Nutanix entered the end-user virtualization market when they acquired the desktop-as-a-service vendor Frame, and it has made a lot of enhancements to the Frame platform that have resulted in a more viable enterprise offering.
It can be difficult for administrators to evaluate Nutanix Frame vs. Citrix or other major desktop as a service (DaaS) vendors, but understanding the feature sets, integrations and strengths of each platform is essential before choosing a DaaS provider.
Let's explore the differences of Nutanix Frame vs. Citrix Managed Desktops and how well these DaaS offerings stack up against one another.
Evaluating Nutanix Frame pros and cons
Before Nutanix acquired Frame, it was one of the first cloud-based DaaS providers on the market. This meant that organizations could subscribe to a fully managed virtual desktop for a certain number of hours per month. With it, organizations' users could access a cloud-based desktop from either Azure or AWS in an easily accessible interface.
After Nutanix acquired Frame, it broadened the support for the Xi Frame DaaS offering to include support for Google Cloud and Nutanix's own HCI platform. Nutanix has also provided more functionality with networking configurations for organizations that prefer to bring their own Microsoft Azure or AWS tenants and in hybrid environments.
Looking at the user experience, Frame has always focused on a browser-based experience, meaning the virtual desktops and applications are only available through a browser using their Frame Remoting Protocol, which is built on HTML5 and WebSockets.
Nutanix has also made enhancements that allow users to access applications through progressive web apps (PWAs), which are essentially web applications that IT can install to local devices. Frame also provides a native API interface that IT can use to integrate virtual desktops and applications into custom web-based workflows. Nutanix Frame supports standard authentication protocols such as SAML or OAuth2.
Frame was born as a pure-cloud DaaS offering, but it also provides significant integrations from both an identity perspective, including Ping and Okta, and cloud-based storage perspective, including Google Drive, Box and Dropbox.
While these features are helpful for many IT administrators, organizations evaluating Nutanix Frame vs. Citrix Managed Desktops must keep the following missing features in mind. With the newer purely cloud-based approach, Nutanix Frame lacks integrations against private cloud platforms or hypervisors besides their HCI platform. Because Frame is browser-based, users are bound to the limitations with the current implementation of the HTTP and the browser. Unlike a regular Windows-based native client, the browser-based approach could also limit the support of peripheral devices.
More services are becoming cloud-native and web-based, so this may improve Nutanix Frame's integration blind spots. Major technology service vendors are making investments into a new protocol, HTTP/3, which will ease this transition. These improvements will provide Frame with a better end-user experience in the long run, but anyone evaluating Nutanix Frame vs. Citrix Managed Desktops must remember that they are currently bound to the browser limitations of the underlying OS.
Citrix Managed Desktops in the enterprise market
The history of Citrix starts with the data center delivery market, but Citrix has been slowly shifting its focus to Citrix Cloud. For Nutanix Frame vs. Citrix Managed Desktops' hypervisor integrations, Citrix provides a much higher level of integration for machine provisioning and image management. Citrix also provides support for Azure, AWS, Google and the Nutanix AHV hypervisor.
Citrix has also developed its remoting protocol, which allows for adaptive transport of data, depending on what is displayed in the remote session. This means that Citrix Managed Desktops doesn't need to transport inactive parts of the screen.
Because Citrix also provides native clients, Citrix Managed Desktops is not bound to the browser and can, therefore, use other protocols such as enlightened data transport protocol. This will provide users with remote sessions at a lower latency compared to HTTP, while also providing offload features from Microsoft Teams.
Citrix Managed Desktops provides a richer set of support for peripherals and it offers a richer ecosystem of other products in Citrix's portfolio, including SD-WAN capabilities, application layering and monitoring tools.
Nutanix Frame vs. Citrix Managed Desktops: Which option fits best?
Nutanix Frame and Citrix Managed Desktops both provide a similar DaaS offering. While Frame has been in the DaaS market for a longer time, Citrix Managed Desktops has the customer base and the ecosystem to give Frame competition moving forward.
Additionally, Citrix provides a wider range of delivery options with its Citrix Cloud offering, ranging from a managed control plane to fully managed DaaS offerings. Citrix also offers more control with its cloud integration, so administrators can define different types of virtual infrastructure depending on the use case.
Still, when looking at these two DaaS offerings, they are positioned for different customer segments. Citrix can provide more flexibility given their long list of integrations, large ecosystem and end-user experience expertise. Citrix can provide better integration with existing data centers and other private cloud offerings, not to mention the support for GPU-based workloads in combination with their remote protocol. Citrix also has some better tooling when it comes to golden image management and with the use of application layering.
Organizations considering Nutanix Frame vs. Citrix Managed Desktops should also look at the core of each business. Citrix's main focus is end-user computing, and it has expanding its ecosystem to provide new tools and utilities around device management, virtual assistants and even security analytics.
Nutanix has always aimed for simplicity, but its main focus is still the core platform. It is important to note that Nutanix Frame provides simplicity, ease of management and a more cloud-native experience compared to Citrix. Nutanix certainly has potential to compete, but it needs to provide a richer ecosystem to be able to match Citrix in the enterprise market.
Another important note is that Microsoft has entered this market with the introduction of Windows Virtual Desktop and multiuser Windows 10. As of now, Microsoft lists Citrix as one of its core partners and already supports multiuser Windows 10 as part of Citrix Managed Desktops. This integration gives them a competitive edge, because many organizations will use Azure as their core platform for DaaS-based services.
While Frame is still not the core business of Nutanix, the enhancements of the web-based protocols and the expanding feature set of Frame can be more appealing to the enterprise market.