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VMware EUC GM sounds off on VDI competition

VMware's EUC GM Sanjay Poonen believes matching Citrix feature-for-feature isn't as important as having a long-term vision for IT organizations.

SAN FRANCISCO – As the pitched battle between Citrix and VMware rages on, one of the primary players in the fight would rather look at overall technology vision than a tit-for-tat over product features.

VMware has added tools through acquisition and development, including buying enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendor AirWatch, adding app remoting in Horizon 6, as well as acquiring application and user environment management (UEM) companies, such as Immidio. Citrix maintains strong use of its flagship end user computing (EUC) products, including XenApp and XenDesktop, and it launched its Citrix Workspace Cloud management tool last month.

In this exclusive interview with SearchVirtualDesktop here at VMworld 2015, Sanjay Poonen, general manager of EUC at VMware, discussed what he believes sets VMware apart.

Within the overall VMware EUC package, do you feel like you're taking market share away from Citrix? And what's your evidence of that?

Sanjay Poonen, GM of VMware EUCSanjay Poonen

Sanjay Poonen: In the mobile space, we don't view Citrix as a really strong mobile player. A lot of their key talent has left, including Brian Dye, who was the [VP and GM] of mobile. [The IDC Market Share Survey for EMM for 2014] pretty much reflects the winners and losers in that space [AirWatch was first with 11.4% of the market share, while Citrix was fifth at 8.1%]. In the desktop virtualization space, we were always pretty strong in VDI. But until last year, we just didn't do app remoting. That is really coming along strong for us in the last 18 months.

But we also found that many XenApp customers don't want to rip it out. We can't go in with "rip-and-replace" for XenApp customers. Customers who love XenApp and have upgraded can keep it, put vSphere underneath it and use App Volumes or our [UEM] products on top of it. And we'll make XenApp better.

But, are you seeing more customers saying that Horizon is better than what Citrix is offering, or is it an issue of it being too difficult for organizations to rip out XenApp, so they stick with it? Are there still real feature differences here?

Poonen: There is mostly feature parity; there may be a feature here and there that we don't do and there may be things [Citrix] doesn't do. But a customer, especially if they are a CIO, isn't making a decision based on one feature or a second feature for the future of IT. They want to know, directionally, where are we going? What's our vision? What is the leadership team like? Who are the people they'll be dealing with? All those factors become a lot more important than the feature function battle…

Today, the conversation we are having with these customers is very, very different [than before we added AirWatch, app remoting, App Volumes and UEM, among others]… We try not to get obsessed with the locker-room talk. It's good for the press and the media. When we hired some people, it got a lot of attention.

My focus, as the leader of this group, is customer-centric innovation. Of course, I have to differentiate when a customer asks me, 'How are you different, where are you going?' But it's not a locker-room talk. If you like XenApp, keep using it. We'll make it better. But if you want to replace it, we do have an option. I'm not going to not say that.

What about price? VDI isn't cheap. Do you stack up to the competition on price?

Poonen: We feel like we're in a strong position in terms of total cost of ownership … With software-defined storage, with hyper-converged infrastructure or with flash storage, we can drive the cost down. The cost of our licenses is probably comparable [to competitors],* but we feel TCO for us is better…There were feature gaps we had to address in Horizon, but I set a simple goal to our product team to keep innovating by adding the appropriate features that are customer-centric…

We're finding now, given the CIO-level discussions VMware have, that it's a much more strategic dialogue we're having about digitizing the workspace than a feature-function battle of, 'You do this and you don't do that.'

*[Editor's note: VMware's Horizon 6.2, which includes both app remoting and VDI, starts at $250 per concurrent user (CCU) and has three tiers that include pricing levels up to $500 per CCU, as well as named user options. XenApp 7.6 starts at $350 per CCU, while XenDesktop 7.6 starts at $95 per user, per device. Citrix Workspace Suite, which combines XenDesktop, XenApp, XenMobile and ShareFile, is available on premises for $450 per user for a perpetual license.]

Jake O’Donnell is site editor for in TechTarget's end user computing media group. Contact him at [email protected].

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