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Microsoft Hyper-V raises questions about Microsoft-Citrix partnership

Solution providers aren't sure if the release of Hyper-V will bring Citrix and Microsoft together or drive them apart.

With the release of Microsoft Hyper-V come renewed questions about Microsoft's partnership with Citrix, how the two vendors will coexist in the server virtualization market and where channel partners fit in.

Hyper-V, Microsoft's virtualization hypervisor, released to manufacturing last week. Microsoft sees tremendous opportunity, and its executives frequently point out that at least 90% of the world's servers are not yet virtualized. Those untapped customers will ultimately determine Microsoft's fate in the server virtualization market, said Francis Poeta, president of P and M Computers, a systems integrator in Cliffside Park, N.J.

"If we're going to see [Hyper-V adoption], that's where it's going to be," Poeta said. "I haven't had one VMware customer or one Citrix customer who's said, 'We're going to switch over.'"

Hyper-V resources
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VMware, the server virtualization market leader, has tried to drive a wedge between Citrix and Microsoft in the run up to Hyper-V's release. Citrix has described its relationship with Microsoft as "co-opetition" (a combination of cooperation and competition). But Poeta said the partnership has been low on competition in the past, and that will have to change if Citrix wants to succeed.

"If they want to attack, they can attack and compete with both [Microsoft and VMware] extremely well," he said. "The question is, how hard do they want to attack their older brother? … My opinion is they have to stand up and fight the fight if they want the market."

There are two different ways to look at Hyper-V's entry into the server virtualization market, according to Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing in Oakland, Calif. On one hand, Citrix's sweet spot is application virtualization, so Microsoft and Citrix may not step on each other's toes too much.

"When you think of server virtualization, you don't think about Citrix," Morimoto said. "It wasn't until they acquired Xen that they got into the whole server virtualization stuff."

But on the other hand, both now sell hypervisors and are targeting VMware.

"I've never had Citrix bring us into an account and had a conflict between Citrix and Microsoft … up until now," Morimoto said. "Things may change."

Citrix XenServer typically appeals more to customers with Linux-based environments, while Microsoft Hyper-V could be a big sell for Windows customers. That could help reduce channel conflict among partners that sell both, said Alan "Skip" Gould, president and CEO of BrightPlanIT in Buffalo, N.Y.

"It's not a one-size-fits-all thing," he said. "We like to say you shouldn't look at virtualization with a sledgehammer but with a screwdriver. … [Microsoft and Citrix] seem to be bending over backwards with each other to play nice."

Regardless of how well Microsoft Hyper-V sells, it has already had an effect on the server virtualization market. Earlier this month, VMware fired CEO Diane Greene and replaced her with former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz. And in March, Citrix announced a new pricing model for its XenServer hypervisor -- a move that observers said would make Citrix more competitive with VMware and give it a head start over Hyper-V.

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