Citrix and Microsoft: who's controlling who?

For the past ten years, the nature of the Citrix and Microsoft relationship has been that Microsoft built a somewhat limited "base" product which Citrix extended with a pay-for product of their own.

For the past ten years, the nature of the Citrix and Microsoft relationship has been that Microsoft built a somewhat limited "base" product which Citrix extended with a pay-for product of their own. It was almost taken for granted that Microsoft was "in charge" of that relationship because if they wanted to kill Citrix, they could just build Citrix's advanced capabilities into their base product and Citrix would be out of business soon thereafter.

But what if that's not true? What if the opposite is true? Could Citrix really be the one in charge? Could it be Citrix who dictates to Microsoft what Microsoft can and cannot do?

Cartoon (c) Petar Jankov. Licensed from

For example, most industry watchers generally agree that Microsoft would never acquire Citrix because for every license of Citrix XenApp that's sold, the customer also needs a matching TS CAL. So why would Microsoft buy them when Citrix is out there selling Microsoft's products for free? (That same argument could be made as a reason as to why Microsoft wouldn't want to kill Citrix either.)

What if instead of Microsoft deciding which features are put into the base Terminal Server product, it's actually Citrix who dictates this to Microsoft. "You will add this feature and that feature, but do not touch x or y. Leave that for us!"

I should note that since I'm in Redmond for the MVP Summit this week, I mentioned this theory to a few Microsoft employees at dinner, and they looked at me like I was crazy while talking about how great the partnership is now between the two companies. (Ahh, how a little common enemy called "VMware" can focus the mind...)

Who knows how likely such a scenario is, but it's certainly interesting.



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I don't think it would be bad thing for MS to do this. They just don't have the ability to move fast or build anything for Terminal Services that a real enterprise would use at scale. Hence the TS eco system. Right now nobody can touch Citrix in their space in the real world, just too embedded and switching costs are too high. However as VDi expands and other start to try things, MS could easily buy Citrix and use them as the weapon to continue to own the desktop and instead focus their resources on their other weaker businesses.

Brian it would be good for you get some data on how big is the TS team? Why are they bothering with RDP average, always catch ICA, delayed Callista etc? Why not just buy Citrix, own the protocol, period and own the market? I personally don't believe MS really get's it, and does not care about our space, as their whole business model is about selling OS licenses in this space. As long as that is not threatened, they will continue to provide anemic upgrades to TS that offer little to complex customers. Joe average it is good enough for and Citrix's will continue to exist, until Cisco, HP, IBM etc come knocking saying hmmm 1.6billion additional revenue could move our stagnant stock proces. Perhaps then MS may move, or will they have spent all their cast on Google fights, mobie wars etc by then.


here's the deal; MSFT gives scale to Citrix, and CTXS protects MSFT.  They (MSFT) want partners to succeed around the MSFT platform.  They don't want partners that will betray them.  Hence this very symbiotic relationship between the two.

You won't see MSFT buying Citrix, and you will always see Citrix adding significant value on top of what MSFT is building.


To add something. I dont understand the so called Partnership in the Virtualization Area !

In the past Citrix was the company, who added Value to the Terminal Server and made it Enterprise-Ready. This was committed by MS and Citrix.

But whts now in the Virtualization Technlogy ?

Is Citrix offering the better Virtualization Technology ? I cant see here a strategy of the both companies. Both companies claim to offer Solutions for the Enterprise Market, but in fact they are now competitors in many areas an develop their own stuff. I cant see an alliance against VMWare. ANd here are some examples:

Hypervisor: Xen and Hyper-V - OK both are based on the same Code-Basis, but why 2 different Hypervisors, if they are partnerns. MS wants to sell Windows Server 2008 and their Management-Suite. With Citirx i dont need any Windows Server.

Why dont they use one Hypervisor, if they are partner ?

Display Protocoll: ICA vs RDP. ICA is the better RDP, but also Microsoft now pimps up their RDP with a new technology. Why dont they use one common protocoll ?

Management: Citrix has its own Management Suite and MS has SystemCenter-Whatever for the Virtualization Management.

Bare Metal Hypervisor: Citrix announced the Bare Metal Hypervisor, MS did so far nothing....why ? I was expecting especially from the Operating System Vendor this kind of Technology....but they have nothing.

Ask both Citrix and MS about their partner strategy in the Virtualization Area - especially about the above mentioned points. I asked them, and in my opinion they have no real strategy regarding partnership. Both companies want to adress the Enterprise-Market with different products....

VMWare has still the best strategy !


(Ahh, how a little common enemy called "VMware" can focus the mind...)

That is a good observation!

Is Citrix and MS really that close?

Don't believe all the marketing indoctrination of synergy between the 2 companies. It reminds me of all the MS commercials trying to change our mind that Vista is good for us.

1) Why does MS and Citrix continue to compete with XenApp and TS? MS has built significant features into TS with 2003 and 2008.

2) Why does MS and Citrix compete with Streaming Application Virtualization?

3) Why does MS and Citrix compete with Hyper-V and XenServer?

This competition does not imply synergy between the two companies to me.

I will go to BriForum and VMWorld before I go to Synergy. Citrix Synergy Convention is all about Citrix and Citrix marketing. Synergy is far from vendor neutral.

This may explain in part why VMWorld gets 4 times as many in attendance as Citrix Synergy convention.

I want to see a seminar topic at all the conventions regarding best practices and optimization of running XenApp on VMWare.

I want to see an unbiased shoot out comparison of VMWare, XenServer, and Hyper-V.

I think MS would eat her children but for now MS and Citrix need each other.

VMWare has the best server virtualization software period. This is in regards to support, installed base, and features. MS and Citrix can only compete with VMWare based on price.

Citrix is the best TS type product period but they better improve the product with one management interface. Two management interfaces to support the product is one to many.

Citrix better quit bundling all her products that should be stand alone. Citrix is trying to lock us into an all Citrix mode along with the annual subscription fees.

XenServer is Free? How will you manage Xenserver in the enterprise? How much is the annual subscription?


There are some areas that you have to understand a bit further. Microsoft and Citrix are partners and have been for many years. You can see evidence of this partnership in the moves that citrix has made very recently. While it is true that in certain areas Microsoft and Citrix seem to compete, they really don't.

The big one is the Xenserver V Hyper-V. So its an interesting dance when speaking about this. Citrix field reps are told not to speak against MS technologies, rather talk about interoperation. It is true that currently Xenserver offers more features than Hyper-V, But in any conversation about XenDesktop, Citrix preaches that you can use any Hypervisor as a base.

Lets also look at the new announcement of the “free” Xenserver. Many companies have gone on record stating that Citrix made this free and failed. I am not going to get into that discussion because you really have to look at the features to see what you are really getting with the free version. You get a free hypervisor ( which is nothing new) that has the most features of any free hypervisor today, but there are key elements that are left out. It’s a modified free Xenserver. HA features are removed as well as reporting and monitoring features. These are going to be needed in any serious deployment. These features and more are added into a new level called “Access essentials for XenServer” in addition there is now an “Access Essentials for Hyper-V” which adds functionality to Hyper-V. So much like Citrix added on TS, now they are building on Hyper-V. Keep in mind this is very early and Citrix is working to extend much more functionality to Hyper-V

Citrix making this hypervisor free, at the current level of functionality properly aligns Citrix with Microsoft. Many IT professionals have long stated that someday the hypervisor would be commoditized and it’s all going to be about the management tools. This is really a big push toward this very concept. You are 100% correct when you say its Citrix and Microsoft v VMware.

In my opinion it was a terrible idea for VMware to take such a negative stance against Microsoft. Its true that Microsoft (and Citrix for that matter) is a company that people love to hate. But the truth of it all is that we run on Microsoft for all intensive purposes. VMware is making its money from virtualizing Microsoft products! I know it can do a ton of OS’s but 95% of VMware customer are using Microsoft products. Why would a company that makes its bread and butter virtualizing Microsoft products completely trash talk them? It’s a very bad way to do business. VMware is a marketing machine with constant FUD being flung in every direction

And a comment on the TS2008. Its very true that TS2008 can publish apps, But in a very limited scenario. As Brian as stated before it makes sense for a small amount of “small” companies. TS2008 was developed in a joint venture between Citrix and Microsoft. This is a very important concept to grasp. Microsoft didn’t just release TS2008 and then Citrix started working on how to build on top of it. Both companies worked together to enhance TS2008.

And again, with App-V Vs Citrix Streaming. If a customer has Microsoft software assurance, it makes tons of sense. Its very inexpensive for these customers to roll out App-V. Citrix has streaming also built in, But from Citrix, use whatever your comfortable with. If App-V is in use, great, continue using it. If you want use streaming, Its built into every version of XenApp at this point. The choice is yours.

Of course VMware has a great Hypervisor. Anyone who denies that should take a look at what VMware did to the industry. They changed the way we deploy servers and how we do business in IT. This was fantastic, But VMware has really done their best to paint themselves Anti Microsoft/Citrix. They are absolutely ruthless with their negative marketing tactics and extremely biased test results. Case in point, You cannot mention VMware and ANY office whitepaper or comparison document. Everything must get their stamp o approval before it is release, and of course they would never let any fair document that shines a negative light on any of their products be released. Its pretty crazy.


I don’t think it’s a matter of who controls who with MSFT and Citrix but more the fact there is an obvious strategy to go against VMware at all VMware’s product offerings.

Take a look at project Encore, support for XenServer in System Centre, System Centre integration into Branch Repeater the list goes on …


is a market leader not supposed to lead the market ? not to react so in a so epidermal way on each “small” competitor moves ?

There is no "who control who" but only business... you want to go after something, you paretner with who can help you to get where you want. Citrix and Microsoft have learned to talk to each other and get a true coopetition way to do business...

My dream : hypervisor as a commodity "multi-headed, free and ubiquitous"... Hyper-V and XenServer are going this way... True, this is still a long way but there are going there !


RE: Vmware.  Take the Citrix/MS argument on TS CALs and replace with VMware and OS Licenses.  Perhaps all that takes is a different common enemy?



I do not think your perspectives are accurate.

VMWare created the Server Virtualization industry on PCs. Right?

The following are not in chronilogical order.

MS and Citrix both try to buy VMWare.

They both missed a golden opportunity.

VMWare got a better offer from EMC.

MS did not like the success of VMWare so they bought a company and came out with Virtual PC.

MS chose not to work with VMWare and forced VMWare to be a competitor.

VMWare has to respond and react to the competition of MS and now Citrix. MS and Citrix represent after market products in server virtualization.

VMWare is the innovator.

MS and HyperV are playing catchup.  

By the way - Citrix and MS got in a bidding war to buy SoftGrid as well. MS won the bid. Citrix develops its own application streaming.

Are they not competitors and business partners at the same time?

Citrix and MS are partners but they are looking over their shoulder at the same time at each other.


Here is my two cents: did MS pay Citrix for making XenServer free?


Someone mentioned that Hyper-V and Xen share the same code-base.  Hyper-V and Xen share the same Architecture but the not the same code-base.


Slightly off topic, sorry.

@AJBNYC The add-on product for XenServer and Hyper-V is called Essentials, not Access Essentials, the latter being the cut-down XenApp version for the SMB marketplace.

This is typical of the market at the moment though, no-one can really follow what Citrix are doing because they are going so fast, re-naming things every 5 minutes, re-branding products, events etc.! I was speaking to a Citrix-managed Gold partner yesterday and he said he has completely lost touch, so how on earth are end customers supposed to keep up!?

I think Citrix and VMWare are simply in a drag race to get things released before the competition and this is causing panic in both camps.