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September 15, 2008

This Just In: Crosby Not Impressed with VMware Datacenter OS

Derrick Harris

So VMworld technically kicked off this morning, although the show floor and keynotes don’t get underway until tomorrow, and the place already is abuzz from this morning’s spate of cloud computing announcements. OK, maybe “abuzz” is too strong a word, but I’m interested, at least — and so is Simon Crosby.

I sat down with Citrix’s virtualization and management CTO to talk about (what else?) the cloud. In particular, we discussed VMware’s foray into cloud computing with its Virtual Datacenter Operating System and vCloud announcements. If you’re familiar with Crosby, it should come as no surprise that he isn’t impressed. In fact, he stated, “It’s all bulls**t.”

And why does he feel so strongly? For one, he says, he doesn’t trust VMware’s Virtual Center as the centerpiece of any type of cloud offering. Citing Virtual Center as a single point of failure, Crosby believes the whole concept of a VMware-powered cloud is “nonsense” unless customers can be convinced that Virtual Center won’t die. Additonally, he added, Citrix Delivery Center already delivers the framework for providing applications as services within the enterprise, so VMware is just catching up with what Citrix already is doing. Finally, Crosby noted that the strong ISV support for XenServer simply provides better tools for managing a dynamic virtual environment than does VMware’s internal development team. For example, the grid vendors, he says, like Citrix partner Platform Computing, really get job scheduling and resource allocation, and can deliver better, more robust products than VMware’s Distributed Resource Scheduler.

Another reason Citrix isn’t too worried, says David Roussain, group vice president of marketing for the Virtualization and Management Dvision, is that cloud computing will be based on open technologies going forward, and that the focus of cloud efforts will undoubtedly move from the virtualization aspect to the delivery aspect. Not only is XenServer open, as evidenced by its dozens of ISV partners, but Citrix believes it has the delivery piece down with its NetScaler product (a big reason the company is so confident about its just-announced Citrix Cloud Center (C3) offering).

I mentioned Delivery Center earlier, and that also is among the reasons for Citrix’s decision to target C3 at cloud providers rather than individual organizations. Having the existing product meant the company could invest its resources in taking advantage of a market in which there aren’t too many vendors playing. Crosby says one of Citrix’s goals is too enable the world’s first enterprise-ready public clouds, and he thinks the newly revamped XenServer 5, along with the company’s suite of delivery and management tools, are the way to do it.

Overall, Crosby added, it is VMware’s lack of product diversity that could be its undoing. All they do, he says, is virtualization and virtualization management, whereas Citrix (as seen with the C3 suite of products), Microsoft and the other vendors breathing down VMware’s neck have solutions across a variety of key areas. Roussain says this means VMware has to take a defensive stance in the markets it already owns, and then attempt to innovate in the areas that will be necessary for growth — a tall order, indeed.

Of course, Crosby probably is best described as an extremely biased party, so his visions of gloom and doom for VMware should be taken with a grain of salt for the time being. From my perspective, it seems like VMware is at least making a strong case for itself as among the elite cloud computing vendors. After all, VMware leads the pack in terms of enterprise adoption of its products, and now allowing these customers to turn their virtual infrastructures into clouds — and even run across both datacenter clouds and external clouds — is a huge step. If cloud is as hot as everyone says, and if VMware has as many deployments as everyone says, its Virtual Datacenter Operating System could be a big success (even if, as Crosby contends, it isn’t the best option on the market).

As Forrester’s James Staten told me when I spoke with him for a story on Citrix Cloud Center, “The ecosystem for virtualization innovation and solutions centers around [VMware]. It doesn’t center around Microsoft yet, and if Citrix wants to be part of the current trend and the current wave, they’ve got to embrace that community and they’ve got to be part of that community.” I don’t know that I see that happening any time soon, but there is no denying VMware’s position as virtualization’s focal point. It also is worth noting, however, that when it comes to the hypervisor layer in public cloud offerings, Staten says “the game is Xen’s to lose.”

When I catch up with VMware, I’ll give its side of the story.