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Virtualisation Debate Revisited: VMWare, Citrix, Xen, Novell, and Microsoft

We already know that Novell is willing to be 'enslaved' by Windows VM hosts in the datacentre. We are also aware, based on recent presentations from VMWare and Dell at LinuxWorld, that virtualisation is headed towards the desktop where its use will become more commonplace (if not standard). It's an emerging and disruptive technology that has escaped some player's attention.

Recently, several moves were made which might provide insight into Microsoft's virtualisation strategy and how Novell fits the Big Picture. We'll present a large series of recent articles and attempt to explain how they relate to one another and what situation we are likely to face at the end of the day.

As you already know, XenSource was acquired by Citrix and it appears like a potential hijack-by-proxy maneuver whose trails lead to Microsoft.

Microsoft is positioned to take on VMWare with a recent IPO and a $20-billion valuation. Yes, it's not a typo, but some call it hype or insanity. VMWare's IPO is already being compared to Google's.

One company, VMware reached a valuation of almost $20 billion within hours of it floating.


Microsoft has a lot to fear and it has a lot to lose. With Xen's apparent demise when it comes to Linux, KVM et al will probably take its place, but Novell's relationship with Xen might actually mean that Novell's Linux will get a consolation price, but never the lead (hosting). Novell has already attempted to defend itself from the inconvenient development.

But according to Novell Canada CTO/CIO Ross Chevalier, the acquisition will not jeopardize the Xen project. He said the acquisition reaffirmed its commitment that virtualization with Xen is an important tool for businesses and Novell will continue to have faith in the project.


Apparently, Mr. Chevalier has not followed some analysts who caught the attention of later news. For example:

This is what Citrix is paying for. That and a close relationship with Microsoft that looks likely to get closer. “We will be building dynamic virtualization services and management tools on top of Viridian,” Levine added. “We will build the same set of products we’ve built on top of Xen for Viridian. We’ve already hired a team to go do that up in Redmond.”

While Citrix maintained it will continue support for the Xen project, this deal is not about a proprietary vendor getting open source religion. It's about grabbing an emerging player in a rapidly expanding sector of the market.


Here is another one:

The big question here is whether Microsoft will want to encourage running Vista on an open-source hypervisor rather than its own Viridian. That will depend on how far Viridian gets beyond the vaporware stage, as well as the exact license adopted by the new consortium to which Citrix plans to hand over responsibility for free Xen. Microsoft would likely reject any client-side code released under GPL v3, thanks to a clause forbidding use in any consumer hardware that uses digital signatures to prevent users loading their own software.


Some even speculate that Microsoft will take control of Xen by buying Citrix.

VMware, holding some 85 percent of the market, with its VI3 technologies offers a fully integrated stack and represents a third generation of virtualization technology, while Viridian and Xen-based products, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, XenEnterprise and Virtual Iron, remain second-generation products, the report stated.


Where does it all leave us? Well, it appears as though Microsoft, being the control freak that it is, has already taken some first steps to defend its territory.

Software like Parallels Desktop for the Mac or Microsoft's own Virtual PC for Windows allow multiple operating systems to run simultaneously. When it announced licensing rules for Vista last year, Microsoft said that only Vista Business and Vista Ultimate could run as guest operating systems. The company said virtualization presents inherent security risks and that it hoped by limiting which versions of the OS could act as virtual machines, only sophisticated users and businesses would employ the tactic.


Here is a more recent one.

Microsoft will not allow Windows Vista or Windows XP to be virtualized on top of Linux, Sam Ramji, the director of Microsoft's open-source software lab, said at the annual LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here Aug. 7.


The future looks bright, doesn't it? A series of ill maneuvers, deception, and a EULA, as well as a deal with weak Linux distributors, is all part of a larger strategic game.

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