VDI shoot-out: Citrix XenDesktop vs. VMware View
Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 and VMware View 5 vie for the most flexible, scalable, and complete virtual desktop infrastructure
More than 20 years ago, the desktop revolution swept across the land, ushering in a new paradigm of computing, taking processing away from a centralized host, and moving it to personal computers at the edge of the network. With VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), as the saying goes, what's old is new again. Using virtualization, IT now has the ability to bring those distinct computing platforms back under one roof, while also providing for greater control and flexibility of user access.
This review of VDI solutions features the two heaviest of virtualization heavyweights. As in my comparison of entry-level VDI solutions (Kaviza VDI-in-a-box, NComputing vSpace, and Pano Logic's Pano Express), my goal was to see what it would take to deploy a complete VDI solution based on Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 and VMware View 5 for up to 50 users. During my evaluation, I found that conceptualizing the deployment was easy. XenDesktop and View are based on similar building blocks, so the overall road map for rolling out a deployment is the same. However, getting a finished installation in place took a little more thought and effort.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Download InfoWorld's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Deep Dive special report | See which solution came out on top in InfoWorld's "Virtualization shoot-out: Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware" ]
Both XenDesktop and View are highly scalable, highly configurable platforms that are enterprise-grade from the word "go." Both are built to scale out to dozens of hosts and thousands of users. When compared to the Kaviza, NComputing, and Pano Logic solutions, XenDesktop and View take much more effort, knowledge, and time to get up and running. But for companies that need to be able to grow and manage a large number of virtual desktop users, XenDesktop and View are the only way to go. (Side note: Citrix purchased Kaviza in early 2011 to provide an entry-level VDI offering.)
VDI ups and downsides
There are a number of advantages to virtualizing the desktop and moving it to a centralized server. First, no user data leaves the data center. All processing takes place in a controlled environment on highly redundant systems. From a security and fault-tolerance standpoint, this is a big deal. Unlike traditional desktops where data actually resides -- and can be stolen, as in the case of a laptop -- no data leaves the data center.
Another advantage is that systems management is centralized. When it comes time to patch an operating system or update an application, IT only has to do it on the master, or golden, disk image and all users receive the upgrades -- no more pushing a single update to multiple desktops across the enterprise. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to a VDI deployment is the ability to make the user's desktop environment available to multiple end-user devices. This means a Windows 7 virtual desktop can be accessed from a Mac or Linux PC, from a thin client, from an iPad or Android tablet, or even (in a pinch) from a smartphone. The user's desktop becomes completely portable.