Virtualization Pro

May 6 2008   3:33PM GMT

A showdown for your VDI investment?

Adam Trujillo Profile: Atrujillo

Virtualization expert Barb Goldworm has been banging the desktop virtualization and application virtualization drum for a while now. She contends that there is still a lot of innovation to be had in this space and that businesses are poised to reap the benefits, despite pushback from execs. It’s a symbiotic relationship, however, between IT departments and virtualization vendor. In other words, an opportunity for a business to virtualize some aspect of their infrastructure translates to an opportunity for a vendor to sell that virtualization product.

But how do you choose which vendor will fulfill that need? Chances are if you’re on this site, you’re either deeply invested in VMware, or about to become deeply invested, and will probably choose VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) for your desktop virtualization needs. For the time being, that’s probably a smart decision for you. It’s also a good thing for VMware, which is positioned to recognize Goldworm’s assessment and to take advantage of the opportunity in the virtual desktop space.

In a recent interview with associate editor Hannah Drake, VMware expert and author David Rule agreed. “Virtual desktops is where VMware is going to see a huge surge of revenue. Take a company that has 1,000 servers, that’s 3,000 – 4,000 users. Ten percent of number is a huge amount of net new [virtual desktop] licenses,” he said. Furthermore, Rule believes that investment to be sound because they’re already ahead of the game. In his view, VMware will remain the virtualization technology market leader. “VMware is the innovator in the marketplace. Citrix and Microsoft haven’t brought anything new to the market that VMware hasn’t.”

He’s right, at least in comparison with Microsoft desktop offerings. Virtual PC is more of an emulator than an enterprise virtual infrastructure for distributed computing, and it might take a while to see how Microsoft’s acquisition of Kidaro pans out. In the meantime, VMware is going to have to look out for Citrix’s offering, XenDesktop, according to virtualization guru Chris Wolf. As the major player in the thin-client space, Citrix has the shortest to go in order to compete with VMware VDI and ACE. In fact, Wolf noted during a recent interview with Drake that at last week’s Microsoft Management Summit, when customers asked Microsoft about desktop virtualization, Microsoft reps said that they [don’t] have any current offerings but “strongly recommended Citrix XenDesktop” to their customers.

But Microsoft recommends XenDesktop for good reason. “Citrix has put a lot of work into Xen virtual desktop, and they don’t try to compete with Microsoft. They’ve been working towards interoperability from day one. I can run a VM on Hyper-V, power it down and run the VM on XenServer. I might have to change some device drivers, but I know it’ll run fine for me,” he said, adding that VMware has a lot to learn in terms of backend architecture. “From a scalability perspective, the XenDesktop architecture is a better architecture on the backend. If you look at the VMware line moving forward there will be substantial enhancements for virtual desktops, especially with storage and sharing virtual images.”

But what about price point? It turns out that the lackluster economy may turn out to be the wild card forcing change in the desktop and overall virtualization market. According to Wolf, virtualization price will play a bigger role in determining market leadership than some experts have predicted:

“For your average organization, it’s not just about feature for feature comparison, which VMware is always going to win. It’s about what is good enough, and what can I do with my IT budget, especially in [what is] arguably a recession right now. Price becomes a major consideration in purchasing decision. If I can get by with a product, then that’s going to be a compelling reason to look at that product. For VMware to maintain their market dominance, they have to lower their prices. There’s just no other way around it right now.”

Will VMware drop its prices this year? Only time will tell. We’ll continue to follow the virtualization price war; stay tuned.

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