The 10 Biggest Virtualization Stories Of 2014

It's All Virtual

Virtualization is the core enabling technology that makes cloud computing possible, and it's not just about servers anymore. This year there was tons of interesting news in storage and networking virtualization technologies, which are enabling even bigger efficiencies for enterprise IT.

Everything might be moving to the cloud, but without virtualization, it'll never get there. CRN here presents the 10 biggest virtualization stories we saw this year.

Also, check out the rest of CRN's biggest and best of 2014.

10. VMware Declares War On Citrix

VMware has been trying to build its end-user computing business for years, but in 2014, it got serious about making it happen. After poaching longtime Citrix execs Sumit Dhawan and Bob Schultz, VMware in April launched Horizon 6, its first version of the product to include application virtualization. It also includes VMware's own desktop virtualization and management software.

VMware is hoping that customers will be willing to give its technology a try instead of Citrix's. If that comes to pass, VMware could simultaneously gain share in a key market while weakening its main competition. Next year should provide an indication of whether customers are willing to shift.

9. Citrix Tells Partners Not To Fear Amazon Web Services

While VMware execs once tried to rally its partners by calling Amazon "a company that sells books," Citrix has instead decided to work with the cloud giant. In January at Citrix's partner conference, the message to VARs was, don't worry about AWS, they are on our side.

"We have been working with Amazon, and we recognize that many of our customers are working with them to provide solutions for parts of an IT infrastructure," Citrix channel chief Tom Flink (pictured) told CRN in January.

"Desktops need to be close to the data and the apps that are being run. Often our technology is used to aggregate access to all of that," he said at the time.

8. HP Goes After Cisco With Network Virtualization Offering

Hewlett-Packard unveiled an open-standards-based telco service provider reference architecture in February in a bid to take some share away from rival Cisco Systems. Called HP OpenNFV, the offering can enable cost savings of 35 percent to 50 percent for service providers and telcos, HP said.

"I think this provides us an opportunity in the next two to three years to take significant share from Cisco," Jeff Edlund, the chief technologist of Futures, Communications and Media Solutions at HP, told CRN at the time.

HP executive Bill Veghte called the NFV opportunity "one of the single most significant shifts the telecommunications industry has experienced in 20 years."

7. Google Partners With VMware, Citrix On Chromebook Deals

Google Chromebooks have done well in the education space, but businesses still aren't adopting them en masse. Google tried to change that with a couple of partnerships with VMware and Citrix, both aimed at making it easier for businesses to get desktops and apps on the devices in a secure fashion.

In February, Google teamed up with VMware on a jointly developed technology that marries VMware's View desktop virtualization software with Google Chromebooks, with access to Windows apps enabled by VMware's Blast HTML5 technology.

In August, Google and Citrix unveiled an update to Citrix Receiver for Chrome, which comes with better security, audio and print functioning for Chromebook users.

Google wants a piece of the enterprise, and it's looking to VMware and Citrix to help make Chromebooks a bona fide force in the business world.

6. VMware Gets Into Docker, OpenStack, Software-Defined Storage

VMware did a number of things this year that showed just how much -- and how quickly -- its competitive landscape is shifting. The vendor got into the storage market with its VSAN technology, and it also rolled out its first OpenStack distribution, after joining the OpenStack Foundation in 2012.

But maybe the biggest move was VMware's decision to support running Docker containers inside virtual machines. This was big because Docker is seen as a potential threat to VMware's server virtualization cash cow.

VMware says Docker in VMs will be a more secure and easily manageable option for enterprises. We'll see if that's the case, but this was a big bet nonetheless.

5. Cisco Steps Up Trash Talk About VMware's NSX

Cisco and VMware, longtime partners in the data center, are now officially on the outs. When Cisco debuted its Application Centric Infrastructure, which goes head-to-head against VMware's NSX, the networking giant made it clear that it wouldn't be working to make its technology run smoothly with that of its now-rival.

VMware was first to market, but Cisco has been aggressively making the case that ACI -- which combines software running on proprietary Cisco hardware -- is ultimately going to be the best way for enterprises to virtualize their networks.

4. Everyone's Getting Into Hyper-Converged Appliances

Startups Nutanix and Simplivity have driven hyper-converged appliances into the enterprise technology mainstream, and now other vendors want a piece of the action.

VMware jumped into the hyper-converged appliance space in August with its bizarrely named EVO:RAIL software stack, and Dell and HP are among the server vendors building products based on it.

HP was so enamored of Simplivity's technology that it tried to acquire it, but the startup's asking price was too high, sources told CRN in May. Simplivity later inked a deal with Cisco in which the networking giant will sell its software running on UCS servers.

Hyper-converged startup Stratoscale emerged from stealth mode in November with backing from Intel and Cisco. And NetApp got into the game in December with an offering that marries EVO: RAIL software stack with its storage hardware and software.

3. Microsoft Finally Loosens Licensing Reins On Virtual Desktops

Microsoft has traditionally only sold device-based licensing for Windows, but that changed in December when it launched a new subscription bundle for organizations with 250 seats or more called Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS). The bundle includes Office 365, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Windows client sold on a per-user basis, and the last part could simplify how customers pay for virtual desktops.

Microsoft is calling the new plan "an entirely new way to license Windows, putting users at the center of their devices. Partners see it as a sign that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is serious about getting Microsoft software running on as many devices as possible.

2. Citrix CEO Mark Templeton Changes Mind About Retiring

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton said in January that he'd be stepping down from the role he'd held since 2001, and the company launched a search for his replacement. But in June, Templeton changed his mind and decided to stay on.

Templeton, who is popular with Citrix partners, is facing mounting pressure from rival VMware, which is going after its end-user computing business and has hired a bunch of execs to assist with the charge. And Citrix, despite having highly regarded technology, is dealing with numerous other challenges.

Time will tell if Templeton will be able to help Citrix find its Next Big Thing, but the fact that he's staying on as CEO was one of the year's biggest stories in the virtualization space.

1. Docker Comes Out Of The Enterprise IT Shadows

Few technologies have stampeded onto the IT industry scene with the suddenness and impact of Docker. What's perhaps even more surprising is that Docker is building a business around something that's not new: Linux containers.

Docker makes it possible to build and deploy apps on any type of device or cloud, and its flexibility has made it very popular with developers and organizations that do lots of coding. Containers are also more lightweight than virtual machines, which means they're faster and better performing.

Docker has raised two VC rounds this year totaling $55 million, and seems poised to continue attracting investors attention in the coming year as it tries to turn its technology into a full-blown platform.