Citrix, Microsoft, and Red Hat or Novell gang up on VMware

Citrix is about to put a world of hurt on its virtualization rival, VMware. Next week, Citrix will be announcing that it will no longer charge for its flagship virtualization program XenServer 5, and its new management program, Citrix Essentials, will support both Microsoft's Hyper-V and XenServer.

This looks like a smart move to me. Virtualization, even high-end virtualization like XenServer is fast becoming a commodity. Off the top of my head, I can list four different virtualization programs that are open source: Sun's VirtualBox; Citrix's Xen; Linux's built-in KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine); and Parallels' OpenVZ. Heck, even VMware, which has no love for open source, was forced to release its desktop virtualization program, VMware View Open Client, as open source.

In addition, even more companies are jumping into virtualization. Networking giants Cisco and Juniper are slowly moving into network virtualization and servers may not be far behind.

With a market like this you have to do something different to try to stand out. What Citrix will be doing is giving away its high-end virtualization program in an attempt to grab market share while betting that its virtualization management programs will make the money.

I like that bet. I especially like it since Microsoft, and at least one of the major Linux distributors, Red Hat or Novell, will be backing Citrix's play. Citrix will be able to say to virtualization customers, on both Windows and Linux, that they can supply them with a single virtualization management program.

That's an attractive idea. Since Microsoft and Red Hat are making virtualization peace and Microsoft and Novell have long been working together on virtualization, I can see Microsoft-only, Linux-only, and mixed shops all buying into Citrix's virtualization management solutions. After all, as anyone who has tried to deploy data-center virtualization knows, virtualization is the easy part. Managing all those VMs (virtual machines) is the problem.

What's good news for Citrix is bad news for VMware though. VMware was already having enough trouble just coping with all its free and open-source rivals, I don't see how VMware can possibly hold them off when its has the unlikely tag-team of Microsoft and the Linux vendors, with Citrix at their head, attacking the company.

For virtualization users, I think this is exactly what they need. For VMware, though, it's the last thing they needed.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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