Quest vs Citrix vs VMware Desktop Virtualization Cost Analysis

This article will attempt to use numbers based on reports provided by independent analysts to highlight the underlying costs of different flavors of desktop virtualization, and show how Quest achieves a lower price point. Everyone's users, applications and requirements are different, they will get different pricing terms and their hardware choices will vary enormously.


I'm putting this at the top so you don't have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find the conclusions of my analysis.

  1. Use Terminal Server/Remote Desktop Session Host whenever you can. There are some situations where VDI is the only possibility - see my blog here.
  2. The Quest vWorkspace product family delivers the lowest cost for each flavor of desktop virtualization. Even just looking at CapEx costs the difference is clear. There are other capital and operational cost savings that were not included in this analysis which further increase Quest's advantage.
  3. "Offline VDI" is a waste of resources. If you have a device capable of delivering a quality experience with a local VM then use it all the time and avoid the need for additional costly datacenter hardware running hosted VDI for each user.

The numbers used to conduct this analysis come directly from research reports recently published by several highly respected industry analyst firms. In order to maintain neutrality, those analyst firms have requested that we not refer to them or to their reports by name. Therefore, none of the specific numbers used in the charts and analysis below are directly attributed to a specific firm or report but please rest assured that as far as possible they are entirely independent.

A final note is that I ommitted some costs which are often considered in TCO studies, but don't help with the comparison:

  1. Application software – the app licensing costs are the same no matter what virtualization technology or vendor you choose
  2. End user costs – I was trying to only include costs that are borne by the IT department, since it is their budget used for deploying desktop virtualization. There are actually significant reductions in end user costs through productivity increases from desktop virtualization.
  3. Administration costs – these are quite small and might not be part of the IT budget. The only one I included was “storage allocation” for network storage in the VDI use case. Note that these are not IT helpdesk costs (such as management and training). Virtualization affects them beneficially, but since these numbers are a small part of TCO it wasn’t worth further complicating the model.

The Big Picture

Figure 1: CapEx Cost Comparison


Reminder! These are just the basic CapEx expenses: end user and server hardware, Microsoft and Quest/Citrix/VMware licensing.

The key points here are:

  1. VMware's VDI-only approach for task workers is much more expensive than Terminal Server/RDSH
  2. The combination of Quest vWorkspace and Hyper-V gives the lowest cost VDI solution
  3. Quest's "local VDI" approach for mobile desktop users is significantly cheaper than "offline VDI" which continually syncs a local and hosted VM. Incidentally, it also allows for baremetal and type 2 hypervisors, and access from a wide range of devices: PC and Mac
  4. Contrary to what many in this industry have claimed, it is possible to get the CapEx price of a virtual desktop below that of a physical PC!


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  1. While I applaud your efforts, I have never seen a way to provide an enterprise class desktop experience at a lower initial cost than a desktop. To adequately provide the horsepower at the server side plus the IOPs required for a good user experience (after all, that is our customer) it requires a large CapEx expenditure. ROI is achieved when factoring in the IT support piece over 18-36 months typically. BELIEVE ME, if there were a way to tell a customer they could tech refresh, spend less now and later, EVERYONE would be jumping on it. The differences in the software compared really relate to the customer’s mission. If they require a rich multimedia experience, Quest is not even going to hold a card to the PCoIP in View. Xen would be the only competitor, and there are tradeoffs between the products. Bottom line, there is no one size fits all solution, and the CapEx cannot be alleviated without sacrificing user experience. In the age of two, four, and six cores at the desktop, that would be a hard pill for a user to swallow that their desktop would now get slower o be less capable…my 2 cents.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the reply. I am curious, why would you say “Quest is not even going to hold a card to the PCoIP in View”? Have you ever tried vWorkspace? I am thinking you have not because you would not say that otherwise.

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