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Citrix, Microsoft Take Aim at Enterprises with Essentials

Citrix and Microsoft, already close collaborators on many virtualization-based initiatives, ratcheted up their relationship Monday with the announcement of Citrix Essentials, a group of technologies calculated to shoehorn their way into the enterprise datacenters now dominated by VMware.

Essentials adds functionality to Hyper-V, Microsoft's base hypervisor. A hypervisor controls creation of Virtual Machines (VMs) and is the engine that drives virtualization. Hyper-V, which was first released by Microsoft last June, is a well-regarded version 1 product, but still lacks features that make it a good fit for an enterprise environment.

The purpose of Essentials is to fill in that lacking feature set. Specifically, it beefs up Hyper-V's storage capabilities with StorageLink technology. It "delivers the perfect compliment to Hyper-V for enterprise customers that makes Hyper-V more scalable, manageable and easier to use," said Simon Crosby, Citrix CTO, at a news conference.

StorageLink basically offers enhanced storage capabilities for SAN environments. As Crosby pointed out, booting from a SAN requires a lot of management orchestration, and virtualization adds to the complexity. In most enterprises, VMs live in the SAN, making management more important than ever.

Citrix and Microsoft are building a clear division of labor: Citrix Essentials will provide the functionality, while Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) will oversee the environment. Both Crosby and David Greschler, Microsoft's director of System Center marketing, confirmed that neither company wants to step on the other's toes.

Two versions of Citrix Essentials will be offered: Enterprise Edition, which offers StorageLink, provisioning services, workflow orchestration and other capabilities, will cost $1,500 per physical server. Platinum Edition is identical to Enterprise, but adds lab automation and management from virtualization vendor VMLogix. It will be priced at double the Enterprise Edition, or $3,000 per physical server.

Crosby said that Essentials will see general availability in April.

Citrix and Microsoft have teamed up continually in the virtualization space to compete with VMware, which still owns the lion's share of the market. For instance, any VM created on either hypervisor, Hyper-V or Citrix's XenServer, will work equally well in a Citrix or Microsoft environment.

The companies have also partnered in the realm of desktop virtualization. Citrix offers the infrastructure through XenDesktop, while Microsoft again handles management through VMM. It's clear that Microsoft sees itself as the overall virtualization management provider, while Citrix, with its long involvement in application delivery through Presentation Server (now XenApp), provides much of the nuts and bolts.

Both companies are still looking up at VMware, which will undoubtedly be unveiling a host of new products at VMworld Europe 2009, which starts next Tuesday at Cannes, France.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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