At its annual customer get together, Citrix Synergy 2009, the company fulfilled our prediction of the true value of its XenSource acquisition in 2007 – an enabling technology for Presentation Server (now XenApp) and its desktop virtualization efforts (now XenDesktop). By adding these capabilities to its C3 platform for Internet service providers (ISPs) it has significantly differentiated its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) play from VMware vCloud, 3Tera AppLogic, and the other platform efforts in the market today. Instead of an ISP getting a relatively generic IaaS platform, they now get a robust set of service offerings – IaaS, Windows application hosting (somewhat of a SaaS offering) and desktop as a service.
But the announcement left me a little concerned when it wasn’t coupled with a list of brand name ISPs who have signed on to deliver this service to enterprise customers. Anyone out there? Perusal of Citrix’ C3 web site and Citrix Service Provider partner pages offer no insights either (Ingram Micro? Softcat? ExpressData? Not exactly ISPs). The technology without the partners looks a little incomplete. Citrix has started a timeclock on the credibility of this effort that it will need to fulfill soon.
Further confusing was its announcement of C3 Lab. This offering that lets you test drive XenApp and XenDesktop in the cloud uses the standard Amazon Machine Images rather than XenServer. While both are based on the Xen open source hypervisor, they aren’t compatible – you can’t manage AMIs with Citrix Essentials and you can’t deploy XenServer VMs into EC2. The company will need to address this point of integration quickly or it will hurt the C3 value proposition.
Citrix’s C3 strategy has three thrusts. In addition to courting ISPs to deploy C3, it is also trying to convince other cloud providers to upgrade from the open source free Xen hypervisor to its commercial XenServer and to get enterprises to use XenServer in house. For the cloud community it offers a revenue sharing license model that may entice many of the midsized players to move up, but C3 is a far more compelling value proposition. For the enterprise, expect to see a C3 for internal clouds in the next year. Strong ties to XenApp and XenDesktop will fuel its appeal in much the same way. Let’s hope the enterprise customer references are ready at launch, though.