Friday, 17 February 2012

The Virtualization Wars: Microsoft and Citrix vs VMware

This post is part of our ReadWriteCloud channel, which is dedicated to covering virtualization and cloud computing. The channel is sponsored by Intel and VMware. Read the case study about how Intel Xeon processors and VMware helped virtualize 12 business critical database applications.

Watch this battle unfold. The virtualization wars are just getting started.
On one side we have Microsoft, which announced changes in its licensing structures this week. The change reflects an understanding that the customer wants full access to its virtualization platform and not be charged a tax for that right to access it on a PC, no matter if it is at work or in their home.
And in true fashion, Microsoft is on the attack, Citrix at its side, in a full on fight with VMware for the virtualization market.
On the VMware side, we see a company ready to move into Microsoft's customer base by offering more than virtualization as witnessed with its recent acquisition of Zimbra. VMWare is gearing up to tap into the Microsoft Exchange market by combining its virtualization technology with the Zimbra email platform.


Microsoft Offers Some Flexibility

Historically, Microsoft has charged for separate licenses to access Windows operating systems in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. Until now, there would be separate licensing fees for people to access their virtual desktops from secondary devices like home personal computers.
The licensing issue in all of this gets complicated pretty fast. According to Simon Bramfitt:
"Right from the start Microsoft showed that it had been listening to its customers' feedback. As of July 1st Microsoft is rolling Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) into the Windows Software Assurance (Windows SA) program. This means that anyone with Software Assurance can deploy desktops locally or in the data center at no additional cost. At the same time Microsoft is extending the remote access rights so that remote isn't tethered to a single PC in the primary users' home. This awareness of the fact that users want flexibility around when and where they work is the key element that has been missing from Microsoft's virtualization strategy since day one. If this wasn't enough, Microsoft is introducing a new desktop virtualization license called Windows Virtual Desktop Access (Windows VDA) costing $100 per year per device and aimed at organizations who are using endpoints that do not have a Windows SA license - Contractors PCs, devices that are do not run Windows (e.g., thin-clients, smart phones and Apple Macs) and yes, PCs with OEM licenses. Hang-on, isn't that just the same as the old non-SA VECD license? More or less, yes; it's certainly cheaper, although at $100 per year not by much. What's more important is that Windows VDA is now a first-class citizen in the Microsoft licensing hierarchy with all the benefits of Software Assurance (e.g., 24x7 support, upgrade/downgrade rights), and as a desktop virtualization license it gets the same extended roaming rights offered to the a full member of the SA club."
VMWare, in smart retort, praises Microsoft for the move and bowing to "intense customer pressure."
Raj Mallempati, director, product marketing, calls it an opening for VMWare View.

You know it's competitive when you see this kind of rhetoric:
By loosening up the restrictive desktop virtualization license policy (VECD), Microsoft has finally bowed to intensive customer pressure. This validates the acceleration in demand in the desktop virtualization industry that VMware helped start and continues to lead. Microsoft's move here is extremely positive for the industry.

But what is Citrix part in all of this?

At the beginning of the year, VMWare offered the opportunity to exchange Citrix XenApp licenses for VMWare View. In response, Microsoft and Citrix announced a partnership this week aimed right at VMWare with some pretty attractive licensing deals.

The promotion intends to undercut VMWare by reaching into its customer base with offers to trade in as many as 500 licenses in exchange for a Microsoft integration offered with Citrix.
To kick it off, the two companies plan a 100-city tour.
But what this really represents is Microsoft providing some flexibility in its virtualization licensing agreements. That move alone will help open up the market.

And VMWare? The company has 80 percent of the virtualization market. Any move on its customer base should be expected. VMware's vision for Zimbra is another matter. That's a battle it is taking right back to Microsoft - square on its home turf.

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