What does future hold for Quest vWorkspace?

If one thing was evident from VMworld San Francisco was that Dell, despite its advances in desktop virtualization, has a problem on its hands – What should it do with Quest vWorkspace.

The Quest Software acquisition put Dell in possession of a technically strong but often overlooked competitor to Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop and VMware View. In 2011 vWorkspace joined Citrix XenApp and VMware View in the leaders quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant, yet despite this it has never reach its potential in terms of market share. Following the acquisition the vWorkspace team appeared to do little other than announce that vWorkspace was being renamed Quest Desktop Virtualization, a decision that that left many in the industry wondering if it was quietly being sidelined in favor of maintaining better relationships with both Citrix and VMware. In walking around the Quest stand in the VMworld 2012 Solutions Exchange, one product was noticeable only for its absence. While Quest continue to promote its user workspace management solutions alongside, its database management, server management, and identity management solutions, vWorkspace (now renamed Quest Desktop Virtualization) was nowhere to be seen. My attempts to uncover Dell’s plans for Quest Desktop Virtualization were met with uncomfortable non-answers.

One thing is quite clear, with a comprehensive range of VDI solutions already available to it, Dell has no particular need for Quest Desktop Virtualization. At the same time, the current revenue that Dell will obtain from continuing to offer Quest Desktop Virtualization tables into insignificance compared to that it can and from its other VDI solutions, and from the other software solutions it obtained through the Quest acquisition. In short, Quest Desktop Virtualization is no more than an unwelcome distraction, and one that if Dell continues to market it might find it in a less than ideal position with both Citrix and VMware.

What then should Dell do with its unloved stepchild? As things stand today it looks as if Dell has four choices available to it:

  1. Continue to offer both Citrix and VMware-based VDI solutions as its first string VDI solution, while offering Quest Desktop Virtualization to customers looking for a low-cost solution.
  2. Put some serious money into marketing Quest Desktop Virtualization directly to potential customers and offer incentives to the channel to get resellers behind it while still offering solutions built on Citrix and VMware-based VDI products. Then when the timing is right promote Quest Desktop Virtualization as its first string VDI solution and only offering XenApp, XenDesktop, and View for those customers specifically looking for it.
  3. Kill it off. Focus exclusively on Citrix and VMware-based VDI solutions, and work with Citrix and VMware to create incentive plans to move customers to one or other platform.
  4. Find a buyer for Quest Desktop Virtualization and set it free.

Of all the options available, the first one is probably the worst. There’s nothing wrong with offering both View and XenDesktop as competing products and as a means of supporting customers who have made a strategic decision to work with one vendor or the other. But I can’t see how Dell would want to juggle the complexity of offering its own product alongside those of Citrix and VMware. It will confuse customers and could easily lead to tension with Citrix and VMware if too many sales favor Dell’s in house technology over that of Citrix and VMware. Repositioning Quest Desktop Virtualization as Dell’s primary desktop virtualization solution is appearing on the surface and is certainly achievable, but is unlikely to go down well with Citrix or VMware, and is unlikely to benefit Dell enough to make it worth the difficulties that following this path could create.

Letting Quest Desktop Virtualization wither on the vine is an easy way of addressing the problem, it’s a path that would be unlikely to see Dell gain anything in return, and it would continue to cost Dell to support the product as it is sunsetted. Selling off Quest Desktop Virtualization may well be the best way to address the problem. There is no doubting that is good technology — it is in the leaders quadrants of the Gartner Magic Quadrant after all. Put it in the hands of an organization dedicated to making it a success rather than being just seeing it as another product in an already complex software portfolio could well provide the impetus needed to move it forward. I don’t doubt that many people would like this to happen, and I would think that finding a buyer would be relatively straightforward.

Quest has been a long-term partner of Microsoft, and has worked hard to optimize Quest Desktop Virtualization for use with Hyper-V, so from a technology perspective there would be an opportunity for Microsoft here, however it is unlikely that Microsoft would be interested in this approach. More intriguing, and more likely, is the prospect that VMware or Teradici (perhaps in partnership with VMware) will step in. Given Teradici’s recent announcements about its RDSH plans, it is clear that Teradici and considers software as a central to its future growth. Ownership of Quest Desktop Virtualization would enable Teradici to accelerate the multi-year roadmap needed to become competitive as a standalone RDSH solution into something that can be delivered in less than 12 months. At the same time Quest Desktop Virtualization would give Teradici an alternate protocol (Quest EOP) that is better suited to low bandwidth WAN connections than PC over IP. Seeing the Quest Desktop Virtualization technology in Teradici’s hands would not present a threat to Dell, and it would offer Dell and easy exit from the dilemma of competing directly with two close partners. Much of this argument applies equally well to VMware, with the additional possibility that integrating an RDSH platform with the User Interface Virtualization (a.k.a. Project AppShift) technology that Daniel Beveridge demonstrated during the Day 2 keynote at VMworld last Tuesday could bring VMware to a par with Citrix when it comes to delivering Windows applications to mobile devices. Given the close partnership between VMware and Teradici, I doubt that it would matter much to VMware if Teradici were to obtain a competitive RDSH platform through this route. Indeed in some respects, then maybe advantages to VMware in letting Teradici take the lead here. Either way, the prospect of greater competition between Citrix and VMware in this market would be to the benefits of all their customers, and if nothing else should further the adoption of desktop virtualization (regardless of how it is implemented) in enterprises everywhere.

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