Citrix chases VMware with Hyper-V deal

And XenServer, too

Citrix Systems wants to sell anything it can into shops using VMware server and desktop virtualization tools, but it doesn't want to discount XenServer, XenDesktop, and XenApp licenses. What's a vendor to do? Give away free services and training to customers looking to migrate from VMware, of course.

The upstart virtualization vendor - VMware is the established giant - and its partner in trying to take down the EMC subsidiary - Microsoft - have launched a marketing campaign called Project Open Door, which will give customers a whole bunch of freebies if they move from VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 or vSphere 4.0 virtualization stacks to either the XenServer 5.5 hypervisor from Citrix or the Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V R2 hypervisor from Microsoft along with the related Essentials set of add-on management tools for these hypervisors.

Citrix has started giving away its XenServer hypervisor with the launch of XenServer 5.1 in February in preparation of the launch of the Essentials tools. Giving up on charging for XenServer was the only way to align its hypervisor price with the freebie Hyper-V from Microsoft, leaving Citrix to make money only with the Essentials add-ons.

The plan is to catch the Hyper-V wave (most of the x64 servers that have been virtualized are running Windows) and to have a Citrix-Microsoft tag team to take on the ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor and its vSphere 4.0 add-ons. While ESX Server and vSphere are certainly not free with the 4.0 release, they are less expensive in some cases than the prior VI3 products.

But all of this competition and price cutting seems to have hurt Citrix more than anyone else in the race in terms of revenue, but a cheerful Citrix is trying to expand its XenServer base and make some hay out of the Hyper-V installed base. In announcing Project Open Door, Citrix said that XenServer and Hyper-V are the "fastest growing virtualization platforms in the industry today," which is true enough. But then again VMware is making orders of magnitude more dough out of the virtualization racket than Citrix, and shareholders of Citrix are probably wanting to see a little more sales action for the Xen family of virtualization products.

Citrix keeps moving in the other direction, however. The company launched a freebie Essentials for Hyper-V Express Edition in July. (Presumably Microsoft is paying for each license that Citrix gives away, but Citrix has not said.) The fully Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V tool costs $1,500 per server, and the Express Edition carves out the StorageLink storage management features for virtual machines and gives it away. (The full platinum edition of the Essentials tools costs $3,500 per server and adds lab and stage management for VMs.)

More recently, the XenDesktop virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and XenApp application virtualization middleware were smeared together and given the XenDesktop 4 name with a price break to try to compete against - you guessed it - competing products from VMware and Microsoft.

The Project Open Door deal runs through March 31, 2010, and gives customers who ditch VMware VI3 or vSphere 4.0 products for XenServer or Hyper-V hypervisors and the Essentials tools extra technical support, training, and conversion tools from Citrix for free. While this is great for customers, it is yet one more thing that Citrix and its channel partners cannot expect to get revenues.

To take part in the deal, customers have to decommission five or more servers running the VMware tools and replace them with XenServer or Hyper-V. If they do that, they will get a support pack covering five support incidents (during 8x5 business hours) for every five servers they convert. They also get a voucher for six hours of online training for every five servers converted, and free migrations tools for converting VMs from VMware to XenServer or Hyper-V formats.

Citrix did not elaborate on what V2V tools it was using for this purpose. ®

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