So after a long fireside chat with my boss, we decided to go for it and post our response to the VMware sponsored Tolly report comparing VMware View 4.6 Premier and Citrix XenDesktop 5 Platinum. Now, if for any reason you think our response might be biased (or wordy), former Gartner analyst (now esteemed independent virtualization gun for hire), Simon Bramfitt has written up an independent assessment.

Claim: VMware View 4.6 Premier licensing costs are between 34% & 67% lower than XenDesktop 5 Platinum Edition for a 1000 user deployment.

Citrix Response: There are several issues with this claim. The first is comparing View Premier to XenDesktop Platinum. While View Premier may be the highest level offering VMware offers, it lacks many features that XenDesktop Platinum Edition comes with including streamed desktops, WAN optimization, monitoring, user profiles, and complete secure remote access. For View Premier to add these capabilities (only available to them through 3rd parties) it would require an additional $200 – $300 per user. The correct edition to compare to View Premier would be XenDesktop VDI edition. Second, The Tolly Group is a test lab consultancy, not a financial analyst firm. The first rule of cost comparison is to survey a wide swath of channel partners, VAR’s, and customers in order to understand the true cost of a product. For their cost comparison the test lab engineers apparently looked up prices on CDW’s website. They did not take into key criteria such as account volume pricing levels, infrastructure costs, storage requirement comparisons, network efficiency costs or any other factor. So if we were using their methods to compare View Premier to XenDesktop VDI Edition then XenDesktop would actually come out a whopping 11% cheaper!

Claim: VMware View 4.6 provides end-users a much more consistent multimedia user experience using PCoIP.

Citrix Response: The Tolly methodology consisted of running a single thin client in a LAN environment. First, it should be noted that they chose a non-Windows Embedded thin client in order to specifically undermine all of our client-side HDX optimization. Another item of note about running a single thin client on a LAN is that it’s one of the only environments in which PCoIP can successfully run multimedia content. So they dodged having to talk about WAN because PCoIP consumes a lot of bandwidth and doesn’t scale without hardware, and also because they didn’t want to talk about how Branch Repeater now comes standard with XenDesktop Platinum Edition. If they bought the 1000 user license, we would expect them to run 1000 users’ worth of traffic across various network conditions, but that was not the case. Lastly, we could not find any quantifiable test data that we could reproduce, the results were subjective impressions with bandwidth measurements conspicuously absent. As a retort, we’d like to offer a very real end-user experience summation which we did not sponsor.

Claim: VMware View 4.6 reduces management complexity by allowing the management of all virtual desktop administration through a single web-based GUI.

Citrix Response: View 4.6 does use the web console for much of the administration however it does not handle all of the administration as the report claims. Virtual machines must still be upgraded, configured, and maintained in the vCenter console. ThinApp packages must be created and maintained through ThinApp. This is a complicated procedure that typically requires significant manual effort using plain text editors.

In contrast, XenDesktop’s approach is to focus management consoles on real world tasks. To that end XenDesktop management is focused on Desktop Studio for administrators and Desktop Director for helpdesk and support. This approach gives customers the control to manage their desktop environments effectively. The report seemingly overlooks this distinction by accounting for the Desktop Director console during installation, but never reporting its use during the testing process. The report also counts Provisioning Services installation, licensing, and management as three separate consoles.

Claim: It is easier to upgrade View 4.5 to View 4.6 compared to upgrading XenDesktop 4 to XenDesktop 5.

Citrix Response: View 4.6 was an incremental point release that primarily introduced the PCoIP Secure Gateway. Going from XenDesktop 4, skipping XenDesktop 4.5 and leapfrogging to XenDesktop 5 (a major release introducing several new capabilities) is a big deal, we admit – but hardly a fair comparison. We’d recommend upgrading from View 3 to View 4.6 as an apples to apples comparison, or perhaps if we stick with the 4.5 to 4.6 analogy, upgrading XenDesktop 5 to XenDesktop Service Pack 1.

Claim: View 4.6 installs more rapidly with fewer steps than XenDesktop..

Citrix Response: By opting to use Provisioning Services instead of the Quick Deploy option when installing XenDesktop, the testers unnecessarily added several steps to the process. This is significant because View does not have a streamed VHD feature comparable to XenDesktop Provisioning Services, so the additional installation steps were moot because Provisining Services shouldn’t have been part of the test bed. This further supports our previous assertion that the correct product for this test should have been XenDesktop VDI Edition, not Platinum Edition.

So that’s our take on it. We think it’s pretty cut and dry and believe you will too.

Ultimately, Desktop Virtualization is our bread and butter here at Citrix, whereas VMware doesn’t even count View among their “anchor products” according to their Q1 earning transcript (search on the word ‘anchor’).