Those are the three that end-users will typically ask after, and those are the three that many systems integrators will lead with as their customers look to cloud environments and beyond.
But what separates the three? Are you going to get the same experience regardless of the vendor you go with, or is there a genuine differentiating factor between each?
Applaud IT managing director, Ricci Danieletto, speaking in simple terms, summarised the core differences between the three as such: “This is put very simplistically, of course, but we believe at a desktop level Citrix has prime place. We think that VMware owns the datacentre, and then you’ve got Microsoft that will establish a presence simply though the power they represent commercially for customers that might be price conscious.
“We forged partnerships with all three vendors precisely because we believe they all have something to offer for the cross section of our customer base.”
Of course, the three vendors also play in one another’s space, Danieletto said. Citrix has a datacentre solution that can be deployed at the core, and it acquired XenSource to help diversify its offering.
Meanwhile, both VMware and Microsoft have excellent desktop solutions, dipping into Citrix’ space.
Overall, Danieletto said Citrix had the most to lose in the virtualisation space, especially as Microsoft further flexes its marketing muscle.
“I think all vendors are conscious of the fact that VMware is a virtualisation leader, and Microsoft will make a play,” he said. “Potentially, Citrix has the most to lose and that’s probably why it acquired Xen when it did. Is XenServer establishing a bigger presence as the other two? I suggest probably not, certainly not in the engagements we’re having with out customers.
“But it does have two very solid desktop products, and I think it’ll take a while for that marketplace to be encroached on.” So how do the three vendors view the market?
From a Citrix perspective, there is only one competitor in the virtualisation space – VMware. Microsoft, for all Danieletto’s concerns that its muscle flexing will push Citrix into uncomfortable places, is a partner.
“We are partners, especially in the desktop virtualistion space where we’re leading with Microsoft technology on Hyper V and some of the technologies for application virtualisation. They’re integrated as part of the Citrix end-to-end virtualisation solution set,” Citrix Asia-Pacific vice-president for products and the Microsoft alliance, Nabeel Youakim, said.
“On the server side I think all three vendors have reasonable product. VMware have had a product in that market for a long time. It’s quite a good product of course, but the only challenge with it is the price – it’s a very expensive product for how people use it.”
So one point of competitive advantage to Citrix is in price. As XenServer becomes an increasingly viable enterprise play, Youakim sees the 20-30 per cent savings on the total price you might pay for a VMware solution to help the vendor gain traction in those big accounts.
The problem is in helping those large accounts understand what they’re missing out on. A big part of Citrix’ messaging seems to be simple, boiling down to ‘hey, guys, have a look at us.’
“I don’t think customers have done a good job of evaluating the two products, and it’s because most people just started with VMware and they’re still there today on the server side,” Youakim said.
“We are out there working with our partners all the time, educating them on the XenServer feature set and how to do a quick proof of concept for customers.”
And, of course, Citrix claims that server virtualisation is only a small part of the battle. The real complexity lies in the desktop virtualisation conversation, and here Citrix is king.
“We’ve been working on performance issues, how to run video and how to get performance with graphical applications. We’ve solved all these problems. VM ware is still learning that. VMware is definitely a server virtualisation company and it’s working its way to the desktop, but it doesn’t know what it doesn’t know yet,” Youakim said.