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IT shops will likely mix and match virtualization tools

Margie Semilof

Though Microsoft, Citrix and VMware are developing virtualization tools for both desktop and server scenarios, IT shops are unlikely to choose just one supplier.

The lack of interest in a one-stop-shop comes from having different IT teams that are charged with

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 managing desktops and servers and also because of the vast differences in product readiness, or lack thereof, from the leading vendors.

Plenty of IT managers at Citrix Synergy 08, a conference held in Houston last week, were testing virtualization tools from all three companies. "Going forward, we won't rely on any one company," said Bernd Willems, an IT manager at Bayer Business Services, which provides technology management services to its parent corporation, Bayer AG, in Levenkusen, Germany.

For many, including Willems, Citrix is top of mind on the desktop and VMware on the server. Willems' team manages Windows Server and the Citrix servers, but another IT team oversees several hundred servers that run on VMware's ESX Server.

One conclusion drawn from a recent research report from Enterprise Management Associates Inc., a Boulder, Colo., consulting firm, was virtualization management is the job of many.

In its poll of more than 600 IT managers, 71% of respondents said the server administration team managed virtualization delivery, whereas 37% of respondents said it was handled by the operating system administration group. Another 23% said virtualization delivery was managed by desktop support.

Enterprises with discrete virtualization management teams

 

The fact that the numbers add up to more than 100% likely indicate that more than one group manages virtualization in the enterprise, said Andi Mann, research director at EMA, who added that the separation in management also means there is a great deal of inefficiency in virtualization management.

Mann said he believes that virtualization has begun to suffer from over hype, in that it doesn't seem to be achieving all of the expectations that many enterprises anticipated. There is a lot to absorb. VMware is pricey and cost savings for desktop virtualization are still questionable. There are a lot of startups. Manageability is immature.

The early perception was that virtualization would make it easy to manage the environment, but in the past two years that perception has changed. People now understand that it's harder than they thought, Mann said.

At Synergy last week, IT managers still responded positively to the release of Citrix's XenDesktop desktop virtualization software. Many continue to express hope that this software will cut both the daily workload and the cost of maintaining enterprise desktops.

XenDesktop differs from the company's XenApps platform, formerly known as Presentation Server, in that XenDesktop is more of a full-featured Windows desktop. Both are managed from a central server.

Catching benefits of availability and security

 

Desktop virtualization has a lot of potential to improve availability and desktop security. "Think of people who need absolute availability, like traders," Mann said. "You can use this virtual technology to isolate them from hardware failure. It's also excellent for outsourcing, home workers, contractors, consultants – you can get them on and off quickly."

EMA ran its survey when XenDesktop was still in beta. Of its respondents, 18% said they would install XenDesktop. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they would install VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, a direct competitor to XenDesktop.

But the combination of XenApps users and potential XenDesktop customers would give Citrix a larger share of the desktop virtualization market, said Mann.

As for Microsoft, the company is still developing its product line. On the desktop it offers Terminal Services, the scaled-down version of XenApps. The Hyper-V server virtualization software will be out sometime this summer.

Also on the desktop, Microsoft last week closed its acquisition of Kidaro Technologies, a security and management software product that will become part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) in the first half of 2009. MDOP is licensed to companies that subscribe to Software Assurance, Microsoft's software license maintenance program.


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