Microsoft, Citrix Up the Virtualization Ante

The depressed economy may be a big factor in whether the two companies' free virtualization offer can pry customers from VMWare.

Industry sentiment about virtualization using Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V could be summed up as the glass being half empty.

Citrix’s virtualization strategy, on the other hand, may appear as the glass being half full.

With the latest extension of the Microsoft/Citrix partnership -- this time into the server virtualization market -- does the channel believe the combination will add up to a full virtualization effort?

“I think this is a very smart move,” said Daniel Duffy, CEO at Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner located in Fresno, Calif. “Although VMWare has great technology and a solid head start on the virtualization model, Microsoft owns the installed base and Citrix has been producing some incredible technology long before VMWare.”

Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS) made public the latest Citrix/Microsoft partnership late last month, unveiling Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V, which offers advanced virtualization management capabilities for Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.

According to Citrix, Essentials extends the management capabilities of Microsoft’s Hyper-V and System Center in the areas of storage management, provisioning services and lab automation. Brian DeLadurantey, owner of Coastal IT Consulting, Bonita Springs, Fla., who promotes Citrix to the company’s SMB clients, believes the strength of XenServer combined with the market force that Microsoft wields is a smart and strategic move that makes sense for both vendors.

“As a solution provider, it will force us to look more at the Microsoft product line because they’re so big you can’t ignore them,” he said, noting that today, Microsoft’s products are inferior to those from Citrix.

DeLadurantey said that from a channel challenge perspective, Citrix enabled his five-man company to get into the virtualization space because the products are cheaper and easier to sell than VMWare.

“XenServer essentially is free and the gateway to the company’s flagship product, XenApp,” he added.

When Free Sounds Pretty Good

For Francis Poeta, president and chief technology architect at P & M Computers, based in Cliffside Park, N.J., believes the jury still out on the recent Microsoft/Citrix news.

“It’s either an enormous stroke of genius or a foolhardy endeavor,” he said. Poeta believes if Citrix would have fully embraced the server virtualization world, the company could have been bigger than both VMWare and Microsoft in that technology space.

That said, he isn’t seeing companies with ongoing VMWare implementations dropping out. Nevertheless, he does believe the leader in the server virtualization market will be impacted by Citrix’s no-cost offer for Citrix XenServer, an enterprise-class, cloud-proven virtualization platform that delivers live migration and centralized multi-server management.

With the economy being what it is, free will sound pretty good.

“For companies that can’t afford a virtualization project this year and need virtualization for test and development or disaster recovery, free makes sense,” says Poeta.

Timing may be everything. The depressed economy may prove to be a big factor in the early uptake of the Citrix/Microsoft virtualization solution strategy and a snubbing of the more expensive VMWare products.

The real value of the Citrix/Microsoft partnership will come about a year from now, around March 2010, with Microsoft’s slated release of Windows Server 2008 R2 that will include Hyper-V 2.0 and expected improvements in Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), according to Richard Jones, vice president and service director for data center strategies at the Burton Group.

“At that time, I expect the Citrix/Microsoft partnership will give VMWare a run for its money,” he said.

TAGS: Citrix,Microsoft,VMWare,services,virtualization

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