At this week’s Microsoft Management Summit, Microsoft and Quest Software jointly announced that the two of them are “a winning partnership” for desktop virtualization. They even have a dedicated microsite and an eight-city road show to talk about how great the two of them are together. This is a big change from the past where Citrix received most (if not all) of Microsoft's public attention and praise. Sure, there were other partners like Quest and Ericom, but whenever Microsoft was in public, it was “Citrix Citrix Citrix.”
So after being the sole recipient of Microsoft's Terminal Server love for over a decade, how will Citrix react to sharing the spotlight? Will they lash out? Will they deny Quest's threat? Will they feign ignorance?
As for Microsoft, expanding their desktop virtualization circle to include more than just Citrix makes sense for several reasons. (Not least is the fact that all these solutions push Windows, and the more Windows out there, the happier Microsoft is.) Back in March I wrote “Citrix and Microsoft: who’s controlling who?” where I wondered whether Citrix needed Microsoft more or Microsoft needed Citrix more. This week’s announcement with Quest could simply be Microsoft hedging themselves a bit and allows Microsoft to start to be successful in this space even if Citrix fails. (Not that I'm suggesting that Citrix will fail, but hey, if you're Microsoft and you can hitch your horse to two wagons, then why not?)
There's even an argument that could be made that Quest is actually a more "Microsoft-friendly" partner than Citrix. While Citrix has this weird competition / cooperation with Microsoft, Quest's VDI solutions don't compete with any of the revenue products Microsoft is pushing for VDI.
Citrix, on the other hand, is marketing XenApp for hosted apps and streaming and telling everyone how it's the best solution while Microsoft is standing there thinking "Um... streaming? Hello? We have App-V! Grrr!" And then there's the whole XenServer thing which is a competitor to Hyper-V (although the Citrix Server Essentials for Hyper-V will probably help Hyper-V, but you have to pay for it). So it's just a really complex and multi-level relationship. And if the VDI market really does explode in the next few years, Microsoft has probably had enough of working with only Citrix. And since Microsoft will compete against VMware in platform virtualization and desktop virtualization, Microsoft has to get this right.
This is like when you're a kid and your dad lets you steer the boat when it's easy and there are no other boats around, but as soon as you get into some congestion, you dad steps in and takes over. For ten years, Microsoft has been able to essentially "outsource" the TS messaging to Citrix. Citrix delivered them the revenue and no one at Microsoft really paid attention. But now that things are getting busy, Microsoft is thinking, "Ok, we need to actually do something here, and we can't let it all be with Citrix who's sending us really mixed signals (competition wise).
How funny would it be if Citrix was thinking, “Hey Microsoft, this is bullshit! Man.... we were there for you! For all the good years! Through thick and thin. And now that our market is growing from a few billion dollars to tens of billions of dollars, this is how you repay us?" Oh they irony! There are dozens of companies that Citrix embraced and partnered with over the years, but as soon as Citrix bought or built a competing product, then Citrix dropped them and stopped letting them come to iForum. Well maybe this is Citrix's bad karma coming back to bite them!
Or maybe none of this is true, and Quest just made a huge co-marketing payment to Microsoft, in which case I'd like to point out to the Quest-Microsoft marketing machine that BriForum 2009 Chicago is coming up in three short months!
Attention VDI customers: Do you want a 'winning partnership' or 'better together'?
Of course just because Microsoft has started virtual desktop messaging with Quest doesn't mean they're going to ditch Citrix overnight (or ever). And in fact that whole Microsoft-Citrix "Better Together" ISV partnership page is still there. (I guess this means that as a customer, you have to chose whether you want a 'winning partnership,' or one that is 'better together.'