Sure, Hyper-V is an improvement over the downright awful Virtual Server, but it doesnt match what VMware offers. In fact, Hyper-Vs most impressive trait is simply that its from Microsoft. Its feature set, though, is still lacking.
That said, Microsofts playbook is well known. Throw a product out there just to be in the space. Improve it until it cant be entirely dismissed as inferior. Improve it some more until it is good enough. Then, divide and conquer.
Hyper-V isnt generally regarded as good enough quite yet, but this time around, Microsofts playbook has a new wrinkle: partnerships. Last week, Citrix and Microsoft unveiled a new virtualization partnership. Citrix new virtualization management suite, Citrix Essentials, will support Microsofts Hyper-V.
Coming on the heels of a similar Microsoft deal with Red Hat, Redmond is clearly aiming to box in VMware, leveraging the one thing that VMware doesnt have: an open ecosystem. The Xen community is strong, and through simple partnering agreements, Microsoft is taking advantage of an ecosystem its not even participating in.
Say what you want about Microsoft, but they know how to compete.
However, it may very well be Citrix, not Microsoft, which is best positioned to benefit from this strategy. Citrix has a good story to tell with Hyper-V interoperability, said Chris Wolf, senior analyst, Burton Group.
There are a lot of shops that will never bet against Microsoft. Now, with [Citrix] XenServer they dont have to. A virtual machine on XenServer will run on Hyper-V. If you want virtualization today and advanced features like Live Migration, you dont have to wait for Hyper-V to evolve. Just roll out XenServer.
Should Citrix worry about a Microsoft trap?
Microsoft and Citrix have a long-standing partnership in place, so extending it to virtualization is no great leap. Microsofts strategy in my opinion is: anyone but VMware, Wolf said. That mainly benefits Citrix. If theres something that Microsoft doesnt have, they tell their customers to go to Citrix.
A main part of the anti-VMware message is that VMware traps you in a closed system. With Microsoft, Citrix, Red Hat, and, well, anyone other than VMware, the message goes, you benefit from an open environment and the innovation an open environment encourages.
As Citrix CTO Simon Crosby put it, Our goal is to get fast, free and compatible virtualization on every server. Were opposed to VMwares continued closed-source, proprietary vertical stack that excludes other vendors in the ecosystem.
Kind of ironic coming from a Microsoft partner, isnt it?
Crosby conceded the point, but as a long-term Microsoft partner, he doesnt consider Microsoft to be a closed-source vendor. Sure, theyre stingy with their source code. Yes, they have a history of strong arming customers to lock out competitors, but they dont exclude third-party vendors who add value to their offerings.
To make his point, he pointed to Windows. Windows has always been an open platform in the sense that Microsoft has always recognized the role of ISVs in extending the platform and addressing customer needs, Crosby said.
To put a more cynical spin on it, so long as you pay your proper fealty, Microsoft is perfectly happy to keep you around. Empires require alliances, after all.
Being more charitable, Microsoft has always embraced ecosystems around its software and platforms to a limited degree. Today, the nature and value of platform ecosystems has changed as has the means for monetizing the solutions those ecosystems are built around. With virtualization, Microsoft is changing with the times and embracing an open, multi-vendor ecosystem.
At least thats the story for today.
Is free a strategy?
Another factor to consider is that Citrix is now offering XenServer with an array of high-end features for free. VMware, on the other hand, currently limits its freebies to low-end, limited-use solutions.
Citrix believes that hypervisors are a commodity, virtualization itself is the easy part, and customers will pay for the hard part: management. This is savvy positioning. Getting a foot in the door by giving stuff away is a time-tested marketing strategy, and as other vendors follow suit and offer free or even low-cost virtualization solutions, Citrix has a head start on managing mixed Windows and Linux environments.