Microsoft has opened a new website for SoftGrid. Presumably this will soon replace the old Softricity site. Note the system center connection!
There are a lot of things falling into the system center banner these days. System Center was first announced as the banner for new versions of SMS and MOM. But it has so much more these days.
Roughly one year after completion of the purchase of Softricity, this might be a good time to review what has happened in Application virtualization. Here are some of my thoughts.
We previously knew (see my post from the Microsoft Management Summit this spring) that the quirky self-provisioning part of SoftGrid, called Zero Touch by Softricity, reappeared under the System Center banner as part of the help desk package. The placement there makes some sense functionally, but only if someone wants to buy into the whole help desk (System Center Service Manager) and therefore probably also System Center Configuration Manager as well. Meanwhile, the Desktop Client became part of the Desktop Optimization Pack. Also last spring, Microsoft seemed to be functionally linking SoftGrid Server (Application vitalization) with Virtual Server (OS vitalization). And the Terminal Server Client seemed to looking for a placement.
It seems to me that this placement of the website signals, at least, that Microsoft recognizes that the concept of application virtualization needs a home of its own. This is a good thing. As I said at the time of the purchase, the greatest value of SoftGrid to Microsoft may lie in the parts and not the whole. But that doesn't mean that there is not a lot of value in the whole. Certainly there are a lot of customers that see this value (and significantly more since the purchase). The use of bundling leverage to get customers into other System Center purchases (examples: Service Manager to get Zero Touch; Software Assurance to get the Desktop Optimization Pack to get the Desktop Client) is unfortunate, but may be more of a mental hurdle for customers to overcome than a real hurdle. Especially existing customers. The desktop client is the best example of this. They can't understand having to buy SA at hundreds of dollars per PC to be able to get the Desktop Client at $10. But in reality if Microsoft charged a high price for the client and threw in SA they would be quite happy.
Meanwhile we have also seen what Citrix has done with their Application virtualization. This past year has seen a significant maturing of the underlying Citrix technology, especially in terms of the kinds of applications that can handled. With 4.5, they still lag Microsoft, but the gap is narrower. (Microsoft increased the gap with releases this month, but Citrix isn't going to sit still). Citrix also released the long awaited desktop version (formerly project Tarpon) this year which was very significant.
Like Microsoft, Citrix also plays the leveraging game with their Application virtualization, just differently. With Citrix it is much simpler to understand - you just have to buy the right level bundle to get Application virtualization. The flip side is that it is more of a cost hurdle for their customers to get what they need. This prevents many small to medium size customers from getting into the Application virtualization game with Citrix.
What we have not seen, to date, is any leveraging of the "great relationship" Citrix has with Microsoft to get the best of both worlds for Citrix customers. It is clear to me that Microsoft has the better technology, but Citrix is so much better at the Management end of things. We have to give them more time to produce a result, as perhaps Server 2008 would be the right platform, but time is running out quickly that we will ever see cooperation. But given that Citrix has not been vocal about this lately (and it isn't like Citrix doesn't talk about things in advance of products) I think we can all guess it is not going to happen.