Virtualization Comes Together at Citrix Synergy

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted May 26, 2011


Citrix's Synergy virtual computing festival started Wednesday, and you can be sure there will be plenty of VMware-bashing going on, along with a whole raft of announcements about cloud computing, server virtualization, VDI and so on.

Cloud computing, server virtualization, VDI and a far amount of VMware bashing fills the hall of this year's Citrix Synergy.

Wes Wasson, Citrix's chief marketing officer, gave a hint of what to expect at a press briefing yesterday by launching a couple of premeditated slaps on VMware's chops. What has VMware done to deserve this? Nothing specific, really. It's just that when you are as dominant in the virtualization space as VMware, everyone else is out to get you. Simple as that.

Commenting on VMware's cloud strategy, Wasson said that "taking a proprietary virtualization stack and trying to put cloud management stuff on top and calling it a cloud" involves "questionable economics" and rather "misses the point" of cloud computing. Pretty mild stuff, to be sure, but there's no missing the malicious intent. Wasson pressed on, declaring that instead of going the VMware route it is far wiser to use open environments, commodity equipment and, umm, basically any stuff not supplied by VMware. "Our strategy is around the OpenStack movement, and we want to be a flag bearer for that going forward," he proclaimed. "This is the architecture of the real cloud."

Oh yes, there's definitely something of an anti-VMware feeling in the air these days, in the same way that in the '80s and '90s everyone involved in the PC industry hated/resented/feared Microsoft. Look at the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA), announced last week. It's a bunch of industry bigwigs including Intel, HP, Red Hat, BMC and Eucalyptus Systems, and although it's dressed up in perfect respectability with the ostensible aim of "Increasing overall awareness and understanding of Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM)" and "fostering the adoption of KVM as an open virtualization alternative to proprietary solutions," make no mistake: Its real purpose is to use a strategy of strength in numbers to gang up on VMware and prevent it becoming all-powerful.

An interesting question is why OVA chose to rally around the open source KVM and not the open source Xen hypervisor, which Citrix sponsors. Maybe OVA's founders felt KVM is the best way forward, in the way that Red Hat and others did, or maybe they just felt Red Hat was less of a threat than Citrix. Who knows? But then Citrix must be getting used to Xen losing out to KVM when it comes to virtualization technology by now.

Anyway, back to Citrix's virtualization fiesta. At some point in the proceedings Citrix will launch Project Olympus (named after the mountain of the gods, not the midrange Japanese camera.) "Project Olympus makes it easy to build private clouds with the scale that cloud providers use. And cloud providers will be able to use it too," said Wasson. Project Olympus is comprised of two primary components: a Citrix-certified version of OpenStack and a cloud-optimized version of Citrix XenServe. It is expected to provide a better alternative to VMware, apparently. "You'll have the choice of a proprietary enterprise-style cloud with the legacy expense of existing data centers, or an open, flexible cloud stack," Wasson hammered home.

But as well as the VMware thumping and vague hints at new projects there is something more concrete. Citrix is planning on announcing two new NetScaler products at Synergy, both designed to connect public and private clouds: the NetScaler Cloud Gateway and the NetScaler Cloud Bridge.

The Cloud Gateway is designed to "extend and orchestrate the delivery of apps from the public cloud, connecting SaaS and Web apps to any user," explained Wasson. The device will enable single sign on for corporate users so that once they have authenticated themselves for one SaaS, web or Windows application they should be authorized for all, making the cloud seem like more of an extension of the corporate environment. For administrators it also provides a way to monitor the SLAs of SaaS apps by providing a centralized dashboard showing uptimes and other metrics.

The NetScaler Cloud Bridge, which is due to ship next month, provides an encrypted, optimized connection between internal cloud and external cloud resources like compute and storage. "Many companies don't want to run mission-critical apps in an external environment as they don't want to store sensitive data externally or they may not be able to for compliance reasons," Wasson said. "With the Cloud Bridge you can keep your apps in the cloud, but move your data back into your own data center. For the first time, this makes the promise of tapping in to utility cloud computing a possibility," he concluded rather grandly.

Along with the VMware bashing, there will be plenty of other new virtualization product announcements at Synergy. For anyone interested in cloud computing that should be seen as a good sign. Along with the arrival of OVA on the scene it shows that there is still a will to provide alternatives to VMware, and although there's nothing wrong with VMware per se, competition has got to be a good thing to keep the innovation coming.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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