Microsoft, Citrix join on common VHD format

Uniting against VMware, Microsoft and Citrix will create a common virtual hard disk format for virtual OSes and applications.

IT managers concerned about the growing complexity of virtual environments may have a bit less to worry about with the decision by Microsoft and Citrix Systems Inc. to adopt a single VHD format.

Both companies said today that they would standardize on a single Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format as a common runtime environment for virtual operating systems and applications. The VHD specifies how a virtual machine hard disk is formatted.

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Virtualization and the changing Windows desktop

In April 2006, Microsoft had inked a deal with XenSource Inc. for interoperability between both vendors' platforms. XenSource said it would use Microsoft's VHD format in its Xen 3.0 virtualization server. Citrix bought XenSource in late August.

Market leader VMware Inc., which is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., has its own disk format that it made freely available in April 2006. Microsoft followed suit in October 2006.

But IT managers care less about the formats than about interoperability in general. So it will help that both companies are now taking their relationship to the next logical level, which is to create a single format, said Brian Madden, a Washington, D.C.-based independent consultant.

Microsoft also said it will adapt a future version of its SoftGrid Application Virtualization for its desktop and Terminal Services platforms to VHD. Microsoft acquired SoftGrid, which had its own virtual proprietary format, when it purchased Softricity in May 2006.

"For administrators, it's expected," Madden said. "Microsoft and Citrix have a long history. Citrix bought XenSource. Microsoft bought Softricity. We hope they integrate it all together to make it easier."

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