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.
Read about the death of VDI
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 your 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 a 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?