Fog lifts from virtualisation battle lines
Next year's product launches look set to provoke market frenzy
The rise and rise of Citrix
One area that enterprise market leader VMware has yet to conquer however is desktop virtualisation. There are many thousand times more desktops than servers out there, a much bigger market, and one in which VMware has nowhere near the dominance as it does in enterprise servers. As a result, others have decided to attack those areas, notably Parallels, which has made a considerable impact in bringing virtualisation - and so the ability to run PC-based applications - to the Apple Mac desktop.
However, from an enterprise perspective, the main player in this market has, for around a decade, been Citrix, which has faced disturbingly few challengers to the dominance of its application delivery platform in the shape of Presentation Server. This allows enterprises to host OS and applications in a server at the back end and push the desktop image down the wire to a thin client.
The issues there are the need for a pretty meaty server, and the fact that not all data types or applications respond well to being detached from the screen. Data-heavy, time-sensitive applications suffer most so wheel on the usual candidates: video and 3D graphics.
But Citrix has shaken off a lot of that baggage off its shoes with the acquisitions of XenSource, for its virtualisation technology, and of Ardence for its desktop image distribution capabilities. Many are now looking at Citrix in a new light, especially since the company made much of the fact that it was virtualisation technology-agnostic - a stance that will have changed within the company, no matter what its protestations to the contrary.
Interestingly, since Citrix is now in the business of competing with VMware, as does Microsoft, the two companies, who have long shared a technology alliance, seem likely to grow closer. This must have come as a bit of a shock to VMware, since Citrix was using some of VMware's technology for its desktop VMs. Those days are over, as industry observer Brian Madden pointed out. He noted that: "In the five hours of keynotes over two days at Citrix's App Delivery Expo [last month], the word 'VMware' was not mentioned once. Not one single time."
VMware continues to view Citrix as a partner however, as this snippet from its website demonstrates: "VMware and Citrix have worked to deliver a highly reliable, interoperable and manageable server and client consolidation solution that helps remote offices and clients simplify their IT environments and reduce desktop administration tasks by centralizing application delivery."