As mentioned in the previous post, Simon Crosby, the CTO of Citrix server business, was highlight number two of the IDC Forum in San Francisco. Not only because he was the keynote speaker (which in itself is interesting because it means that CItrix is spending fairly heavily on sponsoring an event that for years used to be driven almost entirely by VMware). Of course he was as entertaining as he usually is and frequently jabbed at VMware. But what was really interesting was the vision for application virtualization (AV).
Virtualization as practiced today reduces the number of physical servers to maintain, but the number of operating system images remains the same, and they are the real cost driver. AV combines applications and operating systems on the fly. Your word processing program is never statically installed as a copy on your desktop machine but is merged into the OS when the user demands it (the merge happens somewhere in a data center, details were not provided). Therefore, the number of different OS + application combinations does not explode and there is only one OS image to maintain.
The basic economics of of linear vs. combinatorial complexity is very compelling. It will be easy to write the business case, but whether that business case beats a SaaS story is a whole different question. For now, the real issue will be timing. Sorry, but what he had to say did not seem very real. Although, after talking to the people at the show, everyone was using VMware and thought AV was very interesting …
As always, I care about the networking angle. The way I understand it, the delivery mechanism for AV across the network is basically Citrix and every mouse click will go over the network. The Ajax model of Google apps and many other SaaS Approaches, by contrast, has clear advantages in terms of responsiveness to the user since mouse clicks are handled inside the browser. AV is better in delivering standard desktop applications and there is a lot of commercial potential for Citrix in the AV story as applied to their longstanding relationship with Microsoft.
My to do is to spend some time on understanding the implications for network virtualization. Also there is highlight number three to follow: HP’s new virtualization management software.