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Why hypervisor lock-in is a problem for VMware View

Although Citrix XenDesktop and Quest vWorkspace support a range of hypervisors, VMware vSphere only works with ESX. Enterprises are right to be wary of being locked in.

VMware only supports the ESX hypervisor. Is this lack of product diversity a good or bad thing for the vendor and enterprises? We had our experts look at two different sides of the debate. Decide for yourself if you want to be locked in to VMware View.


Desktop virtualization is hot, and the vendor competition is fierce. Three of the top virtual desktop products are Citrix XenDesktop, Quest vWorkspace and VMware View. Of the three, only VMware doesn't provide customers with a choice of infrastructure. VMware View only delivers virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) running on VMware vSphere (ESX), while Citrix and Quest support just about everything out there.

There have been calls for VMware to open up its View product and to support more than vSphere. The company claims that since vSphere is the best platform out there, it doesn't make sense to support anything else. VMware also claims that if customers demanded support of other hypervisors, then it would do so. But that's probably not a good way to think about it. Of course, VMware's customers that have already paid a boatload of money to run vSphere don't want to admit that they could do the same thing on the free XenServer of Hyper-V, so it's in the best interests of customers and VMware to "stay the course" with their unwavering commitment to vSphere.

But hypervisor lock-in represents a bigger problem with VMware's desktop strategy. I have been beating the drum for years saying that desktop virtualization and server virtualization are different. After all, you wouldn't put an HP DL360 G6 under a user's desk, so why would you virtualize desktops in the same way that you virtualize servers?

This is not to say that VMware View is not a good desktop product, but rather that using View forces you to make your server and desktop decisions together. In the physical world, would you want to be forced to use Dell servers if you wanted to use Dell laptops? Would you want to be forced to use Mac in order to use an iPod? Would you want to be limited to only buying Ford cars for your employees just because you also use Ford delivery trucks?

With VMware View, the vendor lock-in even reaches the desktop. VMware touts the benefits of accessing View via PC-over-IP "zero clients," thin client-like devices that have hardware chips inside them that allow them to connect only to VMware View environments. So if customers buy lots of those clients for lots of users, they will be locked to View, which means they're locked to vSphere.

Over time, customers won't even look to other solutions or options because moving would be so difficult, and essentially, VMware has a customer for life.

At the end of the day, VMware View is a fine product. But customers absolutely need to consider that VMware does everything it can at all levels to lock them in for the long haul as they evaluate desktop virtualization options. Remember that server virtualization and desktop virtualization are different, and using vSphere to virtualize your servers does not automatically mean that you should use View to virtualize your desktops.

SEE ALSO Read why hypervisor lock-in may be an advantage for VMware

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,, 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.

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