When people think about desktop virtualization, the first two products that come to mind are Citrix XenDesktop...
and VMware View. I don't know what the exact combined market share of the two is, but I'm sure it's something north of 90%.
The problem with duopolies is that they only include the top two vendors. And while Citrix and VMware feel that they've earned the top two spots, there are other great products in the desktop virtualization space that are certainly worth looking at.
If you were to ask me if there are any companies with desktop virtualization products that you should look at, I'd throw out two suggestions right off the bat: Quest Software's vWorkspace and Virtual Bridges' VERDE. Both are quality desktop virtualization products with several features that the big two don't have, and both products cost much less than those from the big two.
Let's take a look the two products vying to be the "third horse" in the desktop virtualization race. (I flipped a coin to see which would come first. Quest won.)
Quest vWorkspace 7.2
Quest Software's main desktop virtualization product, vWorkspace, has been around for over a decade in one form or another and was, in fact, the first product (five years ago) that combined VDI and Terminal Server environments into a single, cohesive product.
Quest vWorkspace offers full support for Microsoft RDP and RemoteFX protocols and it adds capabilities for both with its Experience Optimization Protocol (EOP) extensions. Quest also created client apps for iPad and Android in addition to the more traditional client platforms.
While vWorkspace only supports data center-based desktops, Quest offers a client VM-based add-on component that's an OEM of MokaFive. This lets IT deliver both Type 2 and bare metal client hypervisor based virtual machines (VM). And like Citrix XenDesktop, Quest vWorkspace also supports multiple server hypervisors, including Citrix XenServer, VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, as well as Parallels and Oracle VM.
Quest also contributes some goodwill back to the community with two free products: Desktop Optimizer and VDI Assessment Tool. The Desktop Optimizer works inside Windows 7 VMs running on any VDI platform, not just vWorkspace. It contains 40 optimizations that reduce IOPS and memory consumption, all while streamlining a disk image. The VDI Assessment Tool provides a way to analyze your environment to see if VDI is a good fit based on real data from your environment.
Virtual Bridges VERDE 6
Virtual Bridges is another company that's been around in one form or another for a long time. In fact, the companies that ultimately led to the creation of Virtual Bridges could quite possibly be considered the inventors of VDI. They were selling a product back in 2003 that allowed multiple instances of Windows 98 to run on a single Linux host, with a one-to-one relationship between Win98 instance and remotely connected user.
VERDE 6 is a product that does what Virtual Bridges calls "VDI Gen 2." They view "Gen 1" VDI as the more traditional data center-based VDI only software, while Gen 2 allows a single VERDE environment to be built around Windows and Linux desktops that run in the public cloud, the private cloud, on servers at branch offices and directly on client devices via VMs on a client hypervisor. And not only is this all possible with one product, it's all possible with one disk image! They're the first and so far only product to allow a single image to work everywhere.
All Virtual Bridges VMs run on KVM (which is part of Linux) and they offer remote access via RDP or the SPICE protocol. SPICE provides a near flawless remote desktop experience, although it requires a decent amount of bandwidth to do so and is best suited for LAN environments. But on the LAN… it screams!
VERDE 6 also has a fairly sophisticated disk image sharing capability. Gold master images are pushed out to local hosts (whether they're VDI hosts in the cloud, the data center, or a branch office) and the common disk blocks are automatically shared across all the users and cached in memory. User data, such as documents and profiles, are stored on traditional file servers. This means that you can have a very high performing environment without at SAN.
Finally, VERDE 6 supports client-based VMs, which means you can take your environment to laptops which work locally and offline -- all with the same disk images and the same environment. This is something that no one else (not even Quest with MokaFive) offers today.
Both Quest Software and Virtual Bridges have plenty of real customers, so there's not too much risk choosing one of these vendors over Citrix or VMware. And they both offer some pretty unique capabilities that Citrix and VMware don't, so if you haven't made your decision yet, or if you're not blown away by what Citrix or VMware are offering, then take a look at Quest vWorkspace and Virtual Bridges VERDE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.