Two things have popped up recently. One is VMware’s full page ad campaign in the Wall Street Journal. The ad states that VMware has saved companies billions of dollars, and promises to save them billions more – through the Software Defined Data Center. The second that has has popped is rumors that Cisco is going to acquire Citrix. Which brings up an interesting question. Is buying Citrix part of Cisco’s reaction to VMware’s Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) strategy?

A Brief Review of the SDDC

VMware has successfully virtualized CPU’s and memory. The scheduling and allocation of CPU and memory resources have been taken away from the operating systems that used to perform these functions and have been relocated into the VMware, Hyper-V, KVM, and XenServer hypervisors. The SDDC is about doing the same thing to networking (which is why VMware built the VXLAN features into the most recent version of the vCloud Suite and why VMware acquired Nicira), and storage (which is why VMware is working closely with the storage vendor community to unify storage administration and provisioning in its vCenter console).

The Economic Threat of VMware’s SDDC Strategy to Cisco

While this will take a long time to play out, the end result of moving the control of networking from the Cisco switch to the VMware layer of software will be to relegate the switch to a commodity mover of bits between two end points. The Software Defined Networking (SDN) part of the SDDC is therefore ultimately about taking all of the value that is associated with the configuration and intelligence in networking and moving it from Cisco’s hardware to VMware’s software. So some of the billions of dollars that VMware promises to save customers comes from those customers paying less for Cisco’s switches than they are now. Cisco’s initial reaction to this threat was to fund the Insemi “spin in”.

But for Cisco to just have its own SDN strategy when VMware’s SDN strategy is part of its SDDC strategy is clearly an insufficient answer for Cisco. The VMware SDDC is really a suite of data center management software, of which SDN is only a part. For Cisco to respond to this threat it might need its own SDDC strategy.

Does Cisco plus Citrix equal an SDDC?

If we add the key capabilities of Cisco and Citrix together as they pertain to a SDDC strategy, we see that the combination of Cisco and Citrix creates an almost formidable competitor to VMware. The only missing pieced is a software defined storage strategy, one that Cisco could easily fill with an acquisition of one of the many startups seeking to disrupt the storage management business. The most important part of the acquisition of Citrix, however, might be the Xen hypervisor. That would give Cisco a “thermo-nuclear” option in dealing with VMware. While Citrix was unable to mount a successful challenge to vSphere with XenServer, by virtue of Cisco’s successful UCS business ownership of XenServer would give Cisco some “play nice or else” options when it comes to dealing with VMware. The summary effects of the combination of the two companies is shown in the table below.

HypervisorESXI and vSphereNoneXenServerXenServer
Cloud Management Cloud Automation Center Cloupia & newScale CloudStack Cloupia, newScale & CloudStack
Operations MangementvCloud OperationsTidalEdgeSightTidal & EdgeSight
Software Defined Networking VXLAN & Nicira Insemi None Insemi
 Software Defined Storage vSphere None None None
 Application Delivery None None NetScaler Netscaler
 Terminal Services (SBC) None None XenApp XenApp
 VDI View None XenDesktop XenDesktop


If Cisco were to acquire Citrix, it would immediately boost Cisco’s business via the integration of Netscaler into Cisco’s product line. It would further significantly strengthen Cisco’s hand in positioning vs VMware SDDC strategy. It would also pretty much cement the position of VMware and Cisco as two competing vendors of Software Defined Data Centers.

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Bernd Harzog (340 Posts)

Bernd Harzog is the Analyst at The Virtualization Practice for Performance and Capacity Management and IT as a Service (Private Cloud).

Bernd is also the CEO and founder of APM Experts a company that provides strategic marketing services to vendors in the virtualization performance management, and application performance management markets.

Prior to these two companies, Bernd was the CEO of RTO Software, the VP Products at Netuitive, a General Manager at Xcellenet, and Research Director for Systems Software at Gartner Group. Bernd has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago.

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6 comments for “Will Cisco Buy Citrix in Reaction to VMware’s SDDC Strategy?

  1. December 10, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    If I woke up tomorrow and this was in the news I would not be surprised, of all the rumors about Citrix in the last decade this one is the most viable. A great post!

  2. December 14, 2012 at 2:39 AM

    Excellent post.

  3. Corné van Hoof
    December 16, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Great post, good insights

  4. December 18, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    When VMware bought Nicira, a large virtualization company with aspirations for cloud, bought a niche SDN player, albeit expensive!

    If Cisco were to buy Citrix, it would be a merger of colosal proportions that could easily disintegrate.

  5. December 20, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    These two companies are HUGE! Such a merge would be disruptive in many ways, and maybe most of all within the two merging companies themselves (as noted by Jonathan). Great insight.

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