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Citrix Needs to Enter the Hyper-Converged Market

Today there is a definite trend, or as some may like to call it, a "wave" for hyper-converged systems that take a more modular, Google/Facebook-like approach to datacenter build out. While the concept of converged infrastructure has been around for many years, hyper-converged is a twist on that with a smaller form factor and true convergence between the different components. I say "true" because some of us -- myself included -- would even classify the traditional converged infrastructures as mere reference architectures with a unified management software layer. But that's a controversial topic for a another day.

As you may know, VMware is working on a not-so more super-secret project codenamed "Project Marvin". This is an attempt at pre-packaging hardware and software, and accelerating not only the sales cycle, but also the deployment and implementation cycle for the customer. VMware is validating the strategy that others like Nebula have already embarked on by simplifying the Software Defined Datacenter story. Project Marvin is a hyper-converged integrated system that combines CPU, memory, network and storage in a small factor standard x86 server. The project, in collaboration with EMC, will feature hardware and software from both companies. The possibilities for this solution are infinite, and while most of this is still speculation (hopefully to be confirmed at VMworld), just imagine how easily this could be applied to the Horizon View suite as well. VMware's making an excellent bet.

Should Citrix follow suit? Definitely: In fact, I think Citrix should have been out in front of VMware in this approach, especially considering it's already in the hardware business with NetScaler. That's why I wrote a few months back that I thought Citrix would be well served by acquiring Nutanix.

Let's take a closer look. Citrix owns CloudPlatform, the commercialized, productized version of the open source project CloudStack. Citrix has had limited success with CloudPlatform in the enterprise, although in the public cloud sector CloudStack is widely used. CloudStack, just like OpenStack, is realistically impossible to implement in any acceptable time frame, and would require an army of consultants for extended periods of time to deploy.  This is why companies like Nebula have simplified that process by providing a pre-packaged, hardened version of OpenStack at a reasonable price that can be deployed in a very short period of time.

If Citrix hasn't yet learned that CloudPlatform will be hard to adopt without a similar approach, VMware's venture into this space should be the wakeup call. It needs to understand that adoption won't happen without a reasonable method of implementation. Why not have CloudPlatform pre-packaged on a hyper-converged system like NetScaler, or in conjunction with vendors like Nutanix? Even better, it could be an expansion of Citrix's current hardware play with a system dedicated to CloudPlatform.

That's not the only area or product in which Citrix can leverage this type of solution. During Synergy 2014, Citrix announced a service called Citrix Workspace Services. It's essentially a pre-configured Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop deployment on Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS), effectively abstracting that entire process from the customer. This gives the customer ready-to-be-configured infrastructure;  all they need to do is tweak it for their environment and upload their images. It also provides them with ongoing support, and perhaps even patching and updating.

That's great for the cloud, right? Now take this exact same concept, without changing a thing, and instead of deploying on AWS or Azure, pre-package and sell it on a hyper-converged system. This would significantly accelerate XenDesktop deployments as well. You can then slip XenServer into the mix since you're selling a closed solution, and increase adoption of this product, as opposed to everyone deploying your products on top of vSphere.

Citrix, more than any other company, absolutely needs the hyper-converged approach to carve out a piece of the datacenter infrastructure, at least for its products. Going the route of the OEMs is not enough; frankly, it's a 1990s approach. It doesn't need to be scrapped, but it's just not good enough on its own anymore.

Do you agree that a hyper-converged system would benefit Citrix and increase adoption of its products? Let me know in the comments section below.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 07/29/2014 at 12:04 PM


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