The 10 Biggest Virtualization Stories Of 2012

Virtualization Hunger Games

Virtualization, as a distinct IT industry segment, is getting blurrier as the cloud space grows more defined. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of big acquisitions, emerging trends, pitched battles and intriguing newcomers. In other words, there's no shortage of drama.

This year was perhaps even more drama-filled than normal, with marketing saber-rattling, major executive changes and a licensing change whose impact reverberated around the hallways of organizations large and small. CRN scoured the news archives from the past 12 months and here presents 10 virtualization news stories that stood out from the rest.

10. Virtualization Hatfields & McCoys Continue Squabbling

Microsoft stepped up its campaign to convince the IT world that Windows Server and Hyper-V are far cheaper than VMware while offering comparable -- and in some cases better -- performance. This year, VMware finally started fighting back after taking the high road for several years.

Microsoft, after introducing the hilarious 1970s throwback character Tad last August, continued to use this creative marketing vehicle to hammer home its point. VMware, meanwhile, launched its "Get The Facts" website and jabbed at Microsoft for bragging about capabilities of products it hasn't yet released.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Expect to see more of this in the coming year when Windows Server 2012 deployments start blooming in the IT industry landscape.

9. Citrix Takes XenDesktop, XenApp To Cloud With Project Avalon

Citrix in May unveiled Project Avalon, its platform for running Windows desktops and apps -- via XenDesktop and XenApp -- in public, private or hybrid clouds. Citrix described Project Avalon as the culmination of a major engineering project to get XenDesktop to work seamlessly on Apache CloudStack and Amazon Web Services.

"Here is what we learned: existing enterprise workload can be transformed to run on the cloud. This is what cloud transformation is all about," Sheng Liang, CTO Cloud Platforms at Citrix Systems, said in a blog post in May announcing Project Avalon.

8. Bromium Wields Virtualization To Battle Malware

Startup Bromium burst onto the scene in June with security technology that co-founder Simon Crosby (pictured) described as "mind-blowingly cool" and potentially game changing.

Bromium uses Intel hardware-assisted virtualization to isolate every single system task prior to executing it -- such as clicking on a URL to open a new document -- to ensure that it's not infected with malware. The idea is to prevent the first malware "domino" from falling that would trigger a widespread infection.

Bromium this month added a new feature to its flagship vSentry product, called LAVA (Live Attack Visualization and Analysis), which tracks malicious activity taking place on networks and responds to it in real time.

7. Dell Steps Up Its Desktop Virtualization Game

Dell acquired thin client vendor Wyse Technology in April, and the deal was reportedly in the $350 million to $400 million range. Wyse Technology was the top vendor in thin client unit shipment volume in the fourth quarter of last year, and IDC estimated at the time that the data center infrastructure stack for these solutions is expected to exceed $15 billion by 2015.

In August during the run-up to VMworld, Dell released new Wyse-based zero-client devices and a reference architecture for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementations.

VDI, despite its slow progression into the enterprise, is on the radar of many IT vendors, and Gartner expects virtual desktops could have a market penetration of 8 percent to 10 percent by 2015.

6. Citrix Acquires Desktop Virtualization, Management, BYOD Tech

Citrix, as it has done in previous years at the outset of its annual Synergy conference, acquired Virtual Computer and positioned the startup's desktop virtualization and management software as an enterprise extension of Citrix XenClient. Buying Virtual Computer allowed Citrix to eliminate a competitor, but Citrix was also an investor, taking part in the startup's $15 million series B round of funding.

As part of Citrix's push into mobility, it acquired mobile device management vendor Zenprise in December. The deal fits with Citrix's goal of building a complete stack of mobile apps -- it already offers secure email, Web browsing and file synchronization and sharing apps -- and Zenprise fills in the all-important device management piece.

5. Network Virtualization Takes Center Stage

VMware in April began flirting with software-defined networking -- a.k.a. network virtualization -- by sponsoring the Open Networking Research Center. In July, VMware dove into the market whole hog with its blockbuster $1.2 billion acquisition of Nicira, which invented the SDN enabling protocol OpenFlow.

Cisco, meanwhile, confirmed long running rumors of its investment in SDN startup Insiemi. "About a year ago we began to see an opportunity in a market around programmability and application-aware networks and networks aware of applications," CEO John Chambers (pictured) said in April. "That will come out in multiple forms."

In November, Brocade acquired startup Vyatta, which has an open source approach to SDN, in an all-cash transaction aimed at bolstering its own investments in Ethernet fabrics and SDN.

4. VMware Kills vRAM Licensing

VMware's decision to change vSphere licensing last August, pegging costs to virtual memory allocation instead of server sockets, triggered howls of protest throughout the IT industry. So it was with great exultation that VMware greeted the company's decision to get rid of the scheme, known as vRAM, and return to its previous model.

VMware partners and customers loved the move, which was widely interpreted as being motivated by Microsoft's advances in Windows Server 2012, but VMware officials denied this.

3. Virtualization Management Becomes Firmly Cross-Platform

Virtualization management was already a hot industry topic, but this year it emerged as an even more critical part of organizations' IT infrastructure. Cross-platform management was the most significant development, with Microsoft touting this in Windows Server 2012 and VMware finally deciding to go the same route after acquiring DynamicOps.

2. Microsoft Looks To Stall iPad With Windows 8 VDI License

Microsoft's decision to charge iPad and Android device users extra for accessing Windows 8 virtual desktops was a sign of the software giant getting more aggressive about defending the Windows cash cow.

Microsoft's Companion Device License (CDL), which debuted with Windows 8, lets organizations offer employees access to corporate desktops through virtual desktop infrastructure on up to four personally owned devices. Microsoft executives were unapologetic in the wake of the CDL's unveiling, casting it as an attempt to get organizations to pay for the value they're deriving from Windows.

"We are in a battle," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured) told CRN in July during an interview at the company's annual partner conference.

1. VMware's CEO Switch: Maritz Out, Gelsinger In

VMware dropped a bombshell in July when it revealed that Paul Maritz (far left), CEO of the company since 2008, would be moving over to EMC as chief strategist, to be replaced by Pat Gelsinger (right), president and COO of EMC's Information Infrastructure Products division.

At the time, EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci said the CEO switch was aimed at establishing VMware as a powerhouse in software-defined networking, big data, and automation and management to support future applications. Gelsinger's experience in the x86 ecosystem, amassed during his 30-year career at Intel, would also be a fit for VMware's own partner ecosystem, Tucci said.

Maritz is now heading EMC and VMware's joint spinoff, called the Pivotal Initiative, which includes platform-as-a-service, big data, in-memory database and other assets.