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Virtualization Wars Are Heating Up

The slugfest in the virtualization market heated up further with Citrix unveiling a set of management tools for Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor on Windows Server 2008.

Just recently Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) took the wraps off its own set of management tools for virtualization on servers and desktops. Together with that, the unveiling of Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS) Essentials, looks set to rattle current market leader VMware (NYSE: VMW).

The announcements will hit VMware where it is now making its play, in the enterprise arena. Competitive pressure from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) forced VMware to bring out a free version of its hypervisor, ESXi, in July.

VMware offers management tools under its vCenter label, and these tools will be integrated with those from other major players such as Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and BMC (NYSE: BMC).

"With Citrix Essentials, Citrix and Microsoft have the potential to impact VMware's market share," Mark Bowker, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, told InternetNews.com. "Before, as individuals, there was no reason for them to even show up on the field to compete with VMware because they didn't have the products to compete."

The market for virtualization management tools is huge. Symantec has found that virtual servers are often not backed up, and many organizations tend to leave them out of their disaster recovery plans because they have problems with the tools. They either don't have the right tools, or the tools are inadequate, or they just don't know which tools to use.

Citrix Essentials consists of: Citrix StorageLink for storage integration; dynamic provisioning services, hypervisor interoperability; workflow orchestration; high availability capabilities; and automated lab management. It works with both Hyper-V and Citrix's XenCenter.

John Humphreys, senior director of Citrix's virtualization and management division, told InternetNews.com that Essentials offers functionality in both the virtual and physical worlds and will sit above Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) and its Citrix equivalent, XenCenter.

"For example, StorageLink lets you expose the native capabilities of your storage array back to the virtualized server," he said. Currently, customers trying to link virtual servers back to their physical storage network have to turn off advanced storage functions such as replication and deduplication and manage those functionalities with another set of storage management tools, from another vendor. Also, they have to manage storage differently in the physical and virtual worlds.

Doing it twice

"So all that advanced functionality and storage process you built up as an organization over the years gets rendered mute, and you have to pay for the tools twice and do twice the work," Humphreys said. StorageLink lets customers tap into those advanced functionalities and manage both the virtual and physical worlds the same way, according to Humphreys.

"Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V and Citrix Essentials for XenServer offer customers a set of dynamic virtualization management tools for both Windows Server Hyper-V and XenServer environments," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com by e-mail. "These tools make Hyper-V and XenServer more scalable, manageable and agile and make it easier for customers to move workloads back and forth between Hyper-V and XenServer environments."

The offerings Red Hat unveiled let users manage all their virtual assets from a centralized location and include monitoring, reporting and auditing capabilities, as well as a search-based organization tool. On the desktop side, Red Hat unveiled a desktop virtualization manager.

These offerings see the struggle among virtualization vendors heating up as enterprises look to virtualize in order to cut costs. However, the battle lines are anything but clear in the virtualization market.

Red Hat has teamed up with Microsoft, VMware applied for, and achieved, certification in Microsoft's SVVP program, Citrix's XenSource uses the same base code as open source Xen, and many of the major vendors such as Hewlett-Packard use Xen and also support both VMware and Citrix as well as Microsoft's Hyper-V.

Citrix's Humphreys said the industry's next battleground will be cross-platform management capabilities. "The virtualization platform should be free," he added.

Enterprise Strategy Group's Bowker isn't buying the concept of free. "It isn't really free," he said. "They'll add service and support on top of that, so you'll have to pay for those on their Essentials platform."