The Top Five Virtualization Vendors: Page 2

Posted December 26, 2007

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

(Page 2 of 3)

2. Citrix

Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Why it’s in the top five: Six months ago, Citrix wouldn’t have even been in the virtualization conversation. At the same time, XenSource was a niche player offering an open-source alternative to VMware. All that changed when Citrix entered the virtualization game through its $500 million acquisition of XenSource this past August.

The acquisition made Citrix a serious virtualization contender, while giving XenSource the corporate backing and sales channel needed to make a real push for enterprise customers.

“Citrix has a lot of other products that fit well with virtualization, such as a desktop play and a web acceleration offering,” Chen said. The Xen kernel will remain open source, and that kernel has broad validation in the open-source community. Virtual Iron, Novell, and Red Hat all base their offerings on the Xen kernel.

XenSource added proprietary layers on top of the kernel, which was part of why Citrix went the acquisition route rather than developing their own in-house Xen-based offering. “Citrix was not traditionally an open-source vendor,” Chen said. “Dealing with that community will be a challenge, but having the XenSource team on board will ease the learning curve.”

What to watch for in 2008: Will Citrix/XenSource be able to carve out a decent niche in the virtualization market? The company has a fraction of the market share of VMware, and Xen has been confined mostly to small and mid-tier open-source projects.

The good news is that the company signed its 1,000th customer in Q3. Clearly, the Citrix acquisition made an impact, since XenSource had only just signed up its 500th customer in Q2. New XenSource customers include, Cornell University, Miami Herald, Microsoft, Polycom, Postini, Raytheon and Sleek Networks.

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Listing Microsoft as a customer is odd, since Microsoft competes in this space. Microsoft won’t be an open-source player, obviously, but the fact that Microsoft is listed as a customer and not a partner should give conspiracy theorists something to puzzle out.

Microsoft’s release of Viridian in 2008 means that Citrix’s hold on the number-two position is tenuous. Citrix plans to deliver its XenDesktop product in 2008, giving them options beyond the server. However, the market for desktop virtualization has yet to materialize.

3. Microsoft

Location: Redmond, WA

Why it’s in the top five: Because it’s Microsoft. By most accounts, Microsoft’s current virtualization offering, Virtual Server, is a dud. According to IDC, Virtual Server has captured a scant 7% market share.

“What they offer now isn’t that impressive,” Wolf said. “Their next-generation virtualization platform has nothing from Virtual Server carried over. It’s a completely new architecture. The fact that they started over from scratch is telling.”

Chen from the Yankee Group agreed. “Virtual Server is a stop-gap product. It doesn’t come close to other offerings. What it does, though, is buy them time. 2008 is when they’ll be competitive.”

What to watch for in 2008: Viridian. Will it deliver as promised, or will its release, as with some previous Microsoft products, be delayed indefinitely? This past May, Microsoft admitted that it had missed some performance goals with the Viridian ramp up, but soon thereafter it released a beta version of the product (as Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V Beta).

“Feature for feature, Viridian won’t stack up to VMware,” Wolf said. “The advantage Microsoft will have is centralization management – not only of server virtualization but of application virtualization.”

In the near-term, Microsoft won’t try to compete feature for feature with VMware. “What they’ll say is that we’re good enough for a lot of use cases. It’s also cheaper and offers good management. For many users, that will be a winning combination,” Wolf added.

In addition, while Viridian won’t be as robust as the offerings from VMware or Citrix, Microsoft will be able to leverage its channel and Windows.

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