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CTO Chris Wolf reveals VMware VDI plans to beat Citrix, expand DaaS

VMware's new CTO Chris Wolf takes on questions about the role of VDI in the mobile era, competition with Citrix and what's next for DaaS.

Mobility and cloud computing have put a new spin on VDI, challenging VMware to evolve its platform for a new era in the face of hot competition from Citrix, Microsoft and now, Amazon Web Services.

Chris WolfChris Wolf

SearchVirtualDesktop sat down with Chris Wolf, VMware Inc.'s new chief technology officer for the Americas, to answer three burning questions about its Desktop as a Service (DaaS) plans, application streaming and how the company will tackle the competition.

What is the role of desktop virtualization in the mobile era?

Chris Wolf: In spite of all of the doom-and-gloom predictions, we're still seeing a ton of interest in VDI, and it's continuing to grow. Is it going to be 80% of the user base? No, but it doesn't have to be. Is it going to continue to be a healthy business? Yeah, absolutely.

There's still pent-up demand for rapid provisioning and de-provisioning of desktops. More and more workers are choosing a work-from-home model, and virtual desktop technology is terrific there. It's great in highly regulated industries as well, such as healthcare. … It's a growing business, and it's a strong business for VMware, and I think you'll see, especially in 2014, that VMware will have every piece and part in place to go right up against Citrix head to head.

During your time at Burton Group and at Gartner Inc., you wrote VDI comparison reports that showed Citrix's virtual desktop software -- XenDesktop/XenApp -- surpassed VMware View/ThinApp in enterprise readiness. What will you advise VMware to do to surpass Citrix in desktops and mobility?

Wolf: If you take a look at pure VDI, in the latest Gartner reports … you'll see VMware now has a slight edge on Citrix. That's the first time that's happened, and the research is going back five years now.

The one area where VMware has needed help is in published applications. Citrix XenApp is a great product; it's been around a long time and a lot of enterprises trust it. But here's the funny thing: There's another really great product out there that deserves recognition too, and that's Windows 2012 [Remote Desktop Services] RDS. … There's not a really strong broker around it and the ecosystem around that platform or the protocol, which kind of limits its applicability, but let's take the beauty of Windows 2012 RDS and RemoteApp and we tie that to View and View brokering and our protocol -- guess what, we've got a really good solution now. That's something customers have been asking VMware to do for a long time, to also have a published application solution, and there's no reason that VMware will have to go out and do that on its own.

If I were to give VMware any advice, it would be to go after that published application use case, because that's really the one area that I would say Citrix has done well against VMware competitively. But if we can just do a full replacement of Citrix now, things will get interesting. I can't say VMware's going to do that, but what I can tell you is that customers have been asking for that type of capability, and VMware has always been very receptive to customer requests.

As far as vCHS [VMware's Cloud Hybrid Service] goes, what's beyond DaaS?

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What's next for VMware's hybrid cloud?

Wolf: Beyond Desktop as a Service is Workspace as a Service, because it's no longer just about the desktop; users are connecting to Windows, Web and mobile applications, as well as [considering] requirements for accessing data from a variety of devices as well, whether it be a traditional PC or a mobile device or tablet.

So while Desktop as a Service is the current industry buzzword, it's actually a much bigger challenge than that. You need centralized access and management and centralized identity across Windows, Web and mobile applications. … That can be delivered as part of vCHS or … on-premises depending on what the organization requires.

Something else we've started to talk about, that Ramin Sayyar [senior vice president and general manager of VMware's Cloud Management Business] mentioned at Partner Exchange, is we want to give organizations a choice as to how they want to manage their workloads. If they desire to install software on-premises, that's fine, if they want a SaaS [Software as a Service]-based offering from any of the VMware management products, that is something else that we will begin offering. …

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing and SearchServerVirtualization. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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