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Organizations that implement on-premises virtual desktop infrastructure often turn to major vendors such as VMware, Citrix or Microsoft, but they should consider alternative, lesser-known vendors, too.
For many organizations, these other options can be well worth the cost savings, but products can vary significantly. Decision-makers should vet them carefully before investing resources into deployment.
We'll look at seven VDI products that offer alternatives to the major players. Although these platforms might not be as feature-rich, they are affordable options to consider compared to market leaders.
Ericom Connect is a remote application and desktop access platform that can run Windows or Linux workloads. It includes business intelligent features such as usage tracking and session simulations. Customers can also deploy Ericom Connect to AWS or Azure for applications and desktops based on Remote Desktop Session Host in Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services (RDS).
The product integrates with Active Directory and supports OAuth and the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) for single sign-on. Ericom also provides an API for integrating with existing IT tools. Ericom Connect is 100% web-based; all user and administrative access is through a browser. Although this helps streamline operations, it also adds the overhead and limitations that come with browser-only access.
Ericom Connect targets organizations of all sizes. Customer can start small and scale up to 100,000 concurrent users.
The product is available in a variety of pricing models that offer a flexible cost structure, such as named user, concurrent user or site license, according to Ericom. The vendor also offers a free trial and demo. Customers must contact the vendor directly for this information.
FlexVDI is a full-stack VDI platform built on open source technologies such as the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor and Quick Emulator (QEMU). FlexVDI virtualizes multiple operating systems, including Linux, Windows XP through Windows 10, and Windows Server 2003 through 2016. The KVM and QEMU components are optimized for VDI workloads. Additionally, Guest Tools further optimizes performance and implements features such as print and clipboard sharing.
The platform provides clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android devices, and FlexVDI's WebPortal supports desktop access through a client browser. Organizations can install FlexVDI on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 or CentOS 7, either on premises or in a cloud-hosted environment. The platform offers a centralized dashboard to manage the infrastructure, making it fairly straightforward to set up. FlexVDI also integrates with Active Directory and other directory services based on the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.
FlexVDI doesn't provide features commonly available in some VDI alternatives, such as virtual applications, 3D hardware acceleration or session-based RDS virtual desktops.
The vendor offers FlexVDI as a yearly subscription based on the number of concurrent users. However, some components are available for free as open source software, which organizations can download from GitHub. Organizations should contact the vendor directly for subscription prices.
Inuvika OVD Enterprise
Inuvika OVD Enterprise is primarily an application virtualization platform, although it can also deliver session-based desktops. This might not be enough for some organizations, but for others, it will be all that they need. OVD Enterprise supports Linux and Windows apps, including multiple versions of the same application. The platform can deliver apps seamlessly to the users' desktops so they look and behave as though locally installed, helping to maintain user productivity.
OVD Enterprise supports multiple hypervisors and can be accessed from Windows, macOS and Linux desktops, thin clients, and iOS and Android devices. The platform can integrate with Active Directory and other LDAP directory services, and it supports SAML 2.0 authentication. It can also integrate with external NAS or SAN storage, with support for several major storage protocols, including Network File System and Common Internet File System. However, it does not support NVMe over Fabric.
As the name implies, Inuvika built its VDI product for the enterprise, with the goal of providing a modern, flexible platform that's easy to deploy and manage.
Inuvika offers the product as a yearly subscription with a pricing structure that is predictable, simple to understand and costs half of Citrix or VMware, according to the company. Organizations must contact the vendor directly for pricing. Inuvika offers a free 14-day trial and product demo.
IsardVDI is an open source virtual desktop platform based on Linux KVM and Docker. IsardVDI provides a lightweight yet powerful platform that's built on scalable, standards-based technologies, with a demonstrated ability to support up to 3,000 users. The platform's engine monitors the hypervisors and desktops and provides a WebSocket user interface that delivers real-time events via the network connection.
IsardVDI supports both Windows and Linux virtual desktops. In theory, the product should support any KVM-compatible OSes, according to the application's creators. Organizations interested in IsardVDI can download the code from GitHub for free, but they should keep in mind that this is a relatively small effort and not a commercial product. It has a limited set of features and might not receive regular updates. The code in the GitHub repository has not been modified in 15 months, and there are a number of unresolved issues.
Open source projects such as IsardVDI offer with both advantages and challenges. There are no licensing fees, and developers can customize the code to meet an organization's specific use cases. However, the product comes with no support and includes only minimal documentation, which can mean a lot of time spent on updating, deploying and maintaining the platform, while trying to ensure a quality user experience. Even so, the cost of VDI licensing can be extremely high, and IsardVDI offers a promising alternative for organizations willing to take on such a project.
NComputing Verde VDI
NComputing Verde VDI is a desktop virtualization product that supports both Windows and Linux desktops, providing feature parity in both environments. The platform makes it possible to decentralize VDI processing to eliminate WAN latency in edge environments. NComputing provides clients for Windows, macOS, Linux and LEAF OS PCs and supports a variety of thin clients, including the vendor's own line of products. Users can also connect to their desktops through an HTML5 browser. The platform does not offer application virtualization.
Verde VDI supports organizations ranging in size from small offices to global enterprises. The platform can scale from a single server up to 10,000 clustered servers. It can also integrate with LDAP directory services including Active Directory, Novell E-directory and OpenLDAP. Customers have experienced some issues with Verde VDI, such as a new Windows 10 builds disrupting desktop and software delivery, but overall, most issues have been relatively minor.
NComputing offers customers both phone and chat support. Customers can download the product and try it out for 30 days for up to 10 concurrent users. After 30 days, they must purchase a concurrent seat license. NComputing does not specify what the license will cost, but promises it at a price considerably less than the competition.
Parallels RAS (Remote Application Server) rose through the ranks in recent years to become a serious contender in the VDI market. The platform supports numerous hypervisors, including KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESXi, Nutanix Acropolis and Citrix Hypervisor, and it can run multiple hypervisors within the same deployment. Additionally, Parallels RAS offers both desktop and application virtualization and RDS session-based desktops.
Parallels RAS is noted for providing end users with a seamless desktop and application experience. It supports a wide range of client devices, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome OS and Raspberry Pi OS. Some customers have reported issues when setting up or using Parallels RAS, but these have typically been minor problems, and most customers have been satisfied with the product.
Customers can deploy Parallels RAS on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. The platform includes pretested templates and configuration wizards that simplify management and provide load balancing capabilities to support larger deployments. Parallels RAS can integrate with Active Directory or local Windows security, and it offers a REST API for integrating with third-party tools and technologies. Parallels RAS also provides Turbo.net integration to implement containerized applications and their dependencies in isolated virtual environments.
Parallels RAS's licensing plans are straightforward and less expensive than leading vendors, and they include 24/7 support. Plans are based on the number of concurrent users, starting at $270 per user for a three-year subscription. Organizations with over 100 users should contact the vendor directly for prices. Parallel also offers a free trial and live demo. The platform comes with a flexible and scalable architecture that can support organizations of all sizes. However, it must be installed on Windows Server, resulting in additional licensing fees.
QVD Virtual Desktop
QVD Virtual Desktop is an open-source VDI platform that can accommodate organizations of all sizes. It supports several hypervisors and allows a user to run multiple desktops simultaneously. QVD provides clients for Windows, macOS and Linux (Ubuntu or CentOS only). The platform makes it possible to control device connections and to trace user connections. Administrators can also delegate desktop management based on an organization's requirements.
QVD Virtual Desktop can scale to over 30,000 concurrent users. The platform provides plug-ins for integrating with various authentication methods, and it offers a well-documented API for integrating with other systems. IT admins must install the software on Ubuntu or CentOS, which might not be convenient for some organizations, but for many, it should not be an issue.
Because QVD Virtual Desktop is open source software, organizations can download the code from GitHub for free, but the code has not been updated in a couple years and there are a number of open issues.
QVD offers two support packages. The first is QVD Self-Support. This is aimed at small companies that don't need technical support but do need access to package updates. QVD charges €299.00 per year (about U.S. $350) for an unlimited number of users. The second package is QVD Enterprise. This covers medium and large companies that want full support. Customers interested in this package should contact the vendor for prices.