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Citrix stokes battle with VMware for cloud hosting market[5/24/2010]
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Citrix unveiled new tools this week to help hosting/cloud providers sell practical, business-oriented cloud services such as DR and compliance to IT shops. The move stirs up the battle with VMware and open-source Xen for the cloud hosting market.

Citrix, which lags VMware in enterprise virtualization and Xen in public clouds, made its presence felt loudly this week at the Citrix Synergy bash here.

Jaws dropped during the keynote sessions when Lew Moorman, chief strategy officer and president of cloud services at Rackspace, said his company was moving off Xen and over to XenServer for better support. Rackspace is the second largest cloud provider after Amazon Web Services. AWS still runs on Xen.

Citrix claims 460 companies in its service provider program, while rival VMware touts over a thousand service providers for its vCloud initiative. Hosters at Synergy could care less about the numbers and many are playing in both camps. On the Xen front, Citrix is competing with itself, having bought open-source Xen a few years ago. Now it is trying to move users to XenServer.

"Some people like Ford, some people like Chevy," said Nathan Day, CTO of hosting company SoftLayer. "When companies move from internal to external services they want to stay with a common solution."

For that reason, SoftLayer remains agnostic; offering VMware, Citrix (XenServer) and Microsoft Hyper-V-based virtual servers. Companies new to virtualization and going straight for hosted virtual machines are opting for Citrix as it's "a much better price," Day said.

SoftLayer unveiled a service that uses the Citrix Cloud Solution for On-Demand Demos, allowing ISVs to stand-up fully isolated proof of concept (PoC) environments instantly without having to hassle the sales force, channel or customers with provisioning and configuring the PoC hardware and software. It's also working with Citrix on an onboarding cloud service that helps IT shops migrate existing apps and workloads into the cloud.

Hosting provider Terremark announced a cloud-based compliance service using Citrix technology. "Now we can provide our cloud computing customers even greater levels of compliance at a lower cost," said Marvin Wheeler, chief strategy officer at Terremark, in a statement.

Word at the show was Terremark joined the Citrix service provider camp as it needs a cheaper virtual server offering for customers.

"To be competitive it needs to offer virtual servers at a lower cost than the VMware license allows," said an attendee who preferred not to be named. Until now Terremark was the poster child for VMware vCloud services, and even took $20 million in funding from VMware to help build out its infrastructure. News that it's offering a compliance service based on Citrix must smart if you're one of the investors over at VMware.

"I was shocked to see Terremark in the Citrix camp," said SoftLayer's Day. "We'll see how that plays out." Terremark wasn't available for comment by press time.

Giovanni Escobar, an engineer with the San Francisco Housing Authority, said reliability and scalability are more important than the platform wars that vendors wage. That said, his organization is moving away from VMware and over to XenServer "to save money," he said.

Citrix Cloud Solutions: Xen or XenServer?
The new Citrix Cloud Solutions line includes seven configurations of tools, networking and virtualization technology to deliver a cloud environment for different uses. These include testing and development, virtual desktop provisioning, application service delivery, disaster recovery, compliance, on-demand demos and cloud on-boarding.

"We're reading more about [cloud] than we're actually doing," said Mark Templeton, president and CEO of Citrix, during his keynote presentation. This was because IT shops need more targeted capabilities aligned to specific workloads, such as application lifecycle management, migration and regulatory compliance, before they will jump into cloud services, he said.

Citrix' Cloud Solutions offerings are based on XenServer, rather than Xen, the latter being the traditional hypervisor of choice for service providers. However, the tide seems to be turning against Xen in the service provider community .