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Citrix's most popular platform: VMware

While the industry debates the merits of Citrix vs. VMware, most IT shops use some combination of both for desktop virtualization.

There's a lot of conversation in our industry about Citrix versus VMware. It seems that while most companies use some form of Citrix for terminal server or single application delivery, they also use VMware as the virtualization platform in the data center.

This situation can lead to a conflict when it comes to desktop virtualization. Do you choose Citrix and go with XenDesktop because Citrix is your desktop delivery standard, or do you choose VMware and go with View because VMware is your virtualization standard? In turns out that in most cases, people choose both.

Citrix has done a good job of associating the "Xen" name with its products. Even though "Xen" only initially referred to the actual open source hypervisor, Citrix changed the name of its application delivery product from "Presentation Server" to "XenApp," named its desktop product "XenDesktop" and named its hypervisor management product "XenServer." These similar names create confusion for people who think that these are all the same product or that one requires the other. But in fact, that's not true at all.

XenDesktop and XenApp if you ran them on XenServer, but that's more of a sales pitch from Citrix. In the real world, there's a bigger battle going on over which hypervisor is best, and you really can't go wrong regardless of which one you choose.

So if you're a VMware shop and you'd like to run your XenDesktop and XenApp servers on vSphere, then by all means, do it! And if you don't have a hypervisor preference and you want to use what comes bundled with your Citrix products, then go ahead and use XenServer. It really doesn't matter either way. (The same is true if you run your Citrix infrastructure on Hyper-V.)

While we're on the topic of choosing hypervisors for Citrix products, it's probably also worth pointing out that many of Citrix's virtual appliances are also available and supported on VMware vSphere. For example, Citrix NetScaler VPX, the virtual version of the company's network-acceleration switch, is fully supported on both XenServer 5 and ESX 3.5 and higher.

Citrix Merchandising Server, the back-end host component that powers the cross-platform Citrix Receiver and Dazzle enterprise app store, is also fully supported on both XenServer and ESX. Citrix has even announced plans for the XenClient Synchronizer (the component that synchronizes desktop images for the XenClient client hypervisor) to run on ESX.

At the end of the day, you have to be happy with the technology decisions that you make. Fortunately, if you want to use Citrix to deliver desktops with apps from a VMware infrastructure, it's now easier than ever to do it. This is actually how the majority of Citrix customers today use their products. So mix and match to your heart's content!

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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