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Microsoft tightens Citrix ties, adds tools

As the release of Windows Server 2008 and the Hyper-V hypervisor draw nearer, Microsoft is turning up the heat on virtualization rival VMware.

IT shops wary of using Citrix XenServer to install Windows and Linux virtual machines for fear of hitting integration troubles when Microsoft's Hyper-V is released, got some added assurance from Microsoft this week that the investment won't be wasted.

Microsoft this week said it is developing a software tool that will help customers transfer virtual machines between Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenServer and Windows Server 2008 and its hypervisor, called Hyper-V. Windows Server 2008 comes out in February and Hyper-V is due about six months after the server release.

"We've been telling people for a year that if they don't want to wait for Microsoft to bring out Hyper-V, they should be using XenServer, because XenServer uses the same file format for the disk drives," said Nelson Ruest, a principal at Resolution Enterprises, a Victoria, Canada, consulting firm. "This may be more for the file settings."

Microsoft and Citrix will continue to build on their relationship to strengthen their respective positions versus VMware, the virtualization market leader, Ruest said. Citrix, on its own is the biggest threat to VMware by virtue of the fact that it has a similar range of products, although VMware continues to have a superior set of management tools.

In another move, Microsoft also said today that it would acquire Calista Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of graphics technologies for virtualized environments, for an undisclosed sum. "Today, it's difficult to virtualize CAD/CAM applications, and Terminal Services to the desktop doesn't give the full high-level graphics to do CAD/CAM," Ruest said.

Microsoft also said it would expand its alliance with Citrix to include co-marketing a broad portfolio of new client computing products. The company added four Virtualization Solution Accelerators that will become available when Windows Server 2008 launches in February.

And Office 2003 and Office 2007 are now supported when running in Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 and SoftGrid Application Virtualization 4.2.

After lagging behind VMware for so long, Microsoft has made every effort to get in front of virtualization and offer a full range of products. "It wants to be sure it has competitive products in desktop, server and application virtualization, with no holes in its story," said Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based consultancy.

"Now it's a question of whether or not VMware can keep innovating and adding management features to keep its lead," he said.

In other virtualization news, Microsoft cut the price of its Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop option to $23 from $78. VECD lets IT shops run Vista on servers and remote it out to desktops. And, it loosened up licensing so that all five Vista SKUs may be legally virtualized. Before now, only the two business SKUs permitted virtualization.

Barbara Darrow,, contributed to this report.

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