How long before Citrix releases Essentials for VMware?

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Two weeks ago Citrix announced the unthinkable: XenServer, one of the technologies that acquired from XenSource for $500 million almost two years ago, becomes a free product.

The move raised an unprecedented level of attention, from customers, partners and competitors.
It’s not a speculation: the statistics reveal how serious the echo of this action has been and still is.

To make profit Citrix counts on support agreements (which is exactly the same model Sun is using for its Solaris operating system and what it plans to adopt for the upcoming xVM virtualization portfolio) and on the sales of premium management features, packed in a new Essentials product, available for XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V.

Citrix wants to obtain a lot of things with this strategy:

  • with XenServer for free it wants to build a serious brand awareness in the virtualization industry and, at the same time, disturb the VMware activity in the enterprise market
  • with Essentials for XenServer it wants to demonstrate its enterprise prospects that it has something serious to pit against VMware vCenter
  • with Essentials for Hyper-V it wants to reproduce the successful combination of Microsoft Terminal Server plus Citrix Metaframe that made its early fortune

Of course the key part of the strategy is the synergy with Microsoft and not the free hypervisor.

Essentials for Hyper-V is in beta starting today.
Chris Wolf, Senior Analyst at Burton Group published some early feedbacks about it and seems pretty satisfied:

…As you can see, this is a massive improvement for Hyper-V VM provisioning on networked storage. My experience with the software was basically what I’ve come to expect from beta software, and did include one hurdle to overcome – CVSM provisioned storage and created VMs without a problem, but did not create the VM passthrough disks and associate the correct LUNs with each. I had to do that step manually using the Hyper-V manager tool. Note that other beta testers also identified this problem, and it has been fixed. Also, only passthrough (raw) disks are supported today; virtual hard disk files are not supported. I’m hoping that virtual disks will be supported for Windows Server 2008 R2 cluster shared volumes, once they’re available.

Still, after doing the initial work to create the storage repository and VM template, VM deployment was a piece of cake. And what’ not to like about spinning up a bunch of new VMs in seconds? …

Now, what will happen if Citrix releases a version of Essentials for VMware?

The question is legit and comes as a reaction to the post of Rakesh Malhotra, Program Management Team for System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) at Microsoft, about the capability of SCVMM 2008 to manage VMware ESX.

His post clarifies some of the design decisions that Microsoft made when developed the ESX management part, and how some of the features work.

One of his early sentences generated the question above:

…Let me start by saying that no software is perfect and we are constantly trying to improve and respond to customer feedback. In fact, the whole VMware ESX management feature was a result of customer feedback. Put simply, people want to use a single primary console for day to day management of virtual machines across multiple hypervisors so we went after this problem. As a result, multi-hypervisor management via SCVMM 2008 has proven to be enormously popular with customers and partners alike…

In normal conditions it’s hard to believe that a customer may drop the vCenter console to manage his ESX farm with SCVMM, but we live in interesting times where enterprise customers can have hundreds or thousands of machines virtualized with different hypervisors.
SAP for example is about to virtualize 500 servers with XenServer side by side with its current VMware Infrastructure.

Microsoft believes it can manage ESX better (or at least as good as) than VMware itself. And Citrix believes it can manage Hyper-V better than Microsoft itself (something that Microsoft is not arguing actually).
So why Citrix shouldn’t try to extend its Essentials offering to manage ESX as well?

There’s no risk to validate the competitor too much. VMware is abundantly validated by its market share.
The only (positive) result would be that Citrix would become the first virtualization vendor to provide enhancements for all the three major hypervisors on the market.

If it’s true that there are customers out there that look for a single primarily console for virtualization management, why they shouldn’t be interested in such offering?