Desktops & platforms to deploy on, the choice is yours

Desktops

I thought, as we are almost halfway through 2019, it would be a good idea to write a piece on the choices customers have when looking to deploy desktops. The market for sure hasn’t been dull and choices are increasing. My goal for this blog is to look at the different options of the big five; Microsoft, Amazon, VMware, Citrix and Nutanix. Let me group things a bit to keep an oversight, let’s group the solution per Cloud they can be deployed on.

Microsoft Azure

Of course the minute I write Azure, Windows Virtual Desktop aka WVD is on your mind. I’m not talking specifically about WVD. There is a whole world outside Windows Virtual Desktop. There are solutions out there that run on Azure without the solution being a WVD partner. So if we look at Microsoft Azure we see the following solutions available;

  • Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop
  • VMware Horizon services on Azure
  • Nutanix Xi Frame (on Azure)
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
  • Citrix Managed Desktops

The only one not offering an Azure solution is, not surprising, Amazon. Of course there are differences between the solutions, Nutanix Xi Frame is a DaaS solution like Citrix Managed Desktops and Microsoft WVD, all very limited in features for specific use cases. VMware Horizon on Azure and Citrix Virtual apps and Desktops offer a much more advanced solution.

Microsoft and VMware signed an agreement to enable VMware to make use of the WVD program. For that VMware needs to move their control plane to Azure from AWS. It, for me at least, is unknown so far if the current Horizon on Azure solution will be offering Win10EVD or that they will provide this through the Cloudsimple/VirtuStream offering.

if you are interested in WVD, here is my last article on that: https://robbeekmans.net/euc/microsoft-windows-virtual-desktop-a-comprehensive-overview/

Cloud or co-location?

The agreement between Microsoft and VMware was around VMware on Azure by CloudSimple. CloudSimple offering a VMware on Azure solution running on Azure bare-metal so not Azure native. For me this is not a true cloud solution but a co-location kind of solution where you purchase/rent hardware to run your solution on. I know that they built an integration platform to connect to Azure services and so on but it is not a Azure solution as it is leveraging vSphere instead.

With the current Horizon on Azure, the Cloudsimple solution and the upcoming Virtustream solution I see three solutions for Azure. That seems like a lot for Azure only. If you have more info on the future of this, please let me know, eager to learn.

Amazon AWS

If we take a look at Amazon AWS we see two types of deployments, like we saw with Microsoft Azure. Some of them connect with AWS API’s and some deploy on bare-metal and built the solution on that. The following solutions are out there;

  • Nutanix Xi Frame
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops on VMware Cloud on AWS
  • Amazon AWS Workspaces
  • Amazon AWS AppStream
  • VMware Horizon on VMware Cloud on AWS

If we look at this list we see two solutions that are not true cloud, both deployed on bare-metal in AWS datacenters. They don’t leverage the AWS API’s to deploy and maintain the workloads (they may still be able to connect to AWS services through integration). Those solutions are VMware Horizon on VMware Cloud on AWS and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops on VMware Cloud on AWS. All the other solutions are making use of the AWS API’s and connect like a true cloud offering. Citrix in this list offers both options, they connect to AWS in a cloud native way and they support the VMC on AWS solution.

Nutanix just announced a Nutanix on AWS hardware solution that is in the works, it’s not there yet so hence the reason it is not in the list.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

Google Cloud Platform is perhaps a little forgotten sometimes with both Microsoft and Amazon stealing the thunder. They are there and you can deploy desktops on GCP without any problem. The following solution is available for Google Cloud Platform;

  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops

The list is limited to one currently, there is no other vendor of the big five deploying to Google Cloud Platform.. Google does not have a Desktop solution themselves, they do have a gaming platform called Stadia that has many similarities to a DaaS solution but is not positioned as one.

Nutanix is working on enabling Google Cloud Platform but it is not GA right now. As soon as it is, I’ll update this list. Amazon, Microsoft and VMware are not on Google Cloud Platform for different reasons.

Nutanix Xi Cloud

Nutanix Xi cloud is not available for desktop deployment right now (not publicly at least, I think customer can request access though). Xi Cloud is currently used for Xi Leap, their DR solution. There are no solutions supported to run on Xi Cloud. I think I heard Nicolas of Frame say that they are working on support for this. That was last year in London, not sure what happened in between as last week no mention of it anymore. I’m sure it is coming and others like Citrix will follow suit.

On-premises

The last one we will look at is the on-premises solutions, many of the solutions did sprout from an on-premises product and moved to cloud. Some are born in cloud and moved on-premises. Todays market becomes more and more hybrid, only cloud or only on-premises is no choice for many organisations. they need choice. So if we look at the on-premises products we see the following;

  • VMware Horizon
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
  • Nutanix Xi Frame on Nutanix

When talking about on-premises the number of hypervisor platforms supported is important, you don’t want a lock-in. So if we take a quick look at the supported platforms than we see the following differentiation (mind you, supported means – all management options, so no unmanaged deployments);

CitrixVMwareNutanix
VMware vSphereXX
Citrix HypervisorX
Nutanix AHVXX
Microsoft Hyper-VX

Hybrid (Management) solution

With all the different cloud and on-premises options management becomes a thing. Not all vendors offer a hybrid management solution and customers are stuck with multiple console, multiple locations with consoles even. So if we take a quick look we see that Citrix and Nutanix both offer a centralised console and with that a hybrid solution. Nutanix has a limited reach for on-premises hypervisors but Xi Frame is managed from a single console no matter where it is ran.

Citrix offers a on-premises console and a cloud console which is centralised. From the cloud console any workload on any cloud or any hypervisor on-premises can be managed. Of course Amazon and Microsoft have a single console but they also have a single platform to deploy too, so they don’t really count in this. VMware is most disperse vendor out there with a variety of console and solutions. They are building a cloud console but the agreement with Microsoft might have slowed that down in favour of the WVD design. Time will tell.

Lot’s of choices and this is only about deployment and management. If this would be extended into protocols, user experience and features the blog would be endless. So let’s not do that.

So with that we have a list of vendors, solutions per cloud provider and hypervisor and hopefully it gives you a bit more insight and clarification of what is going on in this business.

<if you find any error, I’m only human, let me know>


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