At the WinHEC conference yesterday, Microsoft announced that they are planning to acquire Softricity. The press release was light on details, so I spoke to people from Microsoft and Citrix about this announcement. In this article, we’ll look at what’s included in the deal and what this means to the industry.
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First of all, Softricity is a software company that makes application virtualization software. This software virtualizes the Windows layer that’s presented to an application so that multiple non-compatible applications can run side-by-side on a single computer, each with their own virtualized registry, file system, administrative access, services, DCOM, etc. (For the full details of Softricity, their products, and their technologies, listen to my podcast from a few weeks ago with David Greschler, one of the co-founders or Softricity.)
The announcement that Microsoft made was that they intend to acquire Softricity, not that they have acquired Softricity. They have to go through their due diligence process which has historically taken a month or two. What this means is that in the meantime, it’s business as usual.
Why did Microsoft acquire Softricity?
According to Alex Balcanquall, a Technical Product Manager for Terminal Services at Microsoft, it was for three reasons:
- It compliments their overall virtualization strategy by bringing more virtualization technologies into their portfolio.
- It helps lower client TCO by allowing applications to run on client workstations with less administrative work, deployment effort, and testing.
- It helps lower Terminal Server TCO by allowing more application to be served from single servers, thereby reducing wasted overhead associated with building server silos and lessening the amount of time to deploy new and updated applications.
Of course it’s far too early to know what Microsoft will do in terms of price, availability, or licensing strategies. One complexity to this is that Softricity licenses their server products based on concurrent user, and Microsoft licenses their products based on named users, so something is going to have to change.
Softricity will also be great in the Terminal Server space for consolidation. While x64 will help facilitate consolidation since people will be able to build larger servers to support more users, x64 is still probably a few years away from being mainstream. Softricity will let people put all their apps on all their servers, thereby reducing the “n+1” redundancy that was previously required at each silo level. According to Softricity, this could reduce server counts by 30-40%.
What does this mean for Citrix?
Right of the bat, let me say that Microsoft acquiring Softricity affects Citrix in a good way. Softricity was a partner of Citrix and was used in many environments. In fact, if I had my way, Softricity would be used in every Citrix environment. Therefore Microsoft buying Softricity is a great thing!
The potential rub to Citrix was that they have been developing their own technology to compete with Softricity via something they’re calling “Project Tarpon.” This project, demonstrated at both iForum and BriForum, is streaming technology that can stream applications to desktop workstations or Citrix Presentation Servers. (Read my technical analysis of Tarpon) While not as sophisticated as Softricity, (a “v1” versus a “v4” product), Tarpon nonetheless offers promise and potential wide adoption if Citrix chooses to bundle it into their core Presentation Server product line.
What will Citrix do now that Microsoft is going to buy Softricity? “Tarpon will go out as planned,” says Bill Carovano, Citrix’s Director of Technical Marketing and Competitive Intelligence for the group that’s building it.
Personally, I think that this may cause a slight shift in how Tarpon is presented to the market. I don’t know whether Tarpon for desktops will ever see the light of day, but I do see value in Tarpon for deploying applications to Citrix Presentation Servers. In my mind, Tarpon is sort of the “next gen” edition and merger of both IM (Installation Management, Citrix’s app deployment technology for Presentation Server), and AIE (Application Isolation Environments, Citrix’s technology that virtualizes the registry and file system of a Presentation Server so that some “bad” apps can be installed side-by-side on the same server.)
The bottom line is that my views about Microsoft acquiring Softricity differ than many others I’ve been reading over the past 24 hours. I love using Softricity in Citrix environments, and if Microsoft helps bring this to the masses, then that can be nothing but good for Citrix in the long run.