Citrix: A One-Stop Virtualization Shop?

The integration of XenSource and rebranding of Presentation Server create more viable choices and un-muddy the virtualization waters, analysts say.

Citrix Systems has wasted no time integrating the XenSource technology into its product portfolio and demonstrating its commitment to all of the forms of virtualization.

Citrix on Feb. 11 will launch an upgrade to the XenServer software it acquired in 2007 when it bought XenSource. At the same time, Citrix will rebrand its flagship Presentation Server terminal server product line and create new product bundles.

As a result, customers now have a one-stop shop for multiple types of virtualization, including desktop virtualization, server virtualization and application virtualization. In addition, with the increasing confusion in the market around the term "virtualization," Citrix has the opportunity to make it simpler for customers to understand.

Prior to its XenSource acquisition, "Citrix did not control the virtual machine, so you had to go to VMware, Microsoft or Xen to buy it," said Brian Madden, an independent industry analyst in New York. "If you wanted to use Citrix, it was a two-part solution. Now customers don't have to deal with multiple products from multiple companies."

After battling with VMware for years over which method of virtualizing desktops was best, Citrix's XenSource acquisition was a tacit acknowledgement that different approaches are needed depending on the requirements, Madden said.

Citrix, with its Presentation Server, had argued that server-based or thin-client computing was the way to go, where only the presentation of data runs locally on the client device and administrators only have to manage one copy of Windows on the terminal server. Meanwhile, VMware championed running multiple instances of Windows XP in different VMs on a big server in the data center, and allowing remote desktops to access the Windows software images through VMware's VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure).

"Citrix pooh-poohed VDI and said, 'Ours is better always.' But the reality is they are both useful in different scenarios," Madden said. "Now Citrix can be used for terminal server- and VDI-based computing environments."

Citrix's former Citrix Desktop Server, now called Citrix XenDesktop, will include the XenSource hypervisor management when it becomes available later in 2008.

To read more about Citrix's plans to integrate with XenSource, click here.

The integration of XenServer into Citrix's product line also provides a viable alternative to VMware in the server virtualization realm for IT shops looking for more choices-or at least pricing leverage, Madden said. In fact, it offers two viable alternatives to VMware, he said.

"As it turns out, Microsoft's HyperV won't be competition to VMware, but XenSource created management tools that will be able to manage Microsoft's HyperV. So now Citrix can provide the high-end management capabilities HyperV needs to compete against VMware," he said.

At the same time, customers who had been leery of using open-source technology from a small company can now delve into it with greater confidence with a company like Citrix offering XenServer.

"I still think there's a stigma for some around open source. Citrix has a huge brand. They can insulate people from the open-sourciness of Xen, and they are blessed by Microsoft, so it's a solution customers can feel good and confident about," Madden said.

By rebranding Citrix's flagship Presentation Server into XenApp, Citrix demonstrates its commitment to virtualization in its different forms and can clearly articulate the difference between desktop, server and application virtualization.

The integration of XenSource overall may also bring the industry "one step closer to the utopian vision of being able to deliver whatever information the user wants to any device anywhere," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee Group. "How you do that is hard, but virtualization plays a key role. By embedding XenServer into the product line, it takes you one step closer to that vision."