Citrix and VMware Want to Turn Data Centers Into Clouds

As the VMworld conference kicks off in Las Vegas, expect to see virtualization try to hook its star to cloud computing much like a tired stripper might lure a lucky gambler into marriage. Since virtualized servers act as the basic building blocks of cloud computing — and hypervisors are moving towards free — the move on the part of virtualization vendors to push beyond the marketing message of server consolidation into providing services to enable the cloud is both a logical and necessary one.

Citrix, maker of the open-source hypervisor XenServer, announced today a series of products designed to help enterprises build and manage computing clouds. The application delivery company released a cloud-optimized version of its hypervisor along with adaptation on its NetScaler and WANScaler products. Combine those three elements with a dashboard and you have Citrix’s answer to cloud computing. You also get Citrix’s plan to make money off the free XenServer hypervisor.

VMware launched a similar array of services today as well, called vCloud, but the VMware vision is delivered from more than 100 partners, including Cisco and BT plc. The goal of both product launches is to create a compute cloud that can function within an enterprise network or be delivered from outside the coporate network to smaller companies, and to take virtualization beyond server consolidation.

To make cloud computing work for enterprises, vendors are pushing four things: a hypervisor, a load balancer to automate and manage resource allocation, a WAN optimization effort or some type of eye into the network to make sure services are delivered efficiently, and a way to manage all of this in one place. VMware takes that one step further by also offering applications as part of its vCloud that are already optimized for virtual environments, although they seem more targeted at startups or smaller businesses that don’t already have enterprise-class software.

With Microsoft (S MSFT), Citrix (S CTXS) and VMware (S VMW) all pushing beyond hypervisors and increasing server utilization, the virtualization battlegrounds looks like they will shift to the data centers underlying the cloud, as well as to the desktop.