In the great film THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, a newspaperman says, “This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”  I guess the new slogan over in Palo Alto is “When the facts don’t fit your strategy, print the spin.” 

VMware responded to Citrix’s announcement of the XenDesktop edition family with the expected spin and FUD, making reference to outdated pre-release pricing and packaging information, and playing their usual “if we didn’t invent it, it’s the wrong way to do it” hand.   I’ll get to that shortly.  But what’s notable is that they’ve slipped from spin and FUD over the line – and it’s time to call them on it. 

They said, “Both Citrix and Microsoft have stated that Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor will replace XenServer.” 

Wrong, nope, uh-uh, fail, fiction.  Never happened.   Isn’t happening. 

I understand where that comes from, of course.  Both we and Microsoft have stated that we intend to make the added virtualization and dynamic infrastructure services in current and future versions of XenServer, including…

  • the flexible storage repository architecture that makes it possible to mix DAS, SAN, and NAS storage and manage them compatibly
  • the storage delivery services adapter interfaces that allow administrators to take advantage of integrated one-click storage setup and use the capabilities of intelligent storage instead of masking them and stealing host cycles from doing the real job of virtualization
  • the storage savings and software management advantages of streaming workload delivery, and more

…and making them available on Hyper-V as well as on the Xen hypervisor.  

 And we’ve both stated that, for the enterprise-scale management console, we would plug XenServer as well as Hyper-V into Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).  

And we’ve both stated that we would make Hyper-V and XenServer run plug-compatible virtual machines, so users could have a choice – or even apply the same dual-vendor strategy to their virtual infrastructure that many major enterprises apply to their physical infrastructure. 

But we’ve never said that Citrix would drop Xen in favor of Hyper-V.  And Microsoft has never said so either.  Shame, shame. 

Citrix has a long history of delivering solutions that add value in a supplier-agnostic way to Microsoft and Citrix’s own technologies.  It’s worked well to the tune of over a billion dollar a year and continues to grow. In that picture, for RDP/ICA/XenApp, you can now substitute Hyper-V/Xen/XenServer.  

I understand how this idea of choice confuses VMware.  After all, while they’ve said the value of virtualization going forward is in the services that run above the hypervisor, they seem to believe they should only add value if it’s their own hypervisor. 

They’re free to refuse to work with your choice of underlying virtualization technology, of course.  But Microsoft and Citrix both think you should have a choice.  That’s why SCVMM will manage Hyper-V, XenServer… and VMware ESX. 

And that’s also why XenDesktop gives you choice, rather than being a one-size-fits-all, inflexible solution that disregards the different ways in which companies build their infrastructure and assign and resource their employees. One way is the virtualization technology in it.  XenDesktop includes XenServer licenses… but you can use it with Hyper-V if that’s your choice.  Heck, you can even use it with VMware ESX!  You’ll still have to pay the VMware First-Generation Hypervisor (In)Convenience Tax, of course, so the economics go out of whack. 

The other main area of choice is how you deploy and provision virtual desktop operating systems and applications.   For operating systems, the VMware approach is simple: for every virtual machine, allocate a separate virtual disk, with its own software stack.  Sure, they can use their cloning capabilities and the deduplication in some storage systems to add space-efficiency (reactively), but they still need to create a separate virtual disk for each virtual machine.  And update it.  And hotfix it. 

Guess what?  XenDesktop can be used that way too.  But lucky for our customers that it doesn’t have to be – they can take advantage of the operating system streaming capability of the Provisioning Server component of XenDesktop, and gain not only storage savings, but the management savings of shared “golden-master” images, where you patch once and the changes are automatically delivered at reboot to tens, hundreds, or thousands of users. It’s a choice – though our recommendation is an obvious one. 

What about applications?  If you do it the VMware way, you can install them into every image.  Again, a thousand copies of a dozen installed apps means 12,000 things to patch and update.  (Though someday soon, once their acquired client-side-only app virtualization acquisition exits beta and is in the market, they’ll have to figure out what The Right Way for their users is…) 

Guess what?  XenDesktop can be used that way too.  But lucky for our customers that it doesn’t have to be – they can take advantage of the application streaming capability of XenApp (included in some XenDesktop editions), and get access to a new, pristine desktop and all their apps every time.  Or they can even use hosted applications inside that environment.   The complexity of installed applications or the flexibility of both server-side and client-side app virtualization: again, a choice – though it’s clear what we’d recommend AGAINST… 

VMware also cited a blog post whose real contents showed pricing advantages for XenDesktop… but used it to imply that the pricing was too high!  And they implied that XenApp was required in a XenDesktop configuration… which it isn’t. 

They also claimed that trial users are leaving XenDesktop for VMware.  Well, Diane Greene did say that “2008 is the year of pilots for VMware VDI.” Hmmm, what about the 10,000-seat customer who switched from being an intended reference for VMware to give us an order on the first day our product was released, for instance?  Sounds like a VDI “pilot” that’s been grounded. 

Oh, and here’s a look at a ballroom-full of customers and partners at Citrix Synergy who are showing how they really feel about the “uncertain future” of XenDesktop by protesting.  Sitting, listening attentively, and applauding is how you protest, right? 

 The bottom line, then: the my-way-or-else choice?  Or real choice? It’s not that the Virtualization Empress Has No Clothes – it’s just that they’re “one size fits all” – and that approach never works.

PS: I’ve spent so much space clearing the air that I barely have room to tell you that, in addition to being a great virtualization platform in XenDesktop solutions and general-purpose server virtualization workloads, XenServer provides the lowest overhead for virtualized XenApp delivery, as low as less than 8%, and point you to this white paper. Compare it to other virtualization solutions yourself, using your own XenApp workloads.