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Server-based computing market blazes as Citrix vs. VMware fight rages

A new app remoting feature in Horizon 6 makes the Citrix vs. VMware fight even tighter, which is good news for server-based computing customers.

This week marks the end of two (albeit unrelated) eras. We saw the demise of Windows XP and the introduction of a real competitor against Citrix which -- for the last twenty years -- has had no real competition in the server-based computing market.

Windows XP's end is what it is. If you're still running the OS, you know you're paying Microsoft a ton of money, taking a huge risk or essentially disconnecting the machines from the real world. This is the end of the Windows XP talk, at least until an exploit appears or something monumental happens.

Just one day after the end of Windows XP, VMware gave us something new to talk about and help us get over the loss: the first heavy-hitting product that competes with Citrix XenApp. Sure, there are a handful of other tools out there -- Dell vWorkspace, Thinspace (formerly ProPalms) TSE, desktopsites' Konect Elite, Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect and more -- but none of them has been a worthy competitor against Citrix's outright ownership of the server-based computing market.

Citrix has been lapping up the revenue from XenApp subscriptions for many years, having its way with customers that really had no other options. The Mac client is atrocious, and has been for some time. Plus, XenApp was left on the Independent Management Architecture although XenDesktop was built on the entirely different FlexCast Management Architecture, forcing companies to run both products separately even if they were licensed together.

When Citrix finally changed things, the company did so by first canceling the XenApp 6.5 product, rolling those features into XenDesktop. This led many customers to believe XenApp was gone, and though it wasn't entirely, the replacement features added to XenDesktop for session-based desktops and applications were not as comprehensive as those in XenApp 6.5. To fix this, Citrix re-released XenApp, adding the standalone product back into the mix, but without any of the missing features that made people upset to begin with.

Citrix vs. VMware

For VMware, the announcement of its remote application publishing feature in Horizon 6 couldn't have been timed better. The opposite is true for Citrix: The company has been trying to appease customers who felt slighted while simultaneously dealing with a CEO change as well as an ongoing lack of thought-provoking technical guidance in the server-based computing market of which it was once the undisputed king. VMware was already riding high on the buzz horse, snagging several key executives from Citrix, acquiring AirWatch and releasing a Desktop as a Service platform based on Desktone.

Still, it's not all doom and gloom for Citrix. The company has a huge, loyal customer base that, for the most part, won't jump ship just because there is another product competing with XenApp. Citrix needs to keep those customers happy while also making the changes that disgruntled customers have been asking for (and have likely been waiting on for years). VMware is on a hot streak, but Citrix is still in a position where it could steal the show, especially with Synergy 2014 just a few weeks away.

Also, let's face it. VMware's product isn't even out yet. Anecdotal references to how great Horizon 6 looks abound, but we have no idea what it will look like and how it will perform in the wild. VMware did not overtake Citrix in technology. At best, the two are even, and we all know what happens then: Competition kicks in, one-upmanship ensues and the people who reap rewards are the customers.

This was last published in April 2014

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