Back in December, I wrote that Citrix’s seemingly outrageous price tag on Citrix Workspace Cloud left room for VMware to significantly undercut them when they finally released Enzo. In January, Citrix announced they were going to reduce CWC pricing, but stopped short of actually saying what that price would be, presumably waiting for more intel from VMware. Now that Enzo has dropped in the form of Horizon Air with Hybrid Mode, Citrix has adjusted their pricing accordingly, though not as much as you might think.

Let’s back up for a minute. From its launch, Citrix Workspace Cloud has been the only platform like it on the market, and Citrix priced it based on the fact that there was no competition. There are three “Packages” of CWC:

  • Virtual Desktops
  • Virtual Apps and Desktops
  • Integrated Apps and Data Suite

Comparing those packages to Citrix’s traditional on-prem product line, Virtual Desktops is essentially on par with XenDesktop VDI Edition, Virtual Apps and Desktops is most similar to XenDesktop Enterprise, and Integrated Apps and Data Suite is closest to Citrix Workspace Suite because it includes all the mobility components as well as ShareFile.

The most common product I run into is XenDesktop Enterprise, and if we compare the pricing of that to CWC Virtual Apps and Data, you can start to see a rather large gap. XenDesktop Enterprise retails for $116/user on a yearly subscription license, or just under $10/month per user. Prior to the pricing adjustment, CWC Virtual Apps and Data cost $35/month per user–$25 MORE PER USER than XenDesktop. Sure, there are added costs that Citrix absorbs by hosting the management infrastructure in the cloud, but I found it hard to believe that that hit worked out to $25/month per user.

When VMware released Horizon Air with Hybrid Mode, they called Citrix’s bluff and released it for $18/month per named user ($16 if you already had a vSAN entitlement). Advanced math shows that’s nearly half the price of CWC Apps and Data, and as Rob Beekmans pointed out in his blog post comparing the two products, Hybrid Mode’s price includes UEM and AppVolumes.

(You might say that CWC gives you EMM and ShareFile, but that’s another pricing tier. Since I’m trying to keep this as apples to apples of a comparison as possible, we’re sticking with the Virtual Apps and Desktops package)

Armed with VMware’s pricing, Citrix turned around and slashed CWC’s prices. In the case of the Virtual Apps and Desktops package, they found their way back into the ballpark by lowering the price to $22.50/month per user. It’s still quite a bit higher, than both VMware and the monthly license for XenDesktop Enterprise, though, so what gives?

Honestly, this is probably about saving face more than anything else. If Citrix lowered their price all the way down to $18 to match VMware, customers would feel like they’d been fleeced for the past year. Lowering pricing just enough to get it in the same conversation (and allow room to wiggle on larger deals) allows them to stay competitive until they make some sort of “breakthrough” (wink wink) on their end that makes their infrastructure cheaper.

That ignores the other part of the conversation, though. The gap between CWC pricing and on-premises XenDesktop pricing, though more favorable, very much remains. The ~$10/month per user XenDesktop Enterprise license still clocks in at $12.50/month cheaper than CWC. Is it worth $12.50/month per user to have Citrix take the management off your plate? Remember, CWC doesn’t come with a DaaS desktop or any other desktop container–you have to get that just as you would have to with XenDesktop. (For the record, Hybrid Mode doesn’t come with a desktop container either.)

VMware hasn’t published a monthly subscription price for Horizon View, so it’s hard to make the same comparison with them. I can imagine that there’s a healthy margin for them, though, too.

So, what’s this all mean? I’m not concerned that vendors are charging more while providing a service that takes a lot of pain and suffering off the plates of IT. Companies should be willing to pay for that. I just find it interesting that when you compare the differences in the prices of doing it yourself or letting someone else handle it, the numbers can be quite large. A 500-person company would spend $5,000/month buying XenDesktop Enterprise, and $11,250 by using CWC, and neither of those prices includes a desktop! Sure, to do it on-premises you have to buy hardware and keep it up to date, but that doesn’t cost anywhere near $6,000/month. VMware’s pricing ($9,000/mo) is much more conducive to getting companies to say “Meh…let’s just let them handle it.”

I think we’ll see some more price adjustments over the next year as Citrix and VMware compete. Both platforms will likely inch closer to each other in terms of capabilities as time goes by, and as that happens price will become a key differentiator. Until then VMware is in the driver’s seat with the lowest price, not to mention the addition of UEM and AppVolumes, and will probably remain that way until Citrix feels its customers won’t get angry at another price drop. While all that plays out, you have a decision to make: How much is it worth to you to have VMware or Citrix take the virtual desktop management infrastructure off your plate?