VMware Fights for VMworld Spotlight

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Feb 25, 2009


The VMworld train rolled into the station in Cannes on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, VMware's second annual European tradeshow inspired myriad announcements and shuffling, not just around VMware, but among virtualization players, or wannabe players. Virtually Speaking: The news from the virtualization vendor's second annual European show is interesting enough, but key announcements from Citrix and Red Hat may be drowning out VMware's message.

VMware's news built on the plans it announced back in September, when it laid out its intent to build a VMware-managed end-to-end virtual infrastructure. It's not just the incremental nature that made it not nearly as wasn't nearly as elaborate though. In the nearly six months since the show in Las Vegas, VMware faces increased competition on all fronts as well as an economy that paints the least-expensive option most desirable upfront.

One of its biggest announcements centered around cloud computing, which has become a rapidly expanding area for virtualization, if not in actual deployments, than in mindshare. VMware's VDC-OS (Virtual Data Center Operating System), announced back in September will be the foundation for the "private cloud strategy" it unveiled this week.

The VMware vCloud Initiative, part of VDC-OS was first announced at VMworld Las Vegas last September. In a nutshell, it enables federation between external and internal clouds to provide the elasticity for the private clouds.

The biggest news around vCloud is the release of its API, which is designed to enable interoperability between cloud providers and on- and off-premises clouds by allowing programmatic access to private cloud resources and support the delivery of services and applications that leverage and extend private clouds. The VMware vCloud API is in private release and under co-development with partners, including Engine Yard and IT Structures, who will demo their services at the show.

They will demonstrate how the VMware Infrastructure Client integrates with external cloud resources. The client plug-in gives the user "a single pain of glass to the cloud," Wendy Perilli, director product marketing cloud computing, told ServerWatch.

Beyond VMware

Perhaps even more interesting than VMware's news, however, is news of what its competitors are up to. You can always measure the relevance of a tradeshow by the substance of the announcements that come out when it is held, and by that yardstick, VMworld Europe is a fairly significant show.

Both Citrix and Red Hat came out with big news in recent days. In both cases their news involves deepening relationships with Microsoft and intent to present a deeper commitment to virtualization endeavors.

Red Hat Monday began a more aggressive push to position itself as a key virtualization player. It unveiled a variety of new product initiatives designed to penetrate the enterprise on a number of fronts, including a stand-alone hypervisor based on its Kernel Virtual Machine, as well as a new hypervisor for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and new management tools for virtualization on servers and desktops.

This follows last week's news that Red Hat had crafted a "virtualization interoperability deal" with Microsoft.

Citrix, meanwhile, set about "shaking things up in the virtualization space," John Humphreys, senior director of Citrix's virtualization and management division, told ServerWatch.

If the hypervisor wasn't a commodity before, rest assured, it is now. XenServer, like ESXi and Hyper-V, are free. Going forward, this will be the only XenServer available, Humphreys said, "This will be the sole focus of the hypervisor that we at Citrix develop."

Citrix is taking the commoditization a step further, believing it's not just the hypervisor that is commodity, but also the virtual environment as a whole. Humphreys explained that it is not just the Xen hypervisor that is "completely free" but also the XenServer virtual environment, which provides an "enterprise-class feature set."

As a result, it sees "value in advanced management, not just management."

It is this advanced management area where Citrix hopes to profit.

In early April Citrix will release "Essentials packs," modules that will add advanced management and automation capabilities. Essentials will come in two flavors, Citrix Essentials for XenServer and Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V.

Yes, you read that right. Hyper-V.

Citrix has had a long-standing relationship with Microsoft, so it's not surprising that when Humphreys cites "heterogeneous server rooms" as one of the chief reasons for including a competing virtual environment, Hyper-V comes into play.

At launch, Citrix Essentials will consist of: Citrix StorageLink for storage integration; dynamic provisioning services, hypervisor interoperability; workflow orchestration; high availability capabilities; and automated lab management.

Citrix is not entirely going it alone in this undertaking.

Citrix has entered into an "OEM relationship" with VMLogix, and it will be using its Lab Manager and Stage Manager as the underpinnings of for its lab management capabilities, VMLogix CEO Sameer Dholakia told ServerWatch.

Dholakia explained that this deal will change the selection process for many enterprises, "presently you pick the environment and then get the tool. [With this deal you] can now build out with one or both and can go from there."

Dholakia said he believes the interoperability of the Essentials pack and the inclusion of VMLogix' technology "will accelerate Xen server and Hyper-V."

That may be, but because of the nature of the deal, users will see only a lab management tool that has been tweaked a bit to be enhanced and tied closer to XenServer and Hyper-V. Like in any OEM deal, customers will be using functionality marketed, branded and supported by the OEM (in this case, Citrix, under its "lab manager" and "app manager" label) to manage their environments.

While this is obviously a huge gain for VMLogix, it does necessitate a change in strategy. Dholakia acknowledged that going forward the bulk of Hyper-V and XenServer sales will be through Citrix. This mean that the bulk of VMLogix's direct business will come from ESX sales and shops. This puts it 100 percent in competition with VMware, which incidentally has its own lab management offering, and which VMLogix believes its product surpasses.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in September 2009.

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