Last week, Microsoft annointed long-time partner Citrix Systems as the provider of management tools for virtualized Windows server environments using its Hyper-V hypervisor. But Citrix needed help closing the deal. It landed its own partnership with VMLogix, grabbing some of the key pieces that are actually worth money to customers.
Citrix made waves just ahead of the VMworld Europe show hosted by rival VMware by giving away most of the management functionality used to charge for with its XenServer Enterprise. This upped the freebie ante in an aggressive way - to an extent that VMware will not mimic until it absolutely has to, simply because there is too much money to be made by VMware selling its management tools.
While technically equivalent or superior to VMware's ESX Server in some respects, XenServer has the disadvantage of not being the default standard for virtualizing Windows servers - a position that VMware holds and has worked very hard to build. Citrix had to do something dramatic to try to knock VMware down a peg. And it was a very smart move to give away a whole bunch of management tools as part of a new XenServer bundle, with specific versions tailored for either the XenServer or Hyper-V hypervisors. Plus, it got Microsoft to throw its weight behind the tools and strategy.
As it turns out, this was also a smart move by Microsoft, which doesn't have sophisticated virtual machine management tools but which nonetheless wants to build them (eventually). In the meantime, it wants to create a vast installed base of Hyper-V customers who can't wait for Microsoft to get its tools act together.
VMware was thinking way ahead of the server virtualization game when it bought Akimbi Systems in late 2006 for its Lab Manager tool, a kind of jukeboxing system that allows developers and system administrators to create and manage VMs with myriad different software stacks and data sets for testing applications before they go into production. A production-grade version of the tool, called Stage Manager, went into beta a year ago and is one of the tools that makes VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 stack worth thousands of dollars per server.
XenSource did not create its own lab management and staging software before it was acquired by Citrix, and Citrix has not done so either as part of the Citrix Essentials suites for XenServer and Hyper-V. Although neither Microsoft nor Citrix mentioned this as part of their announcements, the lab management and staging software that is going up against VMware's stack comes from VMLogix, which partnered with Citrix a little more than a year ago in a relatively loose way buy which is now distributing its products under an OEM agreement with Citrix, which in turn has an OEM agreement with Microsoft.