Desktop Virtualization: Microsoft, VMware in Cost Smackdown

Tighter bond with Citrix

Microsoft's new desktop virtualization initiatives announced yesterday are a long-anticipated move to make desktop and application virtualization easier and cheaper for enterprises. But it's also part of a broader Microsoft strategy to capture market share from virtualization arch-rival VMware.

Desktop virtualization is still a nascent technology, but it does offer the kind of flexibility and ROI that enterprises are looking for, especially ones that are migrating to Windows 7 and are worried about application incompatibility. Microsoft's desktop virtualization model, including VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), promises to rein in desktop costs, improve security and management and speed up the delivery of new applications.

One key part of the sweeping announcements, covered in an hour-long Webcast, is a simpler and cheaper model for licensing Windows in a virtual desktop environment. Specifically, on July 1, Software Assurance customers will no longer have to buy a separate license to access Windows via a VDI.

Moreover, for customers that use devices that don't qualify for Software Assurance, such as thin clients and PCs used by contractors, there will be a new license called Windows VDA (virtual desktop access) available for $100 per device per year. This license will allow users to still have access to their complete virtual desktop outside the corporate network on devices such a personal laptops and airport kiosks.

But from an industry perspective, the most noteworthy aspect of Microsoft's virtualization announcements is the company's tighter bonding with partner Citrix to bundle each other's virtualization software, in an effort to gang-tackle virtualization market leader VMware. While well ahead of Microsoft on the server management side of virtualization, VMware is now scrambling to stay ahead in the desktop space, says Chris Wolf, senior analyst at Burton Group.

"Vmware had a two-year lead in desktop virtualization, but it is only beginning to take it seriously," says Wolf. "Citrix and Microsoft want to take on VMware in this space, and they're closing the gap here. Vmware needs to step up its game."

To this end, VMware recently released a new version of the ThinApp application virtualization software to ease migration to Windows 7.

Microsoft and Citrix are merging technologies, but they are also giving customers bargain deals. In addition to merging Microsoft's 3-D graphics technology for virtual desktops, called RemoteFX, with Citrix's high-definition HDX technology, the two companies will offer a price-cutting promotion called "VDI Kick Start" from March 18 until Dec. 31, 2010.

VDI Kick Start allows existing Microsoft customers with CALs (client access licenses) to pay $28 per desktop for up to 250 users to get the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Suite, standard edition, and Citrix's XenDesktop VDI Edition for one year. This comes out to be approximately half the typical annual license cost.

The other offer from Microsoft and Citrix is a more direct confrontation with VMware. Called "Rescue for Vmware VDI", it's a promotion that lets SA licensed Microsoft customers replace their VMware View licenses for free. VMware View customers will get up to 500 XenDesktop VDI Edition device licenses and up to 500 Microsoft VDI Standard Suite device licenses for no charge for a full year in exchange for their VMware View licenses. Like the "VDI Kick Start" promotion, "Rescue for VMware VDI" is available from March 18 through December 31, 2010.

"This is for customers we've spoken to who maybe had a great experience with VMware with servers and then rushed out to do the same thing on the desktop and ran into a brick wall with poor user experience and scalability and ROI problems," says Wes Wasson, chief marketing officer at Citrix.

It's too early to declare a winner in desktop virtualization - because the market is so raw, says Burton Group's Wolf. But he thinks VMware executives should be on high alert over this new assault from Microsoft and Citrix.

"VMware should be worried about this," he says. "If they're not, they're doing something wrong."

Shane O'Neill is a senior writer at CIO.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at twitter.com/CIOonline.

Read more about virtualization in CIO's Virtualization Drilldown.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CitrixMicrosoftvirtualisation

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Shane O'Neill

CIO (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?