Citrix vs. VMware VDI

April 19 , 2022
10 mins 22 seconds

Author: Haziqa Sajid

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If the past few years are a testament to anything, it’s the fact that desktop virtualization is here to stay. This is evident from statistics that reflect year-on-year growth for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Reports by industry experts forecast a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the desktop virtualization market by 2025.

It’s mostly by organizations looking to benefit from its eased accessibility, scalability, and increased security. Such organizations had a chance to test out the technology during the pandemic. Businesses globally are now ready to move forward with desktop virtualization technology such as VDI.

However, opting for a VDI solution comes with its own problems. If you’re in the market looking for a VDI solution for your company, two popular solutions are Citrix Virtual Apps and VMware Horizon.

Since both solutions are equally complex, it might be a challenge to decide which solution would best match your company’s requirements. Comparing the two is a daunting task. However, we’ve simplified the comparison.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), and How is it Beneficial for Businesses?

Through Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), users can work on a ‘virtual desktop’ hosted on a centralized server. Such a virtual desktop is remotely accessible by any user from any location, irrespective of the actual hardware device in question.

For businesses, this means cutting significant physical infrastructure costs. It also means increased data security and prevention of any loss as information will automatically be backed up on the server. VDI also increases productivity as workers are not constrained to a physical device that stores data on an isolated machine. You can further read about how VDI works through a detailed article.

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Assessment Criteria

To compare both VDI solutions, let’s first look at the criteria upon which both will be pitted against each other. These include:

  1. Technical Architecture
  2. IT Admin Experience
  3. End-User Experience
  4. Licensing and Infrastructure Costs
  5. Understanding Your Internal Business Requirements

Citrix vs. VMware

For Citrix, the VDI solution is available for users through its product called Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop. But, since Citrix Workspace is the primary product including Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop, we’ll consider Citrix Workspace as Citrix’s VDI offering.

While for VMware, the VDI solution it offers is VMware Horizon. In both cases, both Citrix Workspace and VMware offer VDI solutions and other features such as Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) included.

Here is a breakdown of how they compare against each other based on our assessment criteria.

1- Technical Architecture

  • Control Panel
    Citrix Workspace manages several components as part of its control panel. These include Delivery Controller, Citrix Database, Citrix Studio, Director, Storefront, and even its Gateway Service. This helps ease deployment and helps the end-user focus on their core virtual app/desktop requirements With VMware Horizon’s control plane, users can leverage a universal broker to connect to their virtual app/desktop from any location or device. VMware’s control plane is purely cloud-based and can integrate with on-premises and hybrid environments. The Control Plane also includes a Cloud Monitoring Service (CMS), which helps the end-user stay updated with capacity and usage over time.
  • Compute – Fixed cost or Customer-Managed Cost?
    While both VMware Horizon and Citrix Workspace charge customers based on the compute cost, both offer different pricing models. Citrix Workspace follows a ‘Customer-Managed Cost’ model where the initial cost of deployment and charges per user is low. In comparison, VMware Horizon’s pricing model is more inclined toward a fixed-cost model. Here upfront costs for licenses determine how much computation will be available to a user.
    With Citrix Workspace, the per-user pricing varies depending on requirements such as Single-Sign-On (SSO), Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), personalized feeds, advanced security features, etc.
    Also, it’s important to point out that while Citrix’s per-user pricing might seem cheaper at first, the cost adds up to become similar to VMware Horizon. The cost is mainly based on the computation power required by the end-user.
    Keeping all of this in mind, it’s hard to put an exact figure on the monthly costs you’d be paying for either of the two solutions. It’s also important to keep in mind that budget predictability can be an issue if not set up by the right IT team.

2- IT Admin Experience

  • Operating system
    Supported Operating Systems with VMware Horizon include Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server, Ubuntu, CentOS, Linux, etc. The complete list (including different versions) can be viewed in the official VMware documentation.
    Supported Operating Systems with Citrix Workspace include Windows 7, 10, Windows 11, Windows Server, etc. The complete list (including different versions) can be viewed in the official Citrix Workspace documentation.
    In both cases, a number of operating systems are available for the user. From a comparison of both, it seems clear that VMware has a greater diversity in OS support. But, this factor alone isn’t a limitation for opting out of Citrix. This is because it’s mainly up to the customer to decide what OS support they require. In most cases, the business can do just fine if their required OS is available with Citrix.
  • Image Management
    Citrix provides support for image management functionality for a wide range of Operating Systems. Some of them include prepared images for Windows 10 Enterprise (single session and multi-session), Windows Server, and Linux Ubuntu. Users can prepare new images, import images, upload catalogs, customize, etc. The complete details can be viewed as part of the complete product documentation on Citrix’s website.
    VMware provides its version of an image-management system based entirely on the cloud. It can automatically track and control images. It can also use a centralized catalog to manage different system images across connected components. VMware can create copies of system images based on user requirements. The complete documentation for image management can be viewed on VMware’s site. So in the case of image management, both Citrix and VMware offer similar solutions.

3- End-User Experience

While the above comparison of the target audience for both VDI solutions sheds some light on the end-user experience, let’s look at this in detail. For Citrix’s VDI solution, the front-end User Interface (UI) is Storefront. Meanwhile, VMware Horizon uses View Connection Server (VCS) for its front-end.

With VMware Horizon, a cloud-based VDI service gives users the flexibility to access virtual infrastructure from any device or location. Its self-service app store can allow access to different virtual desktop/applications without managing multiple passwords. In addition, while the administrator portal for Citrix uses a legacy system (i.e. Microsoft Management Console), VMware Horizon provides a web-post portal that is comparatively better.

Citrix creates a smoother user experience. For one, Citrix takes full responsibility for installation and maintenance, giving the end-user room to focus on the virtual app/desktop. The Citrix Cloud connector is a critical feature that helps create a hassle-free configuration method with local resources.

So if we compare end-user experience for both Citrix and VMware, it seems there’s a clear distinction. With VMware Horizon, the user gets a front-end optimized for simplicity. While this is done at the expense of sacrificing advanced configuration capability, it is ideal for small businesses. In the case of Citrix Workspace, there is an added capability for advanced configuration. This makes it ideal for larger businesses that require personalized configuration in many aspects, due to their scale and scope of operations.

4- Licensing and Infrastructure Cost

  • Citrix VDI
    Citrix Workspace charges based on a per-user pricing model with their cheapest plan (i.e. Workspace Essentials) costing around $3.05 per user (for a total 500 user plan). This price already includes standard infrastructure costs such as network costs, compute and storage costs, etc.)
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Citrix provides a pricing calculator for Citrix Workspace that simulates estimated costs that customers will have to pay. The greater the number of users for any specific plan (Workspace essentials, Workspace Standard, etc.), the lower the cost per user.

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  • VMware VDI
    Unlike Citrix Workspace, VMware charges fixed costs per user on a license basis. This license can be availed on a one-time basis, with the cheapest license starting from around $3000.
    VMware has several licenses available based on the number of users required by the business. For example, the VMware Enterprise license for 10 users costs around $4000.
    Costs can vary depending on business requirements. These requirements can be storage, compute, memory, etc.
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A detailed cost comparison of both Citrix Workspace and VMware Horizon is given towards the end of this article. It goes into detail on how pricing should be estimated by businesses for both solutions.

Understanding Your Internal Business Requirements

It’s essential to take a company’s target audience/ideal customer into consideration to understand whether a particular solution works for them or not. Some companies target large businesses, while some specifically convert small to medium businesses (SMBs).

If you’re an SMB and unknowingly buying a service targeted at a large enterprise, the service might end up costing you more without even getting the job done. This is why it’s essential to understand the customer base for Citrix and VMWare based on their service offering.

VMware Horizon

VMware Horizon offers an easy-to-use interface but lacks advanced configuration and communication capabilities. It also has a faster and somewhat cheaper deployment capability. This makes it ideal for small businesses that prefer avoiding costs related to training staff on navigating through the VDI solution.

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop VDI

While VMware Horizon provides an easy-to-use interface and is quickly deployable, such a service offering is made at a particular expense. For example, VMware Horizon provides only one hypervisor (i.e. VMware ESXI), while Citrix provides several hypervisors. VMware offers basic functionality, while Citrix provides comparatively greater functionality for users regarding the connection broker.

The point is that Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop VDI are ideal for larger enterprises that need advanced management/configuration features. While the technical expertise i.e. human resources costs more, larger businesses can afford it as they need greater customization given their requirements.

Summary

Assessment Criteria Citrix VDI VMware VDI
Target Audience Medium & Large Businesses Small & Medium Businesses
Technical Architecture Customer managed storage and compute costs Fixed storage and compute costs
IT Admin Experience Allows advanced configuration and communication, Easier deployment Limited configuration available, Complicated Deployment due to a number of licenses that are required
End-User Experience Comparatively complex front-end due to added configuration features More straightforward front-end/end-user experience optimized for simplicity
License & Infrastructure Costs Customer-Managed Cost, Free/Open Source Hypervisor (Citrix Hypervisor) Fixed Cost (Pay per License), Licensing Model-based Hypervisor (VMware ESXI)

Comparing VMware and Citrix VDI Costs

At face value, it might seem like VMware Horizon is the more expensive of the two, given the upfront costs. And there is a possibility that with Citrix Workspace, the low upfront costs might help the end-user pay according to exact usage.

However, realistically, the user must keep some added factors in mind. First, the costs can add up to similar amounts as both services charge competitive prices. This means you might end up paying the same cost at the end of the month for both services irrespective of lower upfront or operation costs.

Secondly, it’s essential to understand your internal requirements and match them with Citrix and VMware to see where you’re getting a better bargain. For example, core requirements are towards virtualization and infrastructure, remote access and mobility, getting timely support (especially for small businesses with limited IT teams), etc.

But overall, both offer competitive pricing and different pricing models to choose from. This means there’s no clear winner, and going for Citrix due to low initial costs might cost the same as VMware.

Accelerate the VDI Deployment Process with V2 Cloud

If you got overwhelmed by the research required to calculate actual costs for either Citrix or VMware’s VDI solution, I don’t blame you. With upfront costs, purchasing several licenses to meet your needs is painstaking. With the customer-managed cost model, it’s hard to figure out what your business will end up paying.

This is where V2 Cloud’s Cloud VDI solution comes in. It helps accelerate the entire process by providing personalized support to help you during the deployment process and keep you up-to-date on the cost.. You can create an online account and have a customized meeting with our sales team to guide you throughout the onboarding process in just a few steps.

Where Citrix and VMware lack customer support due to their scale and nature of service offering, V2 Cloud excels in guiding you throughout the VDI deployment process.

This includes providing the right Deskop-as-a-Service solution within the VDI deployment you require to help move your desktop infrastructure to the cloud. You can even ‘Build Your Own Desktop’ to meet your specific requirements. You can further read up on V2 Cloud’s VDI solution and how personalized customer support can solve the repetitive issues businesses face with Citrix and VMware.

Written By: Haziqa Sajid

Freelance tech writer and content marketer for tech, SaaS, and AI companies | Helped 50+ tech businesses with engagement-driven content.