I got into a spirited debate on twitter with a buddy regarding XenDesktop vs. VMware Horizon Suite. I’m beginning to educate myself on the entire Horizon Suite but the last time I did a trade study between the two, XenDesktop handily beat out View when it was a standalone product. I plan on during a full comparison of View and XenDesktop. But, before I do a comparison I thought I’d share what I like and don’t like about XenDesktop.
What I like
- Client support – I’d be more surprised if you can find a platform XenDesktop isn’t supported on. XenApp/XenDesktop uses the Citrix ICA protocol and therefore the Citrix Receiver. There’s client’s for Blackberry, Windows 8, iOS, Linux and Android just to name a few.
- Integration with XenApp – A VDI solutions is not just about virtualizing the desktop but also about providing access to applications. XenDesktop shares a lot of common backend infrastructure and features with XenApp. You can use the same web portal for both your applications and desktops.
- Multi-Hypervisor support – Of course Citrix would like for you to use XenServer but you can also use vSphere and Hyper-V for you underlying VDI hypervisor.
- Flexibility – Citrix has integrated a great provisioning server into its offering. The solution is designed to provide desktop sessions regardless of the underlying desktop technology. You have a need to provide pooled physical desktops to a subset of users then no problem. Just as long as you can install the client agent on the VM or Physical PC then you can use XenDesktop.
- Graphics Support – ICA is a very mature protocol. Citrix has long given you the ability to run graphics intense application such as AutoCAD within a VDI session. During HD video within a Citrix client is no big deal.
- Printing – Printing used to be one of the things I hated most about Citrix. You can now reliably use most off the shelf printers within you VDI environment.
What I don’t like
- Troubleshooting – When Citrix breaks, it breaks hard. Living without a support contract with Citrix is like walking without a net. When I need to call them it’s usually not anything simple.
- Complexity – With flexibility normally come complexity. XenDesktop is no different. You have a ton of options for provisioning desktops, broker configuration, web portal options and etc. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish it’s easy to overcomplicate your design.
- Lack of offline mode – Citrix ICA is a streaming protocol meant to be used with thin clients. If you don’t have an Internet connection then you don’t have access to your desktops. This should be a major part of you decision making process when considering VDI solutions in general as there’s really no ideal option for offline access.
- Management interface – There are simply some basic things you can’t do from the management GUI. This makes the learning curve for the application steep as not everything is well documented.
- Talent availability – If you know Citrix you already know how high demand your skill is in the market place. Because it’s good, because it’s complex and because there’s not a ton of 3rd party documentation it can be really difficult to find talented Citrix administrators. This can really be an major issue based on geography.
Once you decide that VDI is the right solution for your specific business challenge, I believe the good outweighs the bad in the XenDesktop universe. I expect to come up to speed with View and do a comparison between the two solutions. What’s your take on the good and bad of XenDesktop or VDI solutions in general?