Microsoft and Softricity, some thoughts about the impact
Brian Madden provides some useful insights into the affect of Microsoft’s intention to acquire Softricity. I for one believe this is a really big deal as it will bring virtualization technologies into the mainstream. One of the things that has held virtualization back is the fact that every enterprise has had to package it’s own applications. With Microsoft behind Softricity it’s likely we will see a good proportion of enterprise desktops with the Softricity client installed and once that happens we can expect software developers to provide Softgrid packages as a matter of course and this will be a very big deal indeed. Mainstream use of virtualized applications will mean that applications will increasingly be seen as similar to data, ie we will be able to copy them from machine to machine as we upgrade or move offices, it also probably means that we will hopefully see some innovations around licensing, with more applications being linked to the individual than to the device.
I am really excited about the prospects because whilst Java and .NET also promise easy application provisioning/installation, minimise dependencies on the client operating system and don’t affect the integrity of the operating system we still have tens of thousands of legacy applications around which are crying out for Virtualization. Until this announcement by Microsoft virtualization was just not a big enough market for many of these legacy application suppliers to take notice of.
Softricity also brings some great management products to Microsoft, in particular their streaming and Internet facing software distribution and metering technologies. These will be great solutions for enterprises that need to deliver pre-configured applications to un-managed or partially managed desktops and we may well see software developers streaming their applications directly to users, and automatically maintaining them with the latest patches and upgrades, a sort of thick client version of the previously only web based Software as a Service trend.
Brian Madden doesn’t think this is too big an impact on Citrix as a company, but I do I think it will drive Citrix into an even smaller niche as enterprises see client side virtualization as meeting some of the needs that they currently use Citrix Presentation Server for and of course it disrupts or kills Citrix’s own virtualization product. The comments on Brian’s blog post provide an excellent discussion on the impact.
A few weeks ago I was raving about Altiris and their SVS product, now I see SVS having a very limited life.
One final point is that this is great news for Microsoft provided they aggressively drive adoption as widely as possible because it will greatly simplify the application compatibility issues that hold people back from deploying new operating system versions, it will also reduce the testing lead-times for Microsoft. This dual affect with probably increase adoption rates, re-invigorate windows as a platform and provide Microsoft with more time for innovation. It also probably means that Microsoft could provide many of its own applications (Office 2007 etc) as a service.