Whether you attribute the original quotation to Benjamin Disraeli, Mark Twain, or your old Uncle Sol, you’re probably familiar with the old adage about how the interpretation of statistics can be used to make the truth, er, pliable.

A great recent example of this is the interpretation by Parallels’ Corey Thomas of a recent IDC report tracking software virtualization revenue.  In his analysis, he takes great pride in the fact that Parallels ranked ahead of Microsoft (and Citrix) in the report -- and second to VMware,  once you are “eliminating mainframe and UNIX players IBM and HP.”

But this particular view of the world is designed to support a skewed interpretation.  Why?  Let’s see…

  • First, the elimination of IBM and HP doesn’t necessarily hold water. It’s not clear if they are on the list because they offer hypervisors for mainframes and UNIX boxes -- or if it’s because they offer products like HP’s Virtual Machine Manager (which supports Citrix XenServer, among other virtualization platforms) and other management tools.
  • To move Parallels to the top five, one has to decide that certain platforms are relevant (not only PC desktops and servers but Mac desktops and servers too), but others are not (mainframes, SPARC, Itanium, Power).
  • More important, one needs to determine that certain types of virtualization are relevant (not only server virtualization and client/endpoint virtualization, but also server-based OS virtualization -- but NOT the huge sales and installed base of server- and client-side application virtualization represented by Citrix XenApp.

When you look at the real picture for IT organizations -- server virtualization, desktop virtualization, and application virtualization on industry-standard x86 servers -- a different story emerges.  But it’s not one that looks particularly strong for Parallels, since their strengths are in the hobbyist and developer market (for Parallels Desktop for Mac) and in the hosting provider market (for Virtuozzo -- and who knows what else -- are they counting control panels like Plesk and Sphera?)… While they’ve announced server virtualization products, they’ve only released on the Apple XServe running MacOS X, hardly a mainstream enterprise technology.

The choice, then: consider the hundreds of thousands of enterprises using key virtualization technologies -- server, desktop, and app virtualization on the industry-standard x86 platform -- from Citrix… or, like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, work the numbers by working the definition of “virtualization” -- as long as “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”