Microsoft, Citrix Team Up on Virtualization

Microsoft and Citrix, already close partners in the realm of server-based application delivery, have banded together even more tightly in the virtualization space, hoping to take on industry leader VMware.

At its "Virtualization Deployment Summit" in Redmond, the two software giants outlined their vision for enhancing interoperability across their respective server and desktop lines of virtualization products.

On the server front, Citrix is developing a tool that will allow mobility between virtual machines, or VMs, between its hypervisor, called XenServer, and Microsoft's new hypervisor, known as Hyper-V. Hyper-V is in beta, with the final release expected this summer. The press release said a test version of Citrix's tool will be available in the second quarter of 2008, with a final version available with the final version of Hyper-V.

A hypervisor is a program that controls the virtualization environment. Allowing a VM to move from one hypervisor to another gives admins more flexibility in their virtualization operations.

On the desktop side, the joint effort will be focused on interoperability between Citrix's XenDesktop and Presentation Server products and Microsoft's Windows Optimized Desktop. Optimized Desktop is a series of offerings that improve desktop infrastructure and application delivery. A key factor in the partnership will be the ability of Microsoft's System Center to manage the entire range of products, including those from Citrix.

Bob Muglia, senior vice present of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, pointed out in the release that virtualization, while a hot technology, is still in its infancy.

"Very few customers are able to reap the benefits of virtualization today....We estimate that less than 5 percent of companies are utilizing virtualization technology because it is simply too cost-prohibitive and complex. We believe Microsoft's comprehensive approach -- from desktop to datacenter -- is unique to the industry by delivering solutions that address virtualization at the hardware, application and management levels."

Muglia's last statement, however, is more marketing hype than reality. The biggest threat to both Microsoft and Citrix in the virtualization space is market behemoth VMware, which offers similar across-the-board virtualization solutions. The difference, though, is that most of its products are much more mature than Microsoft's offerings.

VMware commands huge market share, at about 85 percent, while the other players are in single digits. That's likely a primary reason for the partnership. To compete with VMware, or at least substantially close the gap, it will take the joint efforts of companies such as Microsoft and Citrix. It helps that Hyper-V will be bundled with Windows Server 2008, being released next month. The chief complaint about VMware is the high cost of its products.

Combined with other announcements from the summit, Microsoft is clearly making a major effort to deliver end-to-end virtualization capabilities. It remains to be seen how will those efforts will be received.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].