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Standing at the crossroads of virtual apps and desktop delivery

Decision Path
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The world of end-user computing is in a fluctuating state right now. We recently had the Citrix merger with Tibco, creating the Cloud Software Group, which led to a reorganisation of their partner programs and some substantial license price increases for end-user customers.

Next, and more recently, was the Broadcom acquisition of VMware, which was quickly followed up by the announcement that Broadcom would divest (sell-off) the VMware end-user computing business unit. This includes the Horizon product portfolio and the Workspace ONE digital workspace platform.

Both of these announcements have got customers asking questions about what’s next and what they should consider for the future, given that most of them have significant investments and large-scale deployments of one or both of these technologies to deliver their end-user computing capabilities to their workforce and customers alike.

The main question is, “Should we be considering alternative solutions?


For those customers running Citrix, now that the dust has settled somewhat, the theme of the conversations I’m hearing from the customers I speak to is that the increase in license costs and renewals is too high. Some customers, particularly those within public sector organisations, already have limited budgets to pay for these increases and renewals, and in some cases, due to the high cost, have made the tough decision to continue running with the solutions without any support to continue operating and keep the lights on. Why? Simply because they don’t have the money to pay for renewals. That really isn’t an option, to be perfectly honest. However, it does mean that they can at least continue working, albeit unsupported, and not disrupt the workforce or, more importantly, prevent the delivery of critical public services.

The upshot is that customers could continue with Citrix but find the increased costs hard to swallow. This is where some of the Citrix alternatives are starting to really shine. Not only are they cheaper, but also the migration is not a huge burden (technically and cost-wise) as they all typically use a Microsoft RDS back-end to deliver apps and can support a multitude of hypervisors for delivering virtual desktops. For many customers, it’s now decision time. Which direction do we take? Stay on that same road or seek an alternative, more cost-effective route.


If we turn our attention to VMware, the story is somewhat different and presents some more burning issues where customers potentially have to make some technology decisions and choices about how they continue using the VMware EUC platform solutions in the future.

To be clear, I’m not just referring to the divestiture of the EUC business unit by Broadcom, although it in itself is a distraction and area of concern for a lot of customers who are unsure what the future may hold. Instead, I’m talking about some fundamental shifts in the solution architecture as it stands today, which, if we reflect on the title of this post, is putting customers squarely at the crossroads of a decision.


VMware Horizon, the platform for delivering both virtual applications and virtual desktops, is at the heart of this decision crossroads and boils down to the fact that VMware has announced the end of life for the PCoIP protocol. PCoIP is a display protocol solution from a company called Teradici, which has been owned by HP since the 2021 acquisition and has been used by VMware as the primary delivery protocol for Horizon since 2008 when the licensing deal was first signed. But since 2013, VMware has been delivering its own home-grown protocol, Blast. Over that time, Blast maturity has grown significantly, delivering more features within a VMware environment than PCoIP currently does.

So, what does end of life mean exactly? PCoIP will remain an option for Horizon users up until the end of 2025. At that point, it will no longer be available as a protocol choice in any newer Horizon software versions released after that date. However, VMware will still support it for three years after that date, so you’ll get support until the end of 2028 (3 years from the date on the last PCoIP-based Horizon Agent and Client being released).

With this in mind, what are the options going forward?

The first and most obvious is changing the protocol from PCoIP to Blast. That may sound relatively straightforward, but it isn’t as simple as it first sounds. It will need testing – how does it perform with your network and any particular low latency requirements users may have – and configuring of any policies that manage and control protocol settings. In actual fact, this is the least of your worries. If you’re using zero clients, which you will be if you’re using PCoIP, then Blast won’t work with these client devices! Zero clients don’t have a local OS or local storage, are based on the Teradici Tera2 hardware (firmware-based), and only work with the PCoIP protocol. This means you’ll need to swap out the zero clients and replace them with thin clients before the end of 2028. In comparison, a thin client will have local storage and a small footprint OS and, as such, allows you to run multiple different protocols, including Blast.

Now, there is a tech preview HP is working on for an HP Anyware PCoIP plug-in for Horizon, but this will be based on the latest PCoIP Ultra version, which is a software-based client and won’t be supported using the T2-based zero clients, even though technically it may work. You’ll need thin clients to run this. If you have zero clients deployed, this is not really an option. Plus, there’s also the added complexity of adding third-party plug-ins, not to mention there’s likely an additional cost for the software plug-in, and you still need to swap out the physical client devices. It’s only really an option to consider if you really need or want to continue using the PCoIP protocol. One of the core reasons for PCoIP deployment was the security delivered by the zero client devices and reading between the lines; these clients have reached the end of their natural lives.

The upshot of it all is that if you want to continue using VMware Horizon and are currently using PCoIP, move to Blast and swap out the client devices.

We’ve discussed replacing the client devices in the previous VMware scenarios. However, you could replace VMware Horizon instead and migrate to a solution that uses zero clients and PCoIP as a protocol.

We’ve already mentioned the obvious solution that uses PCoIP, given its ownership under HP, which is to use HP Anyware. But again, you still have the question of the client devices. One thing to be aware of is HP’s use of the word ‘zero’ in their zero-trust client. These clients are not zero clients, as in Tera2 firmware-based devices.

It’s not an easy task as you would need to reskill on the new platform, plus there’s potential disruption to the workforce during the migration process. That’s before you look at the cost side of things. You might save money on licensing a new solution, but what’s the cost of the implementation? However, as I highlighted previously, is the T2 zero client dead? If so, at the end of the day, you’ll still have the client device issue. This would mean swapping to thin clients as well as swapping platforms.


So, what’s the answer? What direction should you take?

In true sales and presales fashion, the answer is “It depends”. But having said that, the thing that shouts the loudest from what we’ve discussed is that you have to do something and do something soon, especially if you’re using PCoIP on VMware Horizon. You can see it through to the bitter end when support finally runs out, or look at the options available today.

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About the Author(S)

Peter von Oven

Peter von Oven is an experienced technical consultant working closely with customers, partners, and vendors in designing technology solutions, to meet business needs and deliver outcomes. During his career, Peter has presented at key IT events such as VMworld, IP EXPO, and various VMUGs and CCUG events across the UK. He has also worked in senior presales roles and presales management roles for Fujitsu, HP, Citrix, and VMware, and has been awarded VMware vExpert for the last nine years in a row and vExpert EUC for the last three consecutive years. In 2021, Peter added the vExpert Desktop Hypervisor award to his portfolio of awards. In 2016, Peter founded his own company specializing in application delivery. He is also an avid author, having now written 18 books and made videos about VMware end-user computing solutions.

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