Citrix, Microsoft Complain About Being Marginalized At VMworld 2009

Among the hundreds of exhibitors that will be pitching and demoing their virtualization technology at next week's VMware-sponsored VMworld conference, two of them -- Citrix and Microsoft -- will be unusually quiet.

Citrix and Microsoft, archrivals of VMware in the fast-growing virtualization market, are complaining that VMware changed the rules for competitors that wish to participate in the VMworld 2009 conference, to be held in San Francisco.

As a result of those changes, the two have found themselves limited to small 10 x 10-foot booths and shut out of the kind of promotional opportunities offered to exhibitors, which would normally pay extra for larger booths and especially for sponsorship activities.

Things were different at VMworld 2008, held last September in Las Vegas.

Sponsored post

At that conference, both Microsoft and Citrix were Gold sponsors, according to the VMworld 2008 Web site.

That is not the case this year, said Kim Woodward, vice president of corporate marketing at Citrix.

"It's a proprietary event," Woodward said. "They get to set the rules. That's fine. We're the kind of company that follows the rules.'...'It's interesting that VMware didn't want to take more of our money for a bigger booth and more participation."

VMware declined to respond to questions about Citrix's and Microsoft's appearances at VMworld 2009.

Woodward said Citrix first learned of the change in April after receiving the VMworld prospectus and then sending a completed contract to event management requesting the same level of participation as in 2008, including being a Gold-level sponsor and exhibiting in what she remembers being a 400-square-foot booth.

The event management responded that, because of new guidelines, Citrix could not participate as a sponsor and could only exhibit in a 100-square-foot booth, Woodward said.

Those guidelines are spelled out on page 2 of the prospectus, a copy of which was examined by, in a paragraph that reads, "To sponsor or exhibit at VMworld, your company must be a VMware partner in good standing in our TAP, Strategic Global Partner or VIP Partner programs. Sponsors or exhibitors that are not VMware partners may be allowed under exception."

VMware's approach to VMworld is different than Citrix's approach to its primary annual conference, Citrix Synergy, Woodward said.

Citrix Synergy, held in May 2009 and scheduled to be held in May 2010, was already very open, and will be even more so next year, Woodward said. For instance, the judges of papers presented at the conference, who have all been Citrix personnel in the past, will include industry and press participants in the future.

Woodward said Citrix plans no retaliation against VMware at Citrix Synergy 2010.

Next: Microsoft "To Make The Best Of It"

Microsoft declined to comment about its smaller booth space and inability to participate as a sponsor at VMworld 2009.

However, the company did point reporters to a blog posted on its Web site by "porourke," who appears to be a Microsoft employee, on Tuesday complaining that Microsoft will not be able to demonstrate some of its latest technology, including its new System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, at VMworld 2009.

"But unfortunately, next week at VMworld 2009 we can't show SCVMM 2008 R2, or any other products, in our booth. You've probably read about it. In short, it's their show, it's not an industry show, and they set the rules. So we'll make the best of it; always lots of Microsoft customers and partners on the floor. Stop by the booth to meet some of the best/brightest minds at Microsoft," the blog read.

Rich Crusco, technologist at Citrix, wrote in an Aug. 7 blog posted on the Citrix Community that Citrix had planned to hold a Citrix Technology Professionals (CTP) Summit meeting during the month to announce new virtualization experts to the CTP program, but was forced to reschedule that meeting because of its contract with VMware for the VMworld 2009 conference.

Crusco said the VMworld contract signed by companies that have a booth at the conference had what he termed "some very interesting event tactics," including a clause specifying activities exhibitors are prohibited from doing.

That clause, Crusco wrote, reads, ""Exhibitor agrees that it may not use any Organizer event to leverage or promote any other event in which Exhibitor is a sponsor or participant, and therefore agrees that it may not, during the period from two days before until two days after the Event, conduct, promote, endorse, or sponsor any functions, classes, seminars, exhibits, or similar marketing activities within 50 miles of any event similar to the Event that is the subject of this agreement, other than Exhibitor's participation in the Event under this Agreement."

Crusco, in response to questions posted by readers of his blog, later wrote that such a clause seems to be standard industry practice.

"I have done some additional research and it turns out that this type of clause is standard in many event agreements including our Synergy 09 event. Citrix has never enforced the clause ( and to my knowledge neither has VMware ). We have asked our event vendor to remove this restriction for our Synergy 2010 agreement. Thanks to others who have provided feedback and details on their events," he wrote.

It is understandable that VMware might want to be careful about who sponsors the VMworld 2009 conference. Microsoft has been very vocal in its attacks on VMware and its technology as part of a push to promote its own Hyper-V offerings.

At VMworld 2008 at the Venetian casino and hotel, Microsoft was handing out flyers and $1 casino chips during the conference until VMworld personnel complained. The website had more details about the event.

One IT channel observer, who asked to remain anonymous, said that VMware's pushback against Microsoft and Citrix's attendance at VMworld seems to have intensified after former VMware President and CEO Diane Greene was forced out of the company last year by EMC, which holds a majority of the company's stock.

Greene was more open to having competitors at VMworld in order to show how the company stacked up against them, the observer said. "She used to say at VMworld, 'We don't have to have our competitors here, but we do,' " the observer said.

The industry will judge whether it wants what Woodward termed a "proprietary" conference like VMworld, or an open-format event like Citrix Synergy, Woodward said.

"This is one of those situations where exhibitors and attendees will be the final arbitrator," she said.

For at least one of those attendees, the change is not a big deal.

Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider and VMware partner, said of his company's hundreds of clients, only 1 percent to 2 percent are interested in virtualization technology from Microsoft or Citrix, mainly to have a second supplier.

Norbie said restricting the competition reduces the chance of "cat-fighting" at a conference. He also cited the example of Microsoft handing out flyers and chips at the Venetian casino and hotel.

"Microsoft was handing out poker chips and saying, 'Why gamble on VMware?' " he said. "The problem is, it's illegal for people to hand out poker chips in casinos."

VMworld's main goal is to show how to leverage VMware technology and to show new technology like vSphere 4, Norbie said.

"It's no different from how Microsoft treated its competition in the past," he said. "Now Microsoft and Citrix get to feel what it was like to be Novell back then."

Whether one agrees with VMware's tactics depends on their point of view, Norbie said.

"The vast majority of people going to VMworld are VMware fanatics, and want to focus on VMware," he said. "Others might want to compare VMware and Microsoft and Citrix in terms of their technologies and pricing."

Kevin McLaughlin contributed to this article.