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Looking Back at Issue No. 1: Citrix Has High Hopes for XenServer

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Continuing our stroll down virtual memory lane by doing an analysis of Issue No. 1 of Virtualization Review, we come to Citrix. It was part of our cover story, an analysis of the leading virtualization players. It was titled, "Citrix Aims High," and it was written by Doug Barney.

One focus of the article was where Citrix goes with XenSource, which it had bought the previous year. XenSource, of course, became XenServer. Peter Levine, then with Citrix, was quoted as saying that the Xen approach was more efficient than VMware's: "The Xen hypervisor is a very lightweight infrastructure compared to what ESX has, just because of the design points and the assumption that there would be hardware assist under the covers."

XenServer Falls Behind
Whether he was correct or not, any advantages XenServer had didn't equate to success. Citrix released v6.5 of the product earlier this year, but it's safe to say XenServer has lost ground over the intervening time to both VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V. It hasn't been updated as regularly, or been enhanced the way the other two have.

In Gartner Inc.'s last "Magic Quadrant" for server virtualization companies, Citrix dropped from the Visionaries quadrant, where it was in 2013, to Niche Players. This followed a similar demotion the previous year, when it was dumped from the Leaders category to Visionaries. (Note that Gartner hasn't yet released its 2015 Magic Quadrant yet; if tradition holds, it will be out very soon.) The only vendors in the Leaders quadrant were VMware and Microsoft.

Here's how Gartner summarized XenServer: "For server virtualization alone, Citrix's reduction in XenServer functionality (at the same time that Microsoft and VMware are expanding) and clear strategic positioning will make XenServer an unlikely competitor."

VDI to the Rescue
A virtualization area that Citrix has done better in is virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI. The story mentioned this in passing, because it wasn't a big focus at the time; it has, however, turned out to be much more important to the Citrix bottom line. "XenDesktop is a new product that sends Windows images out to a virtual desktop. It uses some Presentation Server concepts, but it's not the same product," Levine said.

Barney added this dash of analysis: "Competition for the desktop is heating up. VMware is also moving into the application virtualization space with its acquisition of Thinstall." Here we are, seven years later, and it's still the same two companies, duking it out for VDI supremacy. XenDesktop and XenApp are both solid, popular products that compete well with VMware Horizon.

One final note: As part of the article, we interviewed each company's executive responsible for virtualization: CEO Diane Greene of VMware; Bob Muglia, then head of the Microsoft Server and Tools Business; and Citrix CEO Mark Templeton. Templeton is the only one left; he announced his retirement in early 2014, only to change his mind the following June. He said in the interview that ran with the article that purchasing XenSource was a no-brainer for Citrix:

"It became obvious to us that virtual infrastructure was a core technology for us; we needed to be able to really bake it into our products for application delivery, and owning it was important. When we looked in the marketplace, though there were a few options, XenSource was by far the logical option for us to take."

Posted by Keith Ward on 07/10/2015 at 8:36 AM


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