Virtualization: 3 Leading Vendors' Strategies

By Bob Violino


Although still a relatively new technology, many analysts expect virtualization to become a dominant data center technology within three years. And no wonder. Despite some challenges—which include a lack of standards, tools, and sound management practices—virtualization has the potential to make data center operations more efficient then they've ever been before. But where should companies looking to deploy virtualization, or to expand their existing efforts, turn for their systems needs? Here's a look at three of the market's leading vendors and their virtualization strategies.


VMware: What Will It Do Next?


Microsoft: Behind Its Big Virtualization Push


Citrix: Looking To Virtualization's Next Stage


{mospagebreak title=VMware: What It's Up To Now}



VMware: What It's Up To Now


By Bob Violino


To many people, VMware has become synonymous with virtualization technology.


And, indeed, the dramatic growth of VMware over the last several years reflects the growing trend toward the virtualization of servers, storage systems and applications. VMware's revenue figures for the past four years—218.8 million in 2004; $387.1 million in 2005; $703.9 million in 2006; and $1.33 billion in 2007—shows strong year-over-year growth. And it net income for fiscal 2007 was $218 million, up from $86 million in 2006.


But the company has no intention of resting on its market success.


"We expect customer adoption of our software to grow," says Raghu Raghuram, vice president of products and solutions.


Despite increased competition from other vendors that are jumping into the virtualization market, VMware is confident of its future—particularly with products such as VMware ESX Server 3i, the company's "next generation" virtualization platform. The product was introduced in September of last year and will be embedded in server hardware from Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NEC and others, says Raghuram. Fujitsu is today shipping servers embedded with the VMware ESX 3i hypervisor—a virtualization platform that enables more than one operating system to run on a server at the same time—and additional partners are expected to begin within the next 60 days, according to a company spokesman.


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"This essentially gives customers a plug-and-play data center where they can roll in a new server to add to their VMware infrastructure," he says.


VMware's other server virtualization products include VMware Infrastructure 3, a suite of products consisting of VMware ESX Server, a virtualization layer that abstracts processor, memory, storage and networking resources into multiple virtual machines; VMware Virtual Machine File System, a cluster file system that allows multiple installations of ESX Server to access the same virtual machine storage concurrently; and VMware VirtualCenter, which provides centralized management of virtualized environments.


The company also is heavily into desktop virtualization. With desktop virtualization, a remote user with a portable device such as a laptop can access all the capabilities and applications of a desktop device.


VMware's desktop virtualization product line includes VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), software that enables organizations to replace traditional PCs with virtual machines that they can manage from the data center. It allows them to extend virtualization capabilities such as business continuity and disaster recovery to the desktop.


The product comes with VMware Virtual Desktop Manager (VDM), a desktop management server that securely connects users to virtual desktops in the data center and provides a Web-based interface to manage the desktop environment. With VDI, administrators can allow users to install applications, customize the desktop environment and use local printers and USB devices.


VMware emphasizes that its virtualization products are platform-neutral, supporting open standards for greater operability with other vendor systems and providing the flexibility to create shared resource pools independent of specific operating systems and hardware platforms.


VMware says its customers include all of the Fortune 100, 92% of the Fortune 1,000, small and medium businesses and consumers. The company's customer base for its server products includes 100,000 organizations of all sizes across all industries. A survey VMware conducted of its customers in the fourth quarter of 2007 shows that 85% are deploying VMware in production servers, and 54% run enterprise applications and 44% run their databases on VMware.


"We are constantly working with customers to find more ways for virtualization to solve customer pain points, so we will continue to innovate to provide the best solutions for our customers," says Raghuram. "For example, we recently introduced a product that monitors resource use and power consumption to move servers and turn off unneeded server hosts."


{mospagebreak title=Microsoft's Big Push Into Virtualization}



Microsoft's Big Push Into Virtualization


By Bob Violino


Microsoft continues to push into the virtualization space in a big way.


In February, the company launched Windows Server 2008. The new operating system includes Windows Server Hyper-V, a server technology that lets organizations run more than one operating system at the same time on a single server.


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"Virtualization is a key enabler of making IT more dynamic, from the desktop to the data center," says Patrick O'Rourke, group product manager for the Redmond, Wash., company. "When we talk to customers about making IT more dynamic, it's about delivering the right computing resources to people anytime and anywhere, and creating an IT environment that is more efficient, flexible and cost-effective. Virtualization is one underlying technology that makes it easier to get computing resources to people and computers."


In January, Microsoft announced it had acquired Calista Technologies, a provider of graphics technologies for next-generation desktop and presentation virtualization systems, for an undisclosed amount. These virtualization systems allow companies to provide secure applications to remote desktop users as a service. They enable organizations to run applications in one facility and control them from a different, centralized location.


But new product such as Window Server Hyper-V and the takeover of Calista just top an ever-growing list of virtualization in a number of product areas, including applications, desktop computing, storage and networking. Those offerings include:


  • Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, an operating system that provides multiple virtual machines that can each support its own guest operating system, including Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2000, Windows NT 4.0, and other Windows versions. Virtual Server features a browser-based tool to manage virtual machines.
  • Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, a dedicated file and print server based on Windows Server 2003 that supports heterogeneous file serving as well as backup and replication of stored data. Microsoft says Storage Server can be used to consolidate multiple file servers onto a single system.
  • Virtual PC, which allows organizations to run legacy applications and applications not compatible with the desktop operating system by executing multiple operating systems on a single desktop.
  • Microsoft System Center, which enables organizations to manage entire virtual and physical infrastructures using a set of tools. These include System Center Virtual Machine Manager, software for virtualized data centers that enables fast server provisioning and centralized management of virtual machines; System Center Operations Manager, which provides monitoring of thousands of servers, applications and clients; System Center Configuration Manager, software that's designed to simplify system deployment, task automation, compliance management and policy-based security management; and System Center Data Protection Manager, which enables users to easily recover data by delivering continuous data protection for application and file servers.

Kroll Factual Data, a Loveland, Colo., provider of business information to mortgage lenders, consumer lenders and property management firms, began using Microsoft virtualization products early in their development and has been adopting new versions as they have come out, says Christopher Steffen, principal technical architect at Kroll.


The firm is now participating in the Hyper-V TAP Technology Adoption Program, and has about 1,500 virtual machines deployed using Virtual Server 2005 R2, Steffen says. Microsoft's virtualization pricing and deployment strategy, as well as its efforts to make products compatible with other vendor offerings, indicates its commitment to virtualization, Steffen says.


O'Rourke says there's room for growth in the virtualization business. "With approximately 10% of servers currently using virtualization technology, and less than 1% of desktops, virtualization is still very much an emerging technology," he says.


And Microsoft sees virtualization as a key technology for the next decade.


"Advances in software, devices and networks are transforming the way companies streamline communications, automate processes and enable employees to access the information and capabilities they need to respond to new opportunities," O'Rourke says. "Overall, we are taking a comprehensive approach to virtualization because it's fundamentally part of the desktop and data center infrastructure."


{mospagebreak title=Citrix: Looking To Virtualizations Next Stage}



Citrix: Looking To Virtualizations Next Stage


By Bob Violino


Since its founding in 1989, Citrix Systems has been providing virtualization technology that securely delivers business applications to end users. And, with the company's October 2007 acquisition of XenSource, a provider of open source virtualization software, Citrix expanded into the markets for server and desktop virtualization. That, says the company, gives it a comprehensive lineup of virtualization infrastructure offerings.


Today, Citrix application virtualization products are in use on more than 800,000 servers worldwide, serving more than 70 million end users, according to Wes Wasson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company posted revenue of $1.39 billion in 2007, up 23% from revenue in 2006. Net income for 2007 was $214 million, compared with $183 million the year before.


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But Citrix is looking beyond today's definition of virtualization.


Wasson says the company's philosophy is that virtualization is constantly evolving. "Virtualization is a technology, not a destination," he says. "Five years from now, people won't be talking about virtualization in the same way they are today. Virtualization will so permeate every aspect of computing, it will simply be assumed, and the conversation will shift to 'now that everything is virtualized, how can I apply that to solving more strategic business problems.'"


Officials at Citrix think this transition is already starting to occur, Wasson says, as organizations move beyond basic server consolidation and begin realizing that virtualization can make the entire IT infrastructure more flexible and responsive. Citrix "sees virtualization as an enabling technology that is part of a far bigger and more strategic market for application delivery infrastructure," Wasson says. "In a world where businesses run on applications, ensuring those applications can be delivered to end users with the best performance, security and efficiency in today's highly dynamic business environment is rapidly becoming a core focus for IT organizations around the world."


Realizing this broader vision will be a struggle for vendors that focus mainly on virtualizing servers in the data center, Wasson says. "The real power of virtualization is its ability to transform the components of computing into dynamic building blocks that can be dynamically coupled and reassembled on the fly," he says. "This is an end-to-end value proposition that must include servers, applications and desktops."


The Citrix product line includes XenServer, XenApp and XenDesktop.


XenServer software enables organizations to deploy virtual machines on physical servers, and manage them and their related storage and networking resources from a single management console. A software layer called the Xen hypervisor runs on server hardware and allows each physical server to run one or more virtual servers.


XenApp is a Windows application delivery system that offers both client and server application virtualization, according to Citrix. It allows organizations to deliver applications as a service.


XenDesktop is a desktop virtualization product that enables organizations to centralize Windows applications in the data center and deliver those applications to end users via a network.


All three of the products are part of the Citrix Delivery Center product family.


Wasson says more than 200,000 organizations worldwide are using virtualization products from Citrix to deliver applications to users. He says customers include the Fortune 100 companies and most of the Fortune Global 500, as well as hundreds of thousands of small businesses and consumers.


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