Dell Delivers Hyperconverged XenDesktop Appliance

Two weeks ago, Virtualization Practice Analyst Jo Harder mourned the passing of Citrix VDI-in-a-Box and forecasted that its target SMB market would look to hyperconverged infrastructure appliances to deliver complexity-free VDI. Dell clearly had the same thought, because just one week later, it announced the Dell Appliance for Wyse – vWorkspace (DAW vW), a self-contained hyperconverged infrastructure appliance designed specifically for small businesses and K–12 education customers (see my initial assessment: Dell Appliance for Wyse — Business-Class VDI). Capable of supporting 200 virtual desktops or 350 RDSH sessions, DAW vW is everything Jo was looking for when she asked “How will Citrix enter the hyperconverged infrastructure market and address those VDI-in-a-Box customers?” Everything except for one thing: Dell’s new appliance isn’t based on XenDesktop. It runs Dell’s universal VDI/RDSH broker, vWorkspace. But now, just seven days after it announced DAW vW, Dell has come back to answer Jo’s specific question by announcing Dell Appliance for Wyse – Citrix (DAW C), a self-contained hyperconverged infrastructure appliance designed specifically for small businesses using XenDesktop instead of vWorkspace.

Dell is positioning DAW C as a successor to its VDI-in-a-Box appliance DVS Simplified, which it introduced back in 2012 (reviewed here). But where DVS Simplified was a scale-out solution that allowed customers to grow capacity by plugging in as many additional appliances as necessary to meet demand, DAW C and DAW vW restrict deployments to a single node. It’s tempting to suggest that this is what Citrix should have done with VDI-in-a-Box the first time around. Remember, though, at the time, single-server VDI scalability was not what it is today; the current approach would have limited VDI-in-a-Box to only the very smallest of deployments back then. From a practical perspective, by the time Citrix had acquired VDI-in-a-Box developer Kaviza, the cat was out of the bag, and potential customers and system integrators already knew that VDI-in-a-Box could scale out to support many hundreds of users. Just as with the vWorkspace version, limiting DAW C to a single appliance prevents it from eating into larger deployments for which professional services engagements generate significant revenue. That door is kept open for future upgrades, because the appliances share a common codebase to simplify upgrading to a standard open-ended XenDesktop environment in the future, should the need arise. In addition to targeting VDI-in-a-Box customers, Dell is aiming at heavily regulated businesses with strong security requirements, the types of organizations that are reluctant to place data in the cloud.

DAW C uses the same Dell PowerEdge R730 13G platform as the vWorkspace appliance announced last week. Both appliances will deliver up to 200 VDI sessions; however, unlike DAW vW, DAW C doesn’t support RDSH sessions. Nevertheless, DAW C does come in two versions, one for persistent and one for nonpersistent desktops. Dell has confirmed that DAW C will support 200 nonpersistent desktop sessions, but at the time of this writing it was unable to confirm the number of persistent desktops the appliance would support. Pricing for DAW C has not yet been announced, but we can expect the cost per desktop come in between the $331 vWorkspace appliance’s cost and the cost of an equivalent system built on the same PowerEdge R730 server with standard XenDesktop licenses.

I’m interested in seeing how customers respond to Dell’s new Wyse appliances. I have long held the opinion that vWorkspace is more than good enough to compete with Citrix and VMware in many enterprise settings, never mind the SMB market. I can think of only a handful of reasons why a small business should find it necessary to choose XenDesktop over vWorkspace. By placing vWorkspace and XenDesktop alongside each other, Dell is giving customers a real choice in VDI platforms in a way that has never been done before. The decision to limit DAW C to VDI hints at a change within Dell, suggesting a willingness to compete directly with Citrix in this market for the first time. Previously, Dell was happy to sell vWorkspace but did little to promote it. Now, it has gone beyond promoting vWorkspace to carving out products that feature it exclusively. This is just one sign of Dell’s increasing confidence in its end user computing division, one that has shown strong and consistent development ever since the Wyse acquisition.

Both Dell Appliance for Wyse – vWorkspace and Dell Appliance for Wyse – Citrix will be launched globally on July 1, 2015.