even as far back as 2007 there is a very clear distinction as to what is SBC vs. VDI. I also checked on Doug Brown’s site and even there I see no obvious references to believe that VDI should be thought of as SBC. So it remains a mystery to me how such a press release could have been approved….

Integrity and ethics seem to be optional at VMware

I also came across a blog written prior to me joining Citrix which talks about the same misdirection, dating all the way back to 2009. It also references another Brian Madden blog that calls out VMware misleading TCO with their VDI solution. It seems the same tactics are in full force at VMware and nothing has changed. Wow! Am I really writing this? How can anybody trust them? This is why I guess they fudge their quarterly desktop financials by hiding VMware Workstation revenues with VDI. Certain analysts may be blind to the obvious, but clearly customers are not buying it as there would be no need for such shenanigans if View was delivering value broadly.

Do people really understand that VDI is not desktop virtualization?

What perplexes me the most is that the press release, which includes customer quotes supporting the inference has been circulating for several days and nobody else including VMware or any other vendor has raised an eyebrow that would get one to correct what obviously is misleading. Certainly, I don’t blame people for not catching it, as it’s very subtle and easy to miss if you don’t bother to read or understand what looks like a bog standard harmless press release. Perhaps that’s the underhanded tactics that VMware now has to resort to after being called out numerous times in the past….

Irrespective of solution, it hurts our industry when customers are presented with inaccurate information from the so called “experts”. That’s very different from saying it was just a marketing oversight or an honest mistake. It also does not mean that one can’t achieve a great TCO with the VDI model, but that is not the point of this post.

Is this due to a lack of understanding or is it something more sinister?

It’s certainly more than creative liberty but I’ll reserve final judgement until VMware has had an opportunity to respond. What I will however say is, it’s about time many more customers, analysts and media woke up and understood that VDI is a dangerous term that is thrown around by too many naive people who don’t understand that desktop virtualization is so much more. There are just way too many customers with use cases like Task Workers that even VMware admits can be addressed with SBC and its excellent TCO that is part of XenDesktop. VDI is not the same thing as SBC and VDI is not desktop virtualization.Desktop virtualization is a comprehensive solution that includes VDI and allows you to tailor desktop delivery to meet your enterprise users’ requirements, from task to mobile workers.

So beware and don’t be naive…

If VMware’s intent was just to point out how great SBC is as part of desktop virtualization, then I’ll say thank you for pointing out what VMWare View doesn’t provide this functionality and therefore results in a higher TCO than XenDesktop. If this is anything else, well at least on this Valentines Day VMware can send flowers to all those customers who may be just a tad miffed.

UPDATE
PR response from VMware and my counter

UPDATE 2
VMware updates press release with quote removed. Guess we can move on.