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Citrix preaches 'second mover advantage' over VMware

Far enough behind to succeed

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VMware's greatest strength at the moment is its rich product portfolio that surrounds its core hypervisor technology. Of all the "others" out there, XenSource appeared to Citrix as the only real contender capable of matching VMware's product spread in the near term. To that end, XenSource recently rolled out Version 4.0 of its flagship software and complemented the code with management packages that meet - and in a couple of cases beat - some of VMware's similar products. Microsoft will fail to make such claims next year when it ships a revamped virtualization platform that lacks key tools such as the ability to move virtual machines around physical servers. (Both VMware and XenSource have this XMotion function.)

And, even with companies such as HP and IBM making a killing off VMware and others like Intel and Cisco investing in the company, the large hardware players want a real threat to VMware's dominance, according to Wasson.

"When you look at companies like Intel, HP and IBM, people at the highest levels of the company are heavily invested in making sure this is not a one horse race," he said.

Even though HP, IBM and Dell have all announced support for VMware's embedded ESX 3i hypervisor and none of the vendors have announced support for XenSource's comparable product, Wasson thinks it's only a matter of time before XenSource gets equal play.

"You will have every major server system ship with probably both VMware and XenSource embedded," he said.

Being even more brashful, Wasson claims Citrix - thanks to XenSource - already has the more attractive story for large OEMs.

"VMware is very strong in data centers, but (the hardware vendors) see Citrix as having this broad end-to-end play," Wasson said. "VMware does not have that today and will probably have a hard time building it."

Partnering VMware to death

Wasson is also pumping the notion that Citrix has a "second mover advantage."

VMware, for example, built its own file system to support many complex virtualization tasks. Company executives that we've talked to see this file system as a major advantage. VMware has spent seven years fine-tuning the code, and can pull off some neat tricks with moving files between systems as a result.

Citrix, however, argues that customers don't want to pick up a new file system when they're used to popular code already out there on the market. That's why XenSource forged a partnership with Symantec around the Veritas file system to allow for a certain level of storage virtualization.

Why build everything from scratch if you don't have to?

"You will see many, many other partnerships in similar areas," Wasson said. "In most cases, it's what customers want to do anyway. The better way to deliver this technology is through partners."

Mama Microsoft

And, of course, Citrix's biggest partner to date is Microsoft, which seems set on teaming with Citrix to clobber VMware any way it can.

The Microsoft relationship - where the two companies support and often sell each others' software - is a delicate one. You could see Redmond chumming up with Citrix until its own virtualization business starts to improve. Then, it's "so long, thanks for the memories."

In reality though, it just may be the case that Microsoft never gets this virtualization thing quite right. It's shown no indication of having the technology down so far. So, two years from now, Microsoft may be eating Citrix for, say, $12bn, making the XenSource purchase look awful cheap indeed. ®

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