VMware finally takes on Citrix XenApp with Horizon 6 app remoting

Citrix XenApp is no longer the only app publishing game in town; VMware Horizon 6 delivers virtual desktops, applications and offers central IT management.

IT professionals finally have an alternative to Citrix for remote application publishing services with VMware firing its first salvo in the space.

As previously reported by SearchVirtualDesktop, this week VMware launched Horizon 6, its new suite for delivering published applications and virtual desktops through a single platform. Horizon 6 is VMware’s answer to years of critics calling for a product to compete with Citrix's XenApp.

Through the new platform, which pulls together a number of VMware's acquired technologies and homegrown tools, IT administrators can provision applications and desktops to remote end users who access it all through single sign-on. It also gives admins a way to view their entire virtual infrastructure for simpler management.

Blending remote application delivery and hybrid virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) meets the goal of delivering desktops and apps to users on any device, according to Todd Knapp, chief technology officer and founder of Envision Technology Advisors, an IT consultancy based in Pawtucket, R.I.

"The objective [of VDI] was never to have virtual desktops," he said. "At its most basic level, the objective has always been to enable users from anywhere. This brings us closer than ever to that objective."

VMware Horizon 6 features

VMware's application remoting platform runs through PCoIP with an extension for VMware Blast, an HTML5 protocol. It will support remote desktop session (RDS) hosted applications, ThinApp applications, cloud-based apps and virtualized applications from Citrix.

The ability to run RDS applications through PCoIP should mean a better experience for end users, according to Brett Waldman, a research manager at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

Storage optimization for VDI is also part of Horizon 6 through VMware Virtual Storage Area Network (vSAN) to bring virtual desktop costs in line with physical PCs.

In addition, VMware has integrated Horizon Mirage into Horizon 6 to manage images for virtual desktops, PCs and mobile devices, as well as the new vCenter Operations Manager for View operations console for management and automation.

VMware also supports hybrid cloud delivery for Horizon 6 with client options for virtual desktops and applications that run in public or private clouds, on premises or through VMware vCloud Hybrid Service.

Horizon 6 is an important step toward a vision of uniformly blending public and private clouds, according to Knapp.

This is not a 'sky is falling' moment for Citrix.
Brett Waldmanresearch manager, IDC

"Expanding the packaging and delivery methods for abstracted application delivery will drive greater adoption," he said.

Others say VDI and Desktop as a Service remain a niche and doubt that Horizon 6 will be enough to convince IT shops otherwise.

"I doubt customers will be throwing PCs out the window just because RDS is now part of [VMware's] VDI suite," said Harry Labana, the former chief technology officer for Citrix and AppSense, in response to the news via Twitter.

Will Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop shops jump to VMware?

VMware sees Citrix customers who plan to upgrade from earlier versions of XenApp and XenDesktop to the current versions of XenApp 6.5 and XenDesktop 7.5 as potential targets for migration to Horizon 6.

"[Citrix customers] are seeing this as another option rather than just having to go through a linear upgrade with Citrix alone," said Sumit Dhawan, VMware's vice president and general manager of desktop products, who joined VMware from Citrix earlier this year. "I don’t expect 100% of them will go to VMware, but expect some of them will."

Horizon 6 pricing

Horizon 6 general availability is expected later this quarter. It will be available in three editions: VDI-only Horizon View Standard at $250 per named user or concurrent user (CCU) per year; Horizon Advanced, adding RDSH, remote application and vSAN support as well as elements of the Horizon Workspace Suite, at $250 per named user or $400 per CCU per year; and Horizon Enterprise, with hybrid cloud automation and management capabilities, at $300 per named user or $500 CCU per year.

Others say VMware's version of application publishing won't sway XenApp users who have used Citrix for more than a decade. 

A shift to Horizon 6 certainly isn't going to happen overnight, with assessments for IT shops likely to take place over the next six to 18 months, according to IDC's Waldman.

"This is not a 'sky is falling' moment for Citrix," he said. "If [Citrix customers] have a one-off XenApp implementation, they might migrate very quickly. But the vast majority of XenApp users are not going to migrate."

The process of upgrading to Horizon 6 could be daunting to IT departments because VDI platforms are often perceived as fragile and IT can be hesitant to make changes until absolutely necessary, according to Knapp.

"My hope is that the number of enhancements in this version will be the incentive that many organizations need to take their VDI implementations to the next step," he said.

For its part, Citrix sees Horizon 6 as "filling a checkbox" for VMware in a space Citrix has dominated for years.

While VMware attempts to put desktop virtualization and published application delivery in the same place, those two practices present their own set of complexities and problems, a Citrix spokesperson said. Application delivery must take into account how applications interact, whether the app is on the same desktop or another server and whether the app sits on a local end point or on a server anywhere in the data center, among other issues, according to the spokesperson.

Senior News Director Bridget Botelho contributed to this report.

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