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Citrix and VMware do battle with their workspace management tools

Citrix and VMware's workspace management tools are built on the foundation of existing technologies. As a result, understanding the parts that make up the whole is critical.

VMware Workspace One, Citrix Workspace Suite and Citrix Cloud take different approaches to delivering digital workspace products, but they aim to achieve a similar goal: provide users with a single access point for all their digital resources.

Workspace One uses a cloud-first model, although it also provides on-premises options. Workspace Suite represents the on-premises side of the Citrix equation and Citrix Cloud represents the cloud-based side. All three products build on existing technologies, including single sign-on (SSO), virtual desktop and application delivery, to provide integrated workspaces across different platforms and device types.

To understand the specific differences between workspace management tools, admins must look at the core products and services and what it takes to manage the features they provide. As simple as the concept of the digital workspace sounds, it requires a complex infrastructure for orchestrating and implementing the various pieces. Cloud services can help mitigate some of this burden, but they, too, bring their own challenges and costs.

VMware Workspace One

Workspace One evolved out of VMware's Workspace Suite as a step toward better integrating the core products that make up the product. At the heart of this integration are VMware Identity Manager and VMware AirWatch, which combine to allow Workspace One to function as a single product.

Identity Manager: Provides identity and authentication functionality. It supports app provisioning, conditional access controls and SSO for multiple types of apps. It also provides a browser-based portal for app access and a self-service app store. In addition, VMware integrated Identity Manager into Horizon 7 and admins can integrate it with directory services such as Active Directory as well as specific Citrix products.

The approach admins take to deliver digital workspaces depends on the infrastructure they already have in place.

AirWatch: An enterprise mobility management (EMM) product, AirWatch delivers mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM), along with mobile content management. AirWatch supports features such as device enrollment, policy enforcement and integration with back-end systems and services such as email and directory services. As part of the package, VMware also provides users with the Workspace One mobile app, which is available for Google Android, Apple iOS and Windows 10 devices.

Horizon 7: Allows admins to deliver virtual applications or desktops based on either Horizon's VDI technologies or Microsoft Remote Desktop Services. Admins can host their apps and desktops in centralized data centers and deliver them through a single platform as part of Workspace One.

Workspace One is available in three different editions -- Standard, Advanced and Enterprise -- but only the Enterprise edition includes Horizon. It also includes gateway and tunneling technologies to facilitate secure communication between components and with other systems, such as Active Directory, Exchange Server or Office 365. In addition, Workspace One provides users with productivity tools, including AirWatch Browser and VMware Boxer.

Citrix Workspace Suite

Similar to Workspace One, Workspace Suite, one of Citrix's workspace management tools, combines individual Citrix products -- XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, ShareFile and NetScaler Gateway -- into a single digital workspace product.

XenApp: Uses the Remote Desktop Session Host capabilities in Windows Server to make Windows desktop sessions and applications available to users through the Citrix HDX protocol. Users access remote desktops and apps through the Citrix Receiver client software running on their devices. XenApp also provides centralized security within the data center along with a single console for managing apps and desktops.

XenDesktop: Delivers virtual desktops in a pooled configuration or as personalized desktops. Like XenApp, XenDesktop offers a centralized security model and a single management console. In addition, XenDesktop supports remote PC access, hosted physical desktops and server VDI, as well as Linux technologies.

XenMobile: Provides the EMM component for managing and protecting mobile devices, apps and data. In addition to supporting MDM and MAM, XenMobile offers multifactor SSO, device sharing among multiple users, and a set of managed mobile apps that provide secure web browsing, email access and file sharing.

ShareFile: An enterprise file sync-and-share service, ShareFile works across mobile devices, physical desktops and virtual desktops. ShareFile supports flexible storage options, while providing granular security controls to protect corporate data. Admins can integrate ShareFile with existing security policies and infrastructures as well as with data loss prevention systems.

NetScaler Gateway: Lets users remotely access any app from any device, while providing IT with the ability to manage access based on user identity and endpoint device. In this way, administrators can better secure apps, protect data and address compliance regulations and requirements.

As with Workspace One, Workspace Suite includes additional components for integrating systems and facilitating communications, such as Citrix User Profile Manager and Citrix Provisioning Services.

Citrix Cloud workspace services

Citrix Cloud workspace services provide "all the value of Citrix Workspace Suite as hybrid cloud services," according to Citrix. When setting up workspaces, admins choose an infrastructure for their data resources and then manage them from a single console on Citrix Cloud. As a result, they can quickly and easily deliver digital workspaces complete with apps, desktops, data and services to any devices.

Citrix Cloud workspace services include the same core components -- XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, ShareFile and NetScaler Gateway services -- as Workspace Suite, except they're delivered as cloud services.

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Because admins are working with cloud services, they pay a subscription fee for the services, rather than licensing fees. They do have to pay additional fees for extra ShareFile data capacities and for using the NetScaler Gateway service.

As with the other digital workspace products, Citrix Cloud workspace services include components in addition to the core services to integrate systems and facilitate communications. Workspace Cloud Connector, for example, provides identity and access management and integrates with Active Directory.

The workspace services also include Smart Tools, which automate deployment, simplify migration, and proactively check and repair systems.

The digital workspace

The approach admins take to deliver digital workspaces depends on the infrastructure they already have in place. If they're heavily invested in VMware products, for example, they might be reluctant to jump too quickly into the Citrix universe.

But that in itself points to another issue with these digital workspace products -- vendor lock-in. Acquiring all the pieces from a single vendor makes it easier to ensure that those pieces fit together, but it also means admins are stuck with that vendor and, once they commit, jumping ship can be costly.

Before making any decisions on workspace management tools, admins should also check out digital workspace products from other vendors, such as Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, NComputing and many more. Only then can they make an informed decision about how to implement a digital workspace product.

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This was last published in June 2017

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