Dell/Quest’s vWorkspace solution (known to many organizations as flexiLabs) has been discontinued and is no longer supported. So, what are the options when it comes to looking for a replacement technology to deliver your applications and desktops to end-users?

Dell vWorkspace (formerly known as Quest vWorkspace until Dell’s acquisition in 2012) was often thought of as one of the most affordable VDI solutions on the market. But as of January 31 2019, support for all versions of the product is discontinued. It has also been confirmed that the product will no longer be developed, marketed or sold, as Dell pulls out of the virtualization space.

But with the discontinuation of vWorkspace (which is the underlying technology for the flexiLabs product), the midmarket – and even enterprises who don’t want to go down the traditional VDI route of Citrix and VMware – is no longer represented. Or is it? In this article, we take a look at alternative technologies to vWorkspace, along with alternative approaches or solutions to application delivery and desktop deployment.

What is Dell vWorkspace?

vWorkspace was a desktop virtualization product originally marketed from Quest Software and bought by Dell back in 2012.

Dell vWorkspace was widely regarded as a leading, affordable VDI and desktop virtualization solution. Many analysts believed it to be the go-to option for small and medium-sized organizations, falling short of the enterprise-grade tier of solutions – with price tags to match! – such as VMware’s Horizon and Citrix’s XenApp/XenDesktop (now called ‘Virtual Apps and Desktops’).

Like many others, this virtualization solution provided a way to deliver virtual desktops and applications to users on an array of device types, with great performance at a more affordable price point for many organizations. It offered an improved End-User Computing experience thanks to its HTML5 compatibility, delivering enterprise applications to mobile devices.

vWorkspace is often associated with flexiLabs, which is Dell’s equivalent of a front-end access and management portal for vWorkspace. flexiLabs, which utilizes the vWorkspace technology, is a solution that’s common across many universities and colleges, to enable end users to access applications and desktops anytime, anywhere and on any device. We cover alternative technologies to Dell’s flexiLabs later in this article, too.

Benefits of Dell vWorkspace over other technologies

Comparatively-speaking vWorkspace offered the same benefits as Citrix and VMware, but with one key differentiator. For many organizations Dell’s vWorkspace was a popular alternative to the market leaders as it offered flexibility and helped to avoid VDI vendor ‘lock-in’, preventing them needing to go down the single technology route of one vendor.

That was thanks to multi-hypervisor and protocol support and integration with other technology ecosystems. For customers of vWorkspace, being able to choose between hypervisors from VMware, Parallels and Microsoft (at no cost!) resulted in the Dell product also being much less expensive – at around 1/3 of the cost – as admin users of vWorkspace could ‘pick and choose’ the elements of VDI they needed and wanted.

Flexibility and cost aside, when looking to replace vWorkspace you’ll also want to find something that’s a great alternative when it comes to the EUC (end user computing) experience. vWorkspace’s “Experience Optimized Protocol” came as standard with the product – unlike the product’s competitors which often make this kind of feature an additional expense – and greatly improved the way the system worked for the end user. According to industry experts PQR, this protocol offered a “near local user experience over both LAN and WAN”!

You’ll also want to look out for the features of vWorkspace that made managing virtual apps and desktops an efficient process for your IT department, including AD integration for example. And if you’re from a Higher Ed institution or you’re a Managed Service Provider, you’ll probably want to find a replacement that offers special pricing and discounts for you.

In terms of drawbacks to this product, vWorkspace only really falls down against its competitors in terms of the lack of commitment from the vendor to the product; resulting in no innovation, development or continuing support. Online help is minimal, with a very small user community to share tips, tricks and best practices.

Looking for a replacement and alternative to Dell vWorkspace…

So, if you’re looking for a replacement to vWorkspace, you’ll want a solution that delivers desktops and applications to end-users in a cost-effective way, delivering an awesome user experience while keeping life easy for IT. With it being 2019, you’ll probably also want multi-device – and especially mobile – support and you’ll likely want to support BYO scenarios, too.

We’ve split the alternatives into two categories:

  1. VDI technologies in the exact same space as vWorkspace, that work in a very similar way
  2. Delivery or virtualization technologies that work in a different way, achieving the same outcome

Often the first thing that springs to mind when replacing VDI is to use another VDI solution. That’s why we’ve listed the second option here as well, to explain what else is worth considering and is available on the market for delivering applications and desktops…

Option 1: Technology replacements (i.e. other VDI technologies)

Citrix and VMware

The obvious alternative to vWorkspace, from a like-for-like technology point of view, is the traditional VDI offerings from virtualization giants Citrix or VMware. Citrix’s Virtual Apps and Desktops (until recently known as XenApp and XenDesktop) and VMware’s Horizon are industry-leading desktop virtualization solutions, which help organizations achieve the same outcome as vWorkspace.

Citrix  & VMware logo

Both solutions, at similar price points, achieve the goal of providing users with remote and highly secure access to applications and desktops from anywhere, on a wide range of supported devices. These traditional solutions are considered the flagship VDI products, with vendor events happening globally every year to support the user community.

But if you’re thinking of implementing Citrix or VMware, you should think about the things below for the planning process:

  • For these solutions, hardware investment is the most expensive upfront cost you must endure. The initial cost of VDI hardware can often exceed the cost of purchasing new PCs for the entire organization. There is a lot of new equipment your company needs to purchase before and after implementation of VDI. This large cost can get in the way of switching to VDI altogether. This investment is necessary to get the performance needed to provide an acceptable user experience – that is to say, a seamless way to access apps and desktops that your end users expect.
  • Licensing costs for VDI solutions are generally underestimated. That’s because organizations don’t take the cost of Citrix and VMware licenses seriously in the planning stages. Licensing is different with VDI and your company needs to do a lot of planning before deciding on the right licensing approach. And to deploy services site-wide and off-site, you often need additional licenses – including a VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) license – from Microsoft, incurring additional upfront and ongoing cost.
  • Initial training for users of VDI is challenging. They need to learn new terminology and transition to a different interface with different troubleshooting steps. Users tend to resist initial training because most of them at first want to stay with their current system. This resistance has led to the failure of VDI implementation inmany organizations. Not only can it be a challenge for your end-users, but IT also needs experience admins or system architects to implement, manage and maintain a Citrix or VMware solution.

Ultimately, think about what you’re trying to achieve. For many years VDI has been seen as the holy grail in IT consolidation, mobility, security and simplicity. However, in many instances it’s a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and if not done properly the user experience can often be like trying to paint a portrait through a letterbox… Think about the best possible user experience for your end user and most of the time this will not involve delivering them a virtual desktop, but instead just the IT services they need and want to consume, namely application delivery and secure access to data on any device.

Choosing an application virtualization solution

Parallels RAS (Remote Application Server)

Parallels RAS is a newer solution to the virtualization market, since Parallels – primarily known for its Desktop for Mac technology – acquired 2X Software, which is like vWorkspace in its focus on the provision of midmarket desktop virtualization solutions. According to TechTarget, RAS appealed to many organizations who wanted the benefits of VDI but couldn’t afford the Citrix and VMware level of investment.

Parallels RAS is a solution for the management of virtual applications, RDS and a VDI infrastructure. Like vWorkspace, the Parallels RAS connection broker is able to deliver from the major hypervisors to any device, not tying you into a vendor-specific technology stack. With RAS it’s possible to publish a virtual desktop from a VMware hypervisor and an application from a Windows Server simultaneously. In addition to this – now unique – flexibility (with vWorkspace no longer on the market) the software is also relatively simple to manage and use.

Parallels Logo

To give an example: Parallels RAS can be installed in a very short time: minutes against the hours needed to install Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, and the license cost is a fraction of the price of its VMware or Citrix equivalent. Plus, the license model is straightforward: just one licensing model, allowing all customers to use the full power of the software. And because Parallels RAS uses a different back-end technology to other VDI solutions, organizations are not required to purchase a Microsoft VDA license.

Parallels RAS is being used by many organizations as a replacement for Citrix and VMware – including many of our higher education customers – to deliver any Windows app to any device, either using the RAS native client or via a HTML5 browser. At this price point, Parallels RAS is the market’s closest alternative to Dell’s vWorkspace.

Option 2: Solution replacements (i.e. other delivery technologies)

The reason you might want to consider alternative solutions – to what you originally wanted VDI to do – is because you don’t need to virtualize the entire desktop just to deliver the services your end-users need, in a secure, consistent and cost-effective way.

One of those methods you might want to consider, instead of desktop virtualization, is application virtualization. As the cost of VDI continues to rise and its popularity continues to decrease, an alternate and common theme to emerge is that of application delivery.

When you think about it, why deliver an entire desktop to someone already using a desktop just to give them a software application? It goes back to the idea of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The notion of ‘lean IT’ is working its way through all of the backend departments and the delivery of software and hardware is not immune. That’s why as you consider alternatives you should also ask ‘what do your users want and need?’. Is it a second full desktop or is it just the software? If it’s the latter, then you’ll be positioning yourself at the forefront of the next wave of evolution in this space: application virtualization.

Choosing an application virtualization solution

You’ve either heard of application virtualization or you haven’t. And the chances are, that if you have, you’ll probably primarily associate it with Microsoft’s App-V technology. You might have also heard of VMware’s ThinApp… But as VDI continues to diversify and develop, application virtualization technologies get the same treatment. There’s a wide variety of options available, but here we consider the two technologies above, along with Numecent’s Cloudpaging solution.

Cloudpaging vs ThinApp vs App-V

ThinApp from VMware is part of the old guard. An acquisition by VMware in early 2000s, it suffered the same fate that many technology acquisitions fall to: becoming stale. Sure, VMware rev’d the version and made a few improvements, but the architecture never evolved and left a lot to be desired on the subject of compatibility. We hear from customers that on average, they’re only achieving a 50% success rate at virtualizing their 100s – if not 1000s – of software apps.  That leaves a lot left to deal with using another toolset…

Cloudpaging logo

App-V from Microsoft is possibly the most known application virtualization solution, and with a long deep history. Here, though, the problem was the container build by Microsoft that App-V packages were meant to run in. It was too restrictive and required the entire package to be downloaded before launching.  For large applications like AutoCAD and SolidWorks, users could make a fresh cup of coffee, check the latest game scores, and chat with peers while waiting for the software to launch. And, similar to ThinApp, reports of compatibility issues are pretty common. With roughly a 60% success rate of virtualization, App-V often encourages organizations to go down the VDI route because as they simply can’t provide all the needed services and with the end user computing experience to boot!

The other solution to be considered is Numecent’s Cloudpaging. While the technology has been around for nearly 20 years, it often plays in the shadows. Developed by Numecent in California, Cloudpaging, despite its pedigree, is largely unknown. But it’s often considered the ‘next-generation’ of application virtualization, for a few reasons:

  1. The technology claims the ability to virtualize 100% of Windows software applications, even heavy-weight and GPU-intensive software. Our customers, who are integrating Cloudpaging into AppsAnywhere technology AppsAnywhere, can back up this claim against a library of over 15,000 titles globally!
  2. It offers visibility and control to admins during the packaging process, right down to individual Registry keys and files. That ensures the leanest and cleanest package possible. Packaging time can be up to 50% quicker than with other technologies.
  3. Finally, is the streaming approach to delivery. Unlike ThinApp and App-V, where the entire package needs to be downloaded before launch, Cloudpaging streams (downloads) just the relevant bits for launch and then brings in the rest on-demand. Very similar to how Netflix streams video and you can skip ahead and have the content play almost immediately. For our customers and their end-users, this has been a real game-changer. This means you can move from ‘just-in-case’ application delivery to ‘just-in-time’!

Comparing application virtualization technologies

There are also other technologies on the market similar to these three, including Tubo.Net and etc. If you were considering Symantec’s Workspace Streaming/Virtualization, read our article on it becoming end-of-life, and why we think Cloudpaging is the best replacement.

Application virtualization, and Cloudpaging in particular, is becoming increasingly popular and is replacing or right-sizing VDI solutions at more and more organizations. That’s in part to how the costs compare to the licenses and hardware investment needed for desktop virtualization. The server infrastructure for application virtualization is minimal compared to what’s needed to VDI. The licensing costs are also much lower, and additional Microsoft licenses are not required when virtualizing applications using these methods.

Read more: The hidden Microsoft license costs of VDI >

If considering application virtualization as a replacement for VDI and vWorkspace, you should also read the below piece; a comparison of the technologies on the market by industry experts.

Application Virtualization Independent Smackdown

(PDF, 2.07 MB)

Download PQR's independent application virtualization smackdown whitepaper to compare Numecent's Cloudpaging [Application Jukebox] technology to other virtualization products on the market.

Download file - Application Virtualization Independent Smackdown
Cameyo Citrix App Streaming Numecent Cloudpaging Microsoft App-V (v5) Turbo Symantec SWV VMware ThinApp
Virtualize/isolate apps Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Apps integrates with local OS No No Yes No No No No
Apps operate with minimal conflict Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Apps delivered efficiently Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Virtual app license metering No No Yes No Yes Yes No
Virtual app usage tracking No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
App 'rollback' Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Offline use Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Self-provisioning web portal No No Yes No No Yes Yes
Supported by AppsAnywhere No No Yes Yes No No No

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Introducing AppsAnywhere…

AppsAnywhere enables the access of any application on any device, anywhere and anytime. It does this by integrating with the leading delivery and virtualization technologies on the market, including both VDI (solutions from Parallels, Citrix and VMware) and application virtualization (Cloudpaging and App-V).

Like flexiLabs, AppsAnywhere offers a portal through which end-users can access all their applications and desktops, and through which IT admins can provision, manage and update the software estate. Available on a wide variety of devices, students and end-users can access software through AppsAnywhere wherever and whenever, in a consistent way anytime.

Unlike flexiLabs (and any other solution on the market!) AppsAnywhere also integrates with other vendors’ technologies (including Citrix and VMware) as well as SCCM, App-V and locally-installed apps, to give you the flexibility and to give your end-users a ‘single pane of glass’ for their applications and desktops. Combining that with AppsAnywhere’s powerful Analytics tools, your organization has a full picture of how your software estate is being delivered and accessed, so you can see where to save money or make more informed strategic decisions.

See all AppsAnywhere integrations >

Choosing a virtualization solution at Durham University

In our case study below, with IT Project Manager Jim Macura, learn why Durham University chose AppsAnywhere with Cloudpaging and Parallels RAS, over alternatives such as Dell vWorkspace/flexiLabs, to provide a consistent user experience and secure access to applications on any device across campus.

Arrange a demo today to learn more about AppsAnywhere from AppsAnywhere, including what it does, how it works and how it is a perfect replacement for both vWorkspace and flexiLabs.