VMware's new user environment management tool aims squarely at Citrix customers, but third-party UEM tools gives Citrix shops the same capabilities at less than half the list price.
Liquidware Labs ProfileUnity v6.5 suite, now in beta, combines a new user environment management (UEM) tool and an enhanced application layering feature in one product, similar to the VMware Horizon Application Management Bundle, plus high availability (HA) built-in.
Citrix said most customers use the user management technology that it provides, but those considering the use of multiple technologies like those available in VMware's bundle, including UEM, AppVolumes, ThinApp and monitoring, recommend ProfileUnity.
Citrix UEM strategy depends on partners
Depending on third-party tools is something Citrix and other major vendors do as a matter of course, but for UEM, where VMware has a strong offering, it isn't the best move, said Simon Bramfitt, an independent analyst and founder of Entelechy Associates in Concord, Calif.
"If you look at all of VMware's capabilities in Horizon, their UEM is the weakest tool, but not because it is bad; because the other pieces are so strong," Bramfitt said. "It would be difficult to recommend Citrix against VMware right now."
Citrix has to deliver its own UEM rather than shrink-wrapped partner tools, he said, because people don't want to deal with multiple providers.
"I am always a fan of having one throat to choke," Bramfitt said.
Todd KnappCEO, Envision Technology Advisors
But there are merits to third-party UEM tools such as ProfileUnity, AppSense's DesktopNow or Unidesk's software; they are mature, well-tested and versatile; they support virtual and physical desktops -- which goes a long way for systems integrators.
"VDI's market penetration [with all vendors combined] is still only a small subset of the desktop computing that happens in the world," said Todd Knapp, CEO of Envision Technology Advisors, an IT services firm in Pawtucket, R.I. "The solutions we are looking at need to speak to more than the minority subset."
"To me that's a determining factor if I'm in the business of evolving my desktop population," Knapp said. "One tool, plus physical and virtual support, plus multiple desktop delivery platforms [gives us] a path forward that's not limiting."
And with third-party tools, companies aren't dependent on one vendor's software.
"But unless that vendor is screwing you, [being locked-in] isn't always an unhealthy position," Bramfitt said. "It's not a problem unless you don't have a lifeboat to jump on. Right now, VMware is serving as that lifeboat and extending open arms to anyone who wants to switch platforms."
That platform switch can't be done easily, as most companies have a deep investment in their embedded technologies, both monetarily and in IT-knowledge. Sticking with what they know and adding a third-party tool -- particularly one that costs less than the alternative -- may be the best option for some.
ProfileUnity v 6.5 is priced at USD $59 per named user with special $39 pricing available for a limited time to celebrate the new version launch. Concurrent user (CCU) pricing is $109. VMware's Horizon UEM suite is $180 CCU or $120 named user.
On paper the cost difference is clear, but it's too early to tell if VMware's UEM tool cost of ownership will be much higher than the use of Citrix plus third-party tools. Still, technology decisions are based on more than list prices, Knapp said.
Knapp said he'll give VMware Horizon UEM tools the same attention and consideration that he would any other product, but "the ability for ProfileUnity to deliver a solution, regardless of the VDI delivery model you use, is hard to put a price tag on."
What's new in ProfileUnity 6.5
ProfileUnity v6.5, planned for general availability in June, will include a new Profile Disk feature that allows user profiles to be attached from VHD or VMDK for faster logon times. IT pros can use it to pop apps in and out of their user environments by groups, without taking servers down, a company spokesperson said. It supports XenApp, XenDesktop, Microsoft RDSH, and VMware VDI.
The latest version of ProfileUnity also includes software-based HA, with point-and-click clustering to substitute for network load balancers or external database clusters.
The company's previously released FlexApp app layering feature now supports non-persistent desktops as well as persistent desktops. This version also brings a new file system driver approach to layering that virtualizes apps that are notoriously tough to virtualize, including file system drivers and services.
In addition to existing VHD support, FlexApp includes options to provision applications onto "FlexDisk" VMDKs for VMware ESX users who rely on VMFS storage.
Bridget Botelho is Senior News Director for TechTarget's Data Center Virtualization and End User media groups. Contact her or follow her on Twitter @BridgetBotelho.