Mental Ward

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Simon Says

As a technology journalist, I'm used to marketingspeak: you know, the kind of language you find in press releases -- "Our new product is a game-changer!" Or, "This is a big win for customers!" Or, "Our company, the leader in _____ (fill in with any technology)." It sometimes gets wearying, which is why I enjoy talking to Simon Crosby of Citrix.

Simon says what's on his mind, doesn't pull punches and isn't afraid of anyone -- least of all VMware, the market leader in virtualization. For example, when talking about the new embedded hypervisor for HP servers -- HP Select Edition -- Crosby compares it VMware's ESX 3i, which is also an embedded hypervisor. "ESX 3i is just a disaster, and we love it," Crosby told me in an interview last week.

Crosby, many of you will know, is the former CTO of XenSource and the CTO of the Virtualization and Management Division at Citrix Systems. As such, he comes from an open source background, and has a lot of that maverick mentality that you tend to find from the open-sourcers.

Open source projects frequently compete against well-established, entrenched companies with huge R&D budgets, and hence have that spirited David vs. Goliath outlook. Although Crosby now works for a billlion-dollar corporation, he doesn't seem to have lost that sharp edge. Here are some more juicy quotes in his war of words against VMware and his take on HP Select, which is an HP-tuned, embedded version of XenServer. "We have better product, they [VMware] charge for [theirs], and we're cheaper. I would love to see more products like this from VMware." In other words, he'd like to see VMware produce more products that he thinks are trounced by competing Citrix offerings. Now, is that fun, or what? Note that I am not evaluating the truth of his statements; I'm just saying that it's a breath of fresh air in a world of cloying P.R. language.

One of Crosby's central theses in his critique of Citrix's virtualization strategy vs. VMware is disruption. What he means is that in his view, VMware is a much more disruptive technology in that it requires wholesale changes to an I.T. infrastructure, whereas Citrix works with what you've got. "VMware wants to own [the virtual infrastructure]," Crosby says. "We want to be part of it. The right thing to do for [virtualization] adoption is to make virtualization subservient to existing systems."

That may or may not be true -- lots of companies are having success implementing a VMware infrastructure. In fact, one flooring company IT admin -- Kevin Sonney of iFloor -- told me last week he's consolidating everything on VMware, and it's saved him many thousands of dollars, allowing him to do things he never could have done without VMware. He said that instead of buying the 20 servers he would have had to in years past, he bought four, and consolidated everything onto those boxes. Those are real, tangible savings through virtualization.

As you can tell, Sonney is happy as could be with his VMware infrastructure, and he's far from alone. But Crosby also threw out another very interesting tidbit: pricing for XenServer is now per-server, as opposed to per-socket. With multi-processor servers and blade servers fast becoming the norm for virtualization environments, that's a compelling and aggressive pricing move. And yet another salvo in the pricing wars. It will be interesting to see how -- and if -- VMware responds. VMware, like the majority of vendors, holds fast to a per-socket licensing model.

What's your take on Crosby's thesis that it's better to work with what you have, rather than overhaul your infrastructure, when it comes to virtualization? Let me know.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/31/2008 at 12:48 PM


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