Citrix & VMware's Strategy is To Overwhelm You With Too Many Choices

by Amitabh Sinha on May 24, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Having too many choices is not a good thing. Just look at the recent wave of articles and studies documenting why too much choice is a problem: Are you Losing Sales by Giving Customers Too Many Choices?, The Tyranny of Choice, Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze.

Just like in any other market, customers can be overwhelmed by choices in the world of software. It is difficult enough to choose between two products from two different vendors. However, the problem becomes even more vexing when the choices then need to be made for the same vendor! How do you know which one to choose?

What's the right solution for you? Citrix & VMware will give you a headache figuring it out

In the end user computing space, there are two great examples of the problem of too much choice: Citrix and VMware. Together, they have 5 products. Which one should you choose? 

  • Citrix Workspace Suite vs. Citrix Cloud

    Citrix has two different architectures for delivering a Workspace. 
    • Citrix Workspace Suite includes XenApp, XenDesktop, and XenMobile, and is a suite of products that is deployed on-premises to deliver a workspace to end users. 
    • Citrix Cloud (formerly known as Citrix Workspace Cloud) hosts parts of the management plane in the cloud while remaining components (Netscaler, PVS, etc.) run in the data center. 
  • VMware Horizon/Horizon vs. Air/Horizon vs. Air Hybid

    VMware has three completely different architectures for VDI. 
    • Horizon is an on-premises VDI 1.0 product where both management plane and desktops are on-premises. 
    • Horizon Air is a fully-hosted Desktop as a Service offering where both management plane and desktops are in the cloud. 
    • Horizon Air Hybrid is a hybrid architecture where the management plane is in the cloud and desktops are on-premises.

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Why so many solutions for the same problem?

The answer is simple: Innovation demands the constant introduction of new technology.

New technology enables a different architecture, and the new architecure is often disruptive. Think Siebel vs. Salesforce; Peoplesoft vs. Workday; Exchange vs. Gmail; NetApp vs. Nutanix; HDD vs. Flash....

How does a vendor react to an architectural change? Let's say you have 50k customers on the old architecture. Refreshing their architecture can take as many as 6-9 years. This breaks down into 2-3 years to create a new architecture, then 2-3 years for it to mature, and then another 2-3 years for the mainstream customer to adopt it. That's a lifetime in technology. In this environment, software companies have two choices:

  1. They can acquire a company with the new architecture (e.g., VMware acquired Desktone to create Horizon Air).
  2. Or they can take their existing architecture and try to evolve it to the new paradigm (e.g., Citrix Workspace Suite to Citrix Cloud, or VMware Horizon Air to Horizon Air Hybrid).

Evolution and acquisition strategies =  A car with two steering wheels

Imagine a car with two steering wheels. One represents the incumbent technology and the other the acquisition technology. So what can go wrong with a company's strategy and roadmap?  

Historically, evolution strategies have not worked. The evolved architecture is held back by too much of the legacy design choices and is vastly inferior to a solution created from scratch (e.g., Siebel vs. Salesforce, Peoplesoft vs. Workday). Microsoft was able to "evolve" Exchange into a cloud-native, multi-tenant architecture, but it took them 7 years to do it, starting with Office Live in 2008.

Acquisition strategies only work if the company can balance two different product/business models inside its existing go-to market strategies. This approach has also historically been difficult to achieve. Do you remember Kaviza (VDI-in-a-Box)? Citrix acquired the company in 2011. Kaviza was a much simpler architecture than XenDesktop, but it was recently EOL-ed by Citrix. Why? Well, Citrix couldn't resolve when a customer should buy XenDesktop or Kaviza. And if Citrix couldn't figure it out, how could a customer make that choice?

Legacy products kill innovation

Architectural shifts can often lead to multiple products for the same problem inside a legacy vendor. Sausage making aside, it creates challenges for the customer. How do you migrate?  Did you bet on the right architecture moving forward?

History has shown that the legacy product often "wins" in these scenarios and the vendor cannot make the architectural leap. This means customers get stuck with products that are outdated because they cannot move forward. 

Can I get an aspirin?

Step back for a moment and think about the requirements for your business and the time horizon. By doing so, you can focus on your business needs rather than on what the vendor wants you to buy.  When you have clarity about your business needs, then it's possible to escape the confusion of chosing both a vendor and a product altogether.

In the next article, we'll clarify the difference between cloud-native and cloud-hosted architectures and their impact on your business.


Learn more about your choices by downloading our new eBook on the Future of VDI. Your choices have improved greatly.

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This post was written by Amitabh Sinha

Amitabh has more than twenty years of experience across enterprise software, end user computing, mobile, and database software. Amitabh co-founded Workspot with Puneet Chawla and Ty Wang in August 2012. Prior to Workspot, Amitabh was the General Manager for Enterprise Desktops and Apps at Citrix Systems. In his five years at Citrix, Amitabh was VP Product Management for XenDesktop and VP Engineering for the Advanced Solutions Group. Amitabh has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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