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Which VDI vendors will fill the Dell vWorkspace void?

Dell is no longer selling licenses to new vWorkspace customers. Other midmarket desktop and app virtualization vendors will be scrambling to earn a piece of vWorkspace's market share.

Dell is shutting down vWorkspace, and that leaves a gap in the desktop and application virtualization market. But which vendors will be able to take advantage?

I considered Dell vWorkspace to be in the top tier of VDI platforms, but there was still an insurmountable gap between the product and Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop or VMware Horizon. Surely the majority of vWorkspace customers will move to Citrix or VMware, but the vWorkspace platform was successful over the years, and that indicates that there is a large midmarket for desktop virtualization.

That market now has a large void. Dell vWorkspace's absence presents a huge opportunity for other midmarket vendors, and I want to take a brief look at the companies most likely to step up.

But first, let's take a moment to remember vWorkspace and go over what the heck happened to it.

A farewell to Dell vWorkspace

First owned by Quest Software, vWorkspace integrated closely with Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services and Hyper-V, and had a legitimate claim as the top alternative to XenApp/XenDesktop and Horizon. Dell acquired Quest Software in 2012 and vWorkspace has been caught between a rock and a hard place ever since, trying to exist in a company that maintains partnerships with VMware and Citrix.

The nail in the coffin was the announcement of Dell's acquisition of EMC, which owns part of VMware. Maintaining a product while partnering with a competitor is a precarious situation at best, but maintaining two competing products under one umbrella just didn't make sense. Dell will continue to provide support for vWorkspace customers and even sell additional license to those shops, but it will not license any new deployments or release a new version of vWorkspace.

Ericom Connect

There are a number of extremely happy vWorkspace users that will continue using it for a long time.

Ericom has long been at the top of the second-tier VDI platforms, and it's in the perfect position to make a move. Ericom started as a company that made terminal emulator software and then in 2008 branched out into desktop virtualization with a product now known as AccessNow. Ericom spent a lot of time adding features to Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP, calling its version Blaze. More recently, Ericom put its efforts behind HTML5, developing a client that is still among the best HTML5 remote desktop clients on the market.

These days, Ericom has completely shifted its approach to VDI. It wrote a new platform, Ericom Connect, from the ground up, and took away a lot of the garbage that incrementally worked its way into the AccessNow platform over the years. For example, Ericom now uses a grid architecture instead of a database, which means its platform can scale to millions of transactions per second without a single point of failure.

Parallels RAS

Parallels is a relatively new contender in the desktop virtualization arena, at least from a traditional VDI and Remote Desktop Session Host perspective. The Parallels Desktop for Mac client hypervisor has been around for a decade, and it's what the company is primarily known for, but in February 2015 Parallels acquired midmarket desktop virtualization company 2X Software. 2X's flagship product, called Remote Application Server (RAS), always catered to a specific crowd that likes the idea of desktop virtualization but can't invest in a Citrix or VMware deployment.

Under 2X's guidance, RAS was always more functional than sexy, but Parallels spent the past year expanding Remote Application Server's capabilities. Parallels RAS v15 includes many of the features that you would expect from a modern platform, such as mobile and HTML5 clients. If Parallels keeps up its current level of effort, RAS could make the leap to become a top tier offering.

Leostream Connection Broker

Leostream is not the splashiest company in desktop virtualization. It usually doesn't go to conferences, and it's not jabbing at the competition on Twitter. That's because Leostream is 100% focused on one thing: making the most flexible connection broker on the planet. The Leostream Connection Broker can connect any client to any application, and can do it over any protocol to any desktop virtualization platform.

This agnostic approach could make Leostream the most viable option of all, given that its connection broker can plug right into any organization's existing environment, tie into Hyper-V, and manage desktop pools. It does not have the same feature set as XenApp, Horizon View or vWorkspace, but Leostream's connection broker is far more powerful than the out-of-box Microsoft offering.

A few wild cards

There are other companies worth mentioning, such as Thinspace and desktopsites. Thinspace -- formerly named ProPalms -- has a holistic offering called skyGate that includes a desktop virtualization platform and compatible thin clients. Desktopsites, which makes a product called Konect Center, has targeted the small to medium-sized business market for years, building on Microsoft's virtualization capabilities.

There is no need to rush to find a vWorkspace alternative. There are a number of extremely happy vWorkspace users that will continue using it for a long time, but it's still worth keeping an eye out for the alternatives when the time comes to make a move.

Next Steps

An overview of Dell vWorkspace

Learn more about the new version of Parallels RAS

How the Dell-EMC deal affects end-user computing

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