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Microsoft and Citrix play the VHD card

At a press event on Monday, Sept. 10, Microsoft Corp. told reporters that Citrix has agreed to use its Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format as the basis of its virtualization products, including its desktop server and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) connection broker.

That should come as no surprise, since Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc. are so close and since XenSource Inc., which Citrix recently acquired, already uses VHD as well. But in a later conversation with David Greschler, a Microsoft’s director of virtualization strategy, it became clear that the use of VHD will extend far beyond its desktop server.

You see, Microsoft today ships four broad kinds of virtualization, the company maintains: server virtualization in the form of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, to be followed by Windows Server Virtualization (a technology preview of which will be available by the end of the month); desktop virtualization with Virtual PC; application virtualization with SoftGrid; and last but not least, presentation virtualization in Terminal Services. With XenSource and Ardence application streaming, Citrix too offers four types of virtualization.

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, released last week, will be the glue that ties these disparate virtualization products together, and as Greschler explained it to me, the common use of VHD enables that.

Greschler also spoke about Microsoft’s internal work to bring virtualization to the forefront of technologists’ consciousness. “When I would say, ‘Virtualization is as big as the Internet,’ people would roll their eyes,” he said. “Educating 70,000 [employees] worldwide is a hard thing to do,” he said, but added that the message has started to sink in. “These days there’s a lot of awareness at Microsoft about the importance of virtualization.”

And the game is far from over, they say, citing some highly dubious IDC numbers on virtualization penetration (less than 5% of servers worldwide are virtualized). The fun, in fact, is just beginning.

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