Citrix taps VMLogix for fake server jukeboxing
Just what Microsoft needed
Last week, Microsoft annointed  long-time partner Citrix Systems as the provider of management tools for virtualized Windows server environments using its Hyper-V hypervisor. But Citrix needed help closing the deal. It landed its own partnership with VMLogix, grabbing some of the key pieces that are actually worth money to customers.
Citrix made waves just ahead of the VMworld Europe show hosted by rival VMware by giving away most of the management functionality used to charge for with its XenServer Enterprise. This upped the freebie ante in an aggressive way - to an extent that VMware will not mimic until it absolutely has to, simply because there is too much money to be made by VMware selling its management tools.
While technically equivalent or superior to VMware's ESX Server in some respects, XenServer has the disadvantage of not being the default standard for virtualizing Windows servers - a position that VMware holds and has worked very hard to build. Citrix had to do something dramatic to try to knock VMware down a peg. And it was a very smart move to give away a whole bunch of management tools as part of a new XenServer bundle, with specific versions tailored for either the XenServer or Hyper-V hypervisors. Plus, it got Microsoft to throw its weight behind the tools and strategy.
As it turns out, this was also a smart move by Microsoft, which doesn't have sophisticated virtual machine management tools but which nonetheless wants to build them (eventually). In the meantime, it wants to create a vast installed base of Hyper-V customers who can't wait for Microsoft to get its tools act together.
VMware was thinking way ahead of the server virtualization game when it bought Akimbi Systems in late 2006 for its Lab Manager tool, a kind of jukeboxing system that allows developers and system administrators to create and manage VMs with myriad different software stacks and data sets for testing applications before they go into production. A production-grade version of the tool, called Stage Manager, went into beta a year ago and is one of the tools that makes VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 stack worth thousands of dollars per server.
XenSource did not create its own lab management and staging software before it was acquired by Citrix, and Citrix has not done so either as part of the Citrix Essentials suites for XenServer and Hyper-V. Although neither Microsoft nor Citrix mentioned this as part of their announcements, the lab management and staging software that is going up against VMware's stack comes from VMLogix, which partnered with Citrix a little more than a year ago in a relatively loose way buy which is now distributing its products under an OEM agreement with Citrix, which in turn has an OEM agreement with Microsoft.
Whither the Buyout?
VMLogix was founded in 2004, after having been spun out of an enterprise software maker named Trilogy and backed by private equity from Bain Capital. The VMLogix product is called LabManager, and it has supported the XenServer hypervisor since last February as well as VMware's ESX Server commercial hypervisor and its freebie VMware Server (formerly known as GSX Server). The company now supports Hyper-V and is working on support for Sun Microsystems' xVM and Oracle's VM variants of the open source Xen hypervisor.
The most obvious question is why Citrix or Microsoft hasn't just bought VMLogix already, considering how important lifecycle management is going to be for virtualized server environments as virtualization takes off. But Sameer Dholakia, the chief executive officer at VMLogix just laughs this off. "There have been many strategic conversations including all parties," Dholakia says with a chuckle. "This was the best deal for us at the time, and I am not going to rule out anything for the future."
He would not provide any specifics on the financial arrangements between VMLogix and Citrix concerning the OEMing of its LabManager and StageManager tools, except to say "it is large enough that VMLogix is in no need to look for further venture funding." For a startup in a tough economy where venture funds are drying up, that's a pretty safe place to be. This far, VMLogix has had one Series A round of funding for $3.5m and hasn't gone back to the venture capital markets since.
LabManager and StageManager will be part of the Essentials for XenServer or Hyper-V stacks. Specifically, it will be part of the Platinum Edition that sells for $3,000 per physical server. (The less expensive Essentials bundles cost $1,500 per server and have dynamic provisioning services for partitions, workflow orchestration to automate when and where VMs are deployed on the network, interoperability features so workloads packaged up for Xen can be transformed and rebooted on Hyper-V (and visa versa), among other features. The basic XenServer is free now and includes the hypervisor, the XenCenter console, integration with Active Directory, VM resource pooling, and XenMotion live migration of VMs.
While VMLogix is quite pleased with the way this has all turned out, Dholakia says that the company is keeping its options open. "The reality is that VMware has a near monopoly in the X64 server virtualization market," he says. "We very much plan to keep building our standalone business." And that means stressing that its own versions of LabManager and StageManager can wrestle with ESX Server, XenServer, and Hyper-V all at the same time, and there will be plenty of big companies that have all three and will need such a tool.
Moreover, these same shops will need to integrate with IBM's Rational or Hewlett-Packard's Quality Center application lifecycle management tools to bring virtual environments under the same tight control that physical ones currently have in the IT shop, and the full-blown tools from VMLogix do this.
As part of last week's festivities, VMLogix rejiggered its own pricing for those tools, and now charges $3,885 per two-sockets on a server for LabManager. StageManager has the same price.
Looking ahead, Dholakia says the company is looking to support Sun's xVM hypervisor and integrate with Sun's xVM OpsCenter management tool. VMLogix already has a strategic partnership with IBM and is exploring the possibility of supporting the PowerVM logical partitioning hypervisor used on its Power Systems iron. The company could support Integrity VM, the home-grown HP hypervisor for its Itanium-based servers, as well as the Xen variants from Novell and Oracle and the Xen and KVM hypervisors from Red Hat.
It will be interesting to see who steps up and creates lab and stage management tools for the express purpose of trying to sell the business off to Microsoft, Sun, HP, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, or Oracle. While it is always fun to sell bullets to everyone in the battle, it is also possible to be so clever and coy that you let someone else come in and steal the market away. Thus far, VMLogix has played it pretty smart. ®