Citrix vs VMware

Which one is better Citrix or VMware for desktop and application delivery? We sometimes hear this question from our clients. Unfortunately, more often we hear, “We have chosen [insert product/vendor here] because it is better.” The “better” decision usually comes from reading vendor whitepapers, personal or friend’s experience, blog posts and such.

So which one is better? I would answer this question with classic consultant’s “It depends…” There is a solution out there that will be better for you. Whether it be Citrix or VMware, this is what you need to find out and this process is not easy.

Let’s review both vendors’ points of why their product is more superior than the competitor’s. Not a surprise that you will find a number of whitepapers, blog posts and articles uncovering various pieces of technology and explaining what exactly their main differentiators are, but let’s take a look at major vendor whitepapers from VMware and Citrix. Each one has four main reasons to go with a particular vendor.



Here is what VMware says in their VMware Horizon Suite vs Citrix Datasheet whitepaper: customers choose VMware Horizon Suite over Citrix for the following primary reasons:

  • Trusted and reliable
  • Best end-user experience
  • Management simplicity
  • Better value

The first one is easy: VMware has gained a strong reputation over a number of years in virtualization market, well, just like Citrix.

Best End-User Experience. I especially like this one as it is funny how both vendors use this to emphasize things like 3D graphics acceleration they both have. My favorite is protocol comparison PCoIP against HDX. Here are the quotes from both whitepapers:

VMware’s “View and PCoIP performed either better than or as well as Citrix and HDX for network bandwidth consumption and end-user experience for all test cases.”

and Citrix’s “Horizon uses the PCoIP protocol, which requires up to 10 times more bandwidth and delivers lower frame rates than Citrix HDX technology.”

To summarize, both protocols provide the end-user with the same remote experience. I bet your end-user will not be able to tell a difference between HDX and PCoIP.

Management Simplicity. This one is interesting. Here is a quote from VMware’s whitepaper: “Compared to Citrix’s point products purchased from multiple vendors, each with its own installation and each with its own management interface, VMware Horizon Suite continues the ease-of-management and ease-of-use tradition that is a hallmark of vSphere and Horizon View.” Actually, during the past few years Citrix put a lot of effort to consolidate their products and management consoles, sometimes even dropping some product functionality and making their customers unhappy because of this. VMware, on the other hand, added quite a few management interfaces such as App Volumes and even Microsoft RDHS. Not to mention admins are still angry with VMware about the Web Client and the fact that you have to install Adobe Flash.

To be honest, both vendors have a number of products with separate interfaces to manage depending on the desired functionality. Management simplicity statement cannot be easily applied to each of them. I would say that management-wise both vendors are more or less equal.

Better Value. I think better value is the key thing you need to figure out when looking for a solution. The important thing is that it has to be a better value for your unique environment. VMware’s idea of better value, however, is that there are some additional features (that you may or may not use) that are included in Horizon Suite’s license.

It is worth noting that most important features such as Horizon RDHS are only included in Horizon Advanced and Enterprise Edition. Citrix XenDesktop Platinum licensing is usually more expensive but also includes many features not available from VMware, or available at additional cost, or from third-party vendors. It is up to you to decide which features are applicable and which are not to your environment, and then find out whether they are included with a particular product license. Only then you can get a better vision of what the best value might be in your case.

To summarize, I would rephrase VMware’s statement: Better Value. In some cases. Maybe.



This section of the post will be shorter. This is because it turns out that Citrix’s differentiators of their better product are close if not the same as VMware’s.

Let’s check out Citrix’s Four Reasons to Go beyond VMware Horizon with Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop whitepaper. To summarize:

  • Citrix offers the most comprehensive app virtualization solution
  • Citrix provides a user experience unmatched in the industry
  • Citrix ensures simple, fast and efficient management at scale
  • Citrix security is robust, multifaceted and flexible

Citrix offers the most comprehensive app virtualization solution because it is a trusted virtualization vendor for many years. Sounds familiar, right?

One of the main Citrix differentiators is XenApp – hosted desktop and application delivery mechanism that has been Citrix’s flagman product for many years. VMware was missing this critical component for a long time. However, thanks to VMware and Microsoft partnership, now we have Horizon integration with RDHS.

I have to admit that Citrix XenApp is a much more feature-rich, flexible and advanced product than Microsoft Remote Desktop Services integrated with Horizon, but is it applicable in your particular case?

User experience unmatched in the industry. Once again, there is 3D graphics acceleration, and HDX is better than PCoIP…

The remote protocol no longer matters. Both Citrix HDX and VMware PC-over-IP are good enough.

Simple, fast and efficient management at scale. Sounds exactly like Management Simplicity to me. Just a couple of quotes from Citrix whitepaper:

“XenApp and XenDesktop comprise a unified, cloud-ready platform that integrates app publishing and VDI into a single architecture with easy management and administration.”

“Horizon requires multiple third-party tools for complete, enterprise-level management and support.”

There are some management and operational efficiencies, but once again, it is up to you to decide whether these are applicable in your environment.

Security. This may be important in some cases. Some of the main security features that differentiate Citrix from VMware are NetScaler Gateway appliance, as opposed to VMware’s Windows server in DMZ for remote user access, and granular access policies that VMware lacks. Once again, it may or may not be important for you.


The Bottom Line

Every solution is different, and there is no recipe that works for everyone. Deep environment analysis is a key: clearly define your objectives; identify use-cases; take into consideration your current investments, existing infrastructure, future plans and staff knowledge; and only then pick the technology that fits your unique environment and budget best. Yes, and don’t forget to plan your solution deployment properly.


P.S. Hey, there is also Microsoft with their RDHS and VDI, and if you add Unidesk to the mix…

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