Key differentiators: XenServer is a free, open source solution, a huge reseller channel, and very successful deployments of XenDesktop and XenApp.
XenServer is an excellent product offering, but it has never enjoyed the adoption rates of its competitors in the server virtualization market despite its other successes such as XenApp, XenDesktop, and CloudPlatform. It appears that Citrix no longer competes with Microsoft and VMware in the “traditional” server virtualization space, but has rather focused its efforts on making XenServer an attractive cloud-computing platform and for underlying support for its other products.
Although having a 100 percent open source solution used to be a significant differentiator, today it is not. Open source solutions featuring Linux, KVM, Linux containers, and OpenStack are commonplace. Companies like Citrix must find other areas in which to differentiate themselves in the market. Citrix has done so for its desktop virtualization (XenDesktop) and application virtualization (XenApp) offerings.
In the x86 server virtualization market, Citrix is likely to remain a niche player for either for Citrix shops or for those businesses that have chosen to shun Microsoft’s or VMware’s proprietary offerings. To differentiate itself in this space, Citrix needs to innovate and at least provide comparable or better features than its competitors do.
Key differentiators: Most successful open source company in history, huge install bases for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and has excellent customer support.
It seems clear from Red Hat’s position in the server virtualization market that its RHEV target customers are those who have embraced RHEL as a server platform, but who also need to virtualize applications either on KVM full virtualization or on Linux containers (LXC). Red Hat offers a third alternative for those neither wishing to adapt to vendor lock-in with Microsoft or with VMware. RHEV offers full server virtualization (traditional virtualization) and containers. Red Hat has also integrated OpenStack products into RHEV.
One of Red Hat’s differentiators is its success as an open source company, but even that status has waned in recent years as more companies embrace open source solutions including RHEL itself, OpenStack, and Docker. However, Red Hat’s status in the server virtualization market places it at a distant third behind leader VMware and runner-up Microsoft.
RHEV doesn’t have the widespread appeal for full server virtualization either in the Windows virtual machine or in the Linux virtual machine spaces, but continues to gain traction with its CloudForms cloud management platform that provides hybrid cloud management capabilities for VMware, RHEV, Hyper-V, OpenStack, and Amazon’s EC2.
Server virtualization is a broad market, but the clear leaders are VMware, the perennial favorite, and Microsoft, the up-and-comer. The other companies in the market are at a significant disadvantage with VMware’s established, widespread adoption and Microsoft’s marketing machine. The challenges to the other companies in this space, with the exception of Huawei, which has an ever-growing footprint in emerging markets, is that they are generally considered to be niche players with no established direction or customer focus for their products. VMware and Microsoft are both very difficult to displace from data centers. Larger businesses do sometimes trade Hyper-V for VMware ESXi or vice versa, but rarely do they venture from those two key providers.
The future of server virtualization seems to be moving away from full virtualization and moving toward containers such as those provided by Odin, Docker, Red Hat, Oracle, and by various open source solutions currently available. Containers are portable, agile, small, and the perfect solution for cloud-computing solutions, which is the next logical step for companies wanting to commoditize their applications and their services.
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