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Why VMware and Citrix will support Linux VDI

There's only a handful of customers who need Linux VDI, but that doesn't change the fact that they need it. In shops that use both Linux and Windows, a unified virtualization tool from VMware and Citrix could hit the spot.

On the heels of Citrix's tech preview of Linux Virtual Apps and Desktops in XenDesktop and XenApp, VMware said that it will support Linux in Horizon View beginning with a tech preview sometime in 2015.

I have written that Linux VDI is a niche of a niche, and while that is still 100% true, there are reasons that we're starting to see Linux get more attention in the desktop virtualization conversation.

The first reason is that customers are asking for Linux VDI.

Undoubtedly, there are companies that need to provide remote access to virtual Linux apps and desktops, and those companies are probably running both Linux and Windows. So they have two virtualization platforms, which means two support teams, two protocols, two clients and two entirely separate environments. I'm sure those customers would love to see a single platform handle all their needs.

The second reason, which builds upon the first, is that Citrix and VMware could find that they are competing against the likes of Virtual Bridges, Red Hat and NoMachine in shops with mixed-OS needs that are facing an upgrade.

Don't discount Linux VDI vendors

If you're currently a Citrix customer and you want to stay with XenApp, you're looking at a full-on migration as opposed to a simple upgrade, relatively speaking. If you're thinking about using VMware Horizon 6 as your application remoting platform, then you're likely switching from something else, perhaps also from another VDI platform.

Citrix and VMware customers who need to make those kinds of decisions are taking a step back and looking at all their options. NoMachine, Virtual Bridges and Red Hat might not make most companies' short list of Windows desktop virtualization platforms, but you can bet they're accounted for by companies that need a Linux-based platform.

It's easy to dismiss those vendors because they're Linux-based or not as familiar as your existing platform in your Windows world. But to a company that must support Windows and Linux, that's just not as big of a deal.

There are many people who look at this active Linux development and think Citrix and VMware are wasting time and money on something unnecessary, when they could be fixing some of the issues that need to be addressed in their Windows products.

That may be true -- there are only so many development weeks in a year -- but it's not as if we've seen things fall by the wayside yet. And building support for Linux might not be that big of a stretch for VMware and Citrix to make, either.

VMware Horizon DaaS, formerly Desktone, has supported Linux for years. Citrix still offers Presentation Server for Unix and has a lot of Linux expertise in house, so it's not like the company has to hire new teams and start from scratch.

Nobody is saying that Linux is taking over the world, but these things don't just happen. Someone is either asking for a Linux-based product, or Citrix and VMware are losing business to vendors that support both Windows and Linux.

It's more competition, and that's good­ -- as long as the products the other 99% of us use don't suffer as a result.

This was last published in November 2014

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Would you use VMware or Citrix to virtualize both Windows and Linux?
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So far VMware support of Horizon client on Linux has been severely lagging. The existing Horizon client is ancient, and is provided on one Linux platform only (Ubuntu). In addition, it is not available in a form that facilitates porting to or installing on other distributions, such as RedHat. At this point this announcement appears to be little more than a lip service.
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Hi Rattus -- thanks for your comment! Do you think that VMware's announcement means that there could be improvements to Linux support in Horizon in the future, or do you think it's just a ploy to stay competitive with Citrix that will fall by the wayside in months to come?
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You are correct that Linux VDI is a niche in a niche but a growing one, at least in India
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