Watching the competition around desktop/app virtualization these days is like watching the smartphone war between Samsung and Apple. The two top players in VDI, Citrix and VMware, are each trying to outdo the other with their own flavor of workspace virtualization solutions.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the release of Citrix XenDesktop 7 and how much this product evolved with the consolidation of XenApp/XenDesktop under one platform. Then I explained why 2014 is the Year of VDI due to the fact that two of the biggest challenges to VDI—storage and graphics—have been addressed. Now, we’re more than half way through the year, and VMware has been making headlines with big acquisitions like AirWatch and Desktone, adding enterprise mobility management and desktop as a service to their ever growing portfolio of end user computing solutions.

We’re entering an era in which BYOD is the norm, so VMware and Citrix are under intense pressure to provide access, security, and device management, all while giving the end user a consistent experience across any device. In response to Citrix XenDesktop 7, VMware recently released Horizon 6, the successor to Horizon View 5.3. Horizon 6 marks an invasion into Citrix’s core competency by delivering a complete virtual workspace.

Let’s take a look.

User experience

Single platform delivery for desktops and applications

VMware has long taken heat for only being able to deliver desktops—and not applications—in Horizon View. While for years, Citrix has been able to do both. However, with this release, VMware has added application publishing via Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, allowing RDS hosted apps and desktops to be used with Horizon 6. Similar to Citrix XenDesktop, both desktops and applications can now be published under one platform.

Unified workspace

This is the web interface that aggregates SaaS, remote apps, local apps, desktops, and even Citrix XenApp under one roof to provide a consistent experience across any device.


VMware vSAN support

VMware Virtual SAN is one of the hottest products of the year. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the days of purchasing expensive hardware storage to overcome storage performance are over. The main goal of vSAN is to provide a converged model by joining local disks of ESXi hosts in an enterprise-grade SAN. The performance gained from using SSD drives used as local disks makes VMware vSAN the cheapest all-flash array storage for Horizon environments.

Scalability and management

Cloud Pod

Horizon environments can now be scaled out within or across geo-separated data centers using the Horizon Cloud Pod architecture. This design is comprised of resource pods that can scale to up to 10,000 desktops each. For anything over 10,000, an entirely separate pod must be built. Each pod is fully independent and is managed separately. By isolating resources into independent pods, the architecture ensures high availability and decreases the chances of a global outage.

VMware vCOPS for View 6

With all the added features of Horizon 6, vCOPS has expanded its capabilities to manage all aspects of Horizon 6 environments, which includes:

  • Single-pane-of-glass management for desktops, servers, apps, etc.
  • RDSH session support
  • Application and in-guest process metrics that allow admins to quickly identify and resolve issues
  • Desktop workloads optimizations and models

Multi-forest active directory support

Horizon 6 now supports multi-forest, which allows users to choose the domain that they want to log into for their resources.


With all the added features, Horizon 6 is now split into three different editions:


VMware is aggressively moving into Citrix’s core competency of delivering a complete virtual workspace, and with the added capabilities of Horizon 6 they are getting another monkey off their back. What started out as VDI solutions has grown so much over the years that the term “VDI” can no longer describe these products in its entirety. XenDesktop and Horizon View have become end-to-end solutions that adopt BYOD initiatives and align with the needs of the modern workforce.

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