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Analysis: Virtual App Wars Move From OS To Desktop

Application virtualization, an up-and-coming tool, segments where desktop applications are used from where they run.

Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., threw the first salvo in May when it announced plans to buy Boston-based Softricity, just months after Citrix announced an internal project to develop application virtualization software called Tarpon. Citrix once mulled buying Softricity, a major Citrix ISV, several sources told CRN.

Microsoft completed the deal in July and announced it will release the first two company-branded versions of its Softricity SoftGrid app virtualization platformSoftGrid for Desktops and SoftGrid for Terminal Servicesin the near future at reduced prices. Microsoft also said it will announce support for Windows Vista and the Windows Longhorn server in the future.

Microsoft channel partners that currently support Microsoft Virtual Server and VMware are optimistic about their prospects in the application virtualization space.

"We are a huge proponent of Microsoft's Softricity, and our clients are amazed by its capability and effectiveness," said John Dodge, solutions architect at Foedus, a virtualization software solution provider in New York. "We've had clients revising their entire year's budget based on the Softricity value proposition."

Citrix, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will take a page from Microsoft's own playbook to beat its longtime partner and new rival and entice partners and customers to its own forthcoming app virtualization and streaming technology, code-named Tarpon.

Unlike stand-alone application virtualization solutions from Microsoft and AppStream, for example, Citrix plans to integrate the Tarpon application virtualization technology into the company's Presentation Server 4.5 upgrade, which will debut at Citrix iForum in October.

In spite of the co-opetition between the two software partners, solution providers claim Microsoft's intent to enter the market and immediate cost cutting is already beginning to accelerate demand for all application virtualization software.

Provision Networks is an ISV that partners with Softricity and last week launched a VMware-based solution for converting PC applications into on-demand services.

"I can tell you frankly that I'm seeing many companies now moving quickly beyond PCs to large deployments of [Softricity] SoftGrid," said Paul Ghostine, CEO at Provision Networks, Reston, Va. "Maybe it's a combination of the new price point and the fact that now it's a Microsoft product, not that of a smaller company with 200 or so customers."

Partners that support Microsoft and Citrix will likely have to choose between the two offerings or support both as competitive, not complementary, products.

"Microsoft's acquisition of Softricity's technology completely makes the Citrix Tarpon project redundant for Microsoft. More than just competitive, Microsoft has made the call and decided that they want to own the enabling technology for application delivery and make it part of the OS," said Sameer Jagtap, director of product management at Surgient.

"In the short term, I anticipate Microsoft will position this for solving an immediate problem such as managing application upgrades and patches," Jagtap continued. "Longer term, it can be anticipated that we will see a shift toward delivery of applications on top of the OS in this manner."

NEXT: Closer look at the products and players.

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