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VMware to Face Citrix/XenSource Challenge


Citrix buying XenSource is the best thing that could happen to the company behind the popular open-source virtualization program Xen, and it’s the worst thing that could happen to VMware.

It seems like only yesterday that I was saying VMwares IPO made no sense to me. Oh, wait, it was just yesterday.

One of the big reasons for my dismissal of VMwares business chances was that I looked at all the open-source alternatives to VMwares flagship programs—Xen, OpenVZ, KVM, VirtualBox and UML (User Mode Linux)—and I didnt see a long, happy future for VMwares proprietary offering.

I also took into account the fact that the same Linux companies that have buried the x86 Unix companies—Red Hat and Novell/SUSE at the top of the list—were the same ones that were pushing Xen forward. If I had had the space to go into a long-winded discussion of VMwares open-source rivals, I would have mentioned one problem with them. From where I sit, only OpenVZ, which is backed by SWsoft, has shown a lot in the way of business smarts.

Its a truism thats all too true. Great technologies are made by great technologists, who far more often than not are not great business people. XenSource, maker of Xen, the most popular open-source program, was, alas, no different from the rest.

Now, however, for what I think will prove to be a cheap $500 million, XenSource has been picked up by Citrix. Citrix, for those of you who dont know it, has made a living for ages by providing Windows desktops and applications to remote users with first MetaFrame and now Presentation Server.

So what, you ask? You know, Ive been in the technology journalism business for over 20 years and one of the other truisms of the business is that nobody, and I mean nobody, partners with Microsoft and wins in the long run. There is, however, an exception to that rule. That exception is Citrix.

Any company that has managed for over a decade to not only survive within Microsofts shadow, but to profit from it, clearly knows how to run a business. Citrix also knows virtualization. Its new Application Virtualization Suite 3.0 is all about running virtualized applications in a way that makes it easy for both users and administrators.

So, here we are. On one side you have Xen. You can argue that its not only the most well-known open-source virtualization program, but technically the best. On the other, you have a company that knows how to thrive while competing with that great white shark of software, Microsoft. Put them together, and you not only have a great future for open-source virtualization, but a company that can give VMware all the competition it can handle and more.

A version of this story first appeared in eWEEK.

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