The topic of this blog post is a comparison of two vendors and how I feel they embrace their user (customer) communities in very different ways.
To give you some background, I spent the previous 3 or so years as a consultant focusing on desktop and application virtualization with Citrix and Microsoft products – primarily Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop on the EUC side and Microsoft Hyper-V on the hypervisor side. However, I “cut my teeth” in virtualization back in the VMware GSX / ESX 2.5 days and was primarily interested in datacenter technologies…I guess you could say VMware was my “first love”. Fast forward to the present, I’ve taken a new position and find myself getting reacquainted with some of VMware’s newer software that I’d neglected learning much about. As I was trying to brush up on my skills by setting up labs, reading white papers, researching user group meetings, etc. I noticed something – VMware has all sorts of great “customer enablement” offerings that Citrix doesn’t really have a parallel solution for.
Now let me preface this by saying my intent is absolutely not to vendor bash – I like to think I’m fairly vendor agnostic. I like Citrix, I like their products, and I had a great time implementing them (well, most of the time, at least)….but I believe they’re really missing out on the user / customer enablement side of things in several areas.
- User groups – I don’t think there’s much to say here that hasn’t already been said…but VMware seems to have a much more mature, organic, and community oriented user group. As a partner, I didn’t really “get” to participate in the Citrix user group events much so perhaps my perspective is skewed…but maybe not based on comments by others. This leads me to my second point.
- VMUG Advantage (http://www.vmug.com/Advantage) – $200 buys you a one year membership to VMUG Advantage, which among other things gets you 20% off certification exams (which could pay for a big chunk of the membership after a test or three), $100 discount on VMworld admission, VMware Fusion and Workstation (which I believe you get as a VCP anyway), and my personal favorite:
- Subscription based “evaluation” software – EVALExperience (http://www.vmug.com/p/cm/ld/fid=8792) gets you access to a ton of VMware software for non-production use. Continuous improvement and learning is critical to staying at the top of your game and the easiest way for many to do that is with a lab…yes, you could perpetually reinstall and reconfigure every 60 or 90 days using trial software, but that gets old. And yes, if you work for a partner there are benefits associated with that. But for the rest of us, EVALExperience might be just what the doctor ordered.
- Free training and hosted labs – VMware Hands on Labs (http://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/)…wow, how did I go so long without using this? Standing up your own “home lab” is rewarding in and of itself, but sometimes it can be difficult to recreate certain “enterprise class” solutions at home. VMware HOL has an expansive catalog of labs from “software defined datacenter” to “mobility” to “end user computing” and everything in between. I recently took advantage of their “Introduction to NSX” lab and it was a great experience…considering you can’t download a trial of NSX for your home lab at this time, it was an easy way for me to get hands-on with NSX in pursuit of the VCP-NV certification. Allowing VMware “users” access to this sort of training is invaluable and helps grow and enhance the skills of the people who will be the “champion” of their products in the future.
I’m a firm believer in “competition breeds innovation” and hope that Citrix sees some of the positive ways VMware has embraced their user community and comes up with something great of their own.