An Open Letter to Citrix, Microsoft and VMware

On hypervisors, pricing strategies and innovations that need to continue, even as you each continue to claim your spots in the virtualization market.

Citrix: As you'll see in this issue, XenServer is a good hypervisor. Really good, in fact -- so good that it beats not only Microsoft's Hyper-V, but the 800-pound gorilla of hypervisors, VMware's ESX. (Note that all three hypervisors performed admirably, and any of them -- or some combination -- would likely work well in any data center.)

What's annoying about the results, Citrix, is that you aren't promoting XenServer that much. You're updating it, but my sense is that you're fine with folks using Hyper-V as an alternative. Certainly you'd prefer that they use XenServer, but that doesn't seem to be your main focus. What you're really pushing is desktop virtualization, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

Don't get me wrong: XenDesktop is a worthy product, as we pointed out last issue ("Xen and the Art of Hosted Desktops," December 2008/January 2009). I just think you should do more to promote XenServer; a corollary to that is doing more with its management tools, specifically XenCenter. For instance, try finding detailed information on XenCenter on the Web, or even on your own site. It's not easy. Furthermore, your own people don't talk about it much -- you point to Microsoft for management solutions.

It seems to me that you cede too many areas of virtualization to Microsoft. So, Citrix, my advice would be to spend more resources on developing management tools and promoting XenServer.

Microsoft: In the virtual arena, I'd advise you folks out in Redmond do the same thing, but opposite, of what I suggested to Citrix. Confused? What I mean is that you haven't been pushing your desktop-virtualization solution nearly enough -- customers who want an enterprise solution are shunted to Citrix and XenDesktop.

That's not good strategy. Desktop virtualization is set to become incredibly big, I believe. Your focus on developing Hyper-V -- adding Live Migration so quickly is a great idea, by the way -- and building new functionality into System Center Virtual Machine Manager is spot on, but desktop virtualization deserves more attention.

Next, I'd strongly urge you to make some of those remaining 2,600 job cuts in areas other than your virtualization teams. Virtualization represents your best chance of moving into new markets. Face the reality that Zune is a flop, and online search is dead to you. Instead, concentrate on core technology like making Windows 7 desktop-virtualization-friendly -- and less of a PR Hindenburg than Windows Vista -- and working on a bare-metal client hypervisor.

VMware: I like what you're doing. Unlike Microsoft and Citrix, you focus 100 percent of your efforts on virtualization, and because of that, you continue to lead the field. VMware View is coming along nicely, and you're making progress in brand-new areas like taking virtualization to the cell-phone and smartphone level. Your latest financial quarter provided a boost, demonstrating that the vision of CEO Paul Maritz is paying off.

Still, too often you act as if there's no competition. I hear many complaints about the expense of your solutions. You usually respond with, "You get what you pay for." Well, that argument is outdated. If you need evidence, I refer you back to our cover story, which shows that the hypervisors of your two main competitors stack up well against yours. In fact, I know more than a few admins who are taking a serious look at the alternatives. They all give one reason: price.

Remember that Microsoft and Citrix are combining dev forces, and every single product they produce in this space costs less than an equivalent VMware offering. Also keep in mind that Microsoft, especially, is spending tons of cash to narrow the gap with ESX and Virtual Infrastructure. Some customers don't worry about budgets, and will dole out whatever's necessary to get the best, which-for now-means going with your stuff. Currently, however, we're in an environment where that demographic is shrinking rapidly. I don't believe you can sustain that attitude for much longer, and I can see Microsoft making inroads faster than you expect.

All: Whatever you do, don't stop innovating. Virtualization is without a doubt the best place to be right now. It's better because all three of you are there. Keep moving forward and making my job exciting with your new inventions.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.