Citrix has reached for the checkbook again, announcing that it has snapped up virtual storage purveyor Sanbolic. In doing so, it has completed its lineup of virtual infrastructure technology building blocks.
Sanbolic, founded in 2000 by Momchil Michaylov and Eva Helen and privately funded, is the maker of software-defined storage platform Melio 5. Melio 5 combines commodity server hardware, directly attached flash, SSDs, and HDDs, and presents them as a SAN. This combines multiple servers’ storage resources into a single resource pool for scale-out and availability while providing RAID, remote replication, quality of service, snapshots, and systems functionality through a software layer.
According to Geir Ramleth, Citrix SVP and chief strategy officer, Citrix plans to integrate Sanbolic’s product portfolio with XenDesktop, XenApp, and XenMobile. This combined product suite will address VDI infrastructure complexity issues and improve the application delivery process. According to Ramleth,
“Infrastructure complexity continues to hinder VDI and application delivery deployments. By leveraging Sanbolic technology with XenDesktop and XenApp, Citrix is able to address this problem head-on, delivering solutions to our customers that simplify the infrastructure and reduce the overall cost of deployment and management.”
While Sanbolic has been one of Citrix’s partners for a long time, the solution that Melio provides replicates a solution that Citrix implemented in 2010 and 2011, with the roll out of high-performance desktop virtualization at scale. This solution has also been addressed by VMware and a host of third-party innovators.
Sanbolic has a role to play in extending the availability of the storage infrastructure supporting Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS) and offering it as part of a single integrated solution. This will provide assurance to customers that they will be able to get all the moving parts to work together successfully. However, if Citrix’s goal is to simplify VDI, adding another component to the DIY stack isn’t the best way to do it. A better approach is to take a leaf out of VMware’s EVO playbook and define a hyperconverged platform spec, combining compute, storage, and networking. Citrix CEO Mark Templeton’s Summit keynote speech introduced the Citrix WorkspacePod. While he confirmed that the WorkspacePod includes Sambolic storage, Citrix has not released the full specifications for the product. Templeton did show off an HP-powered WorkspacePod using HP’s ProLiant Moonshot platform and the HP ProLiant SL4540 server during his presentation. This demonstrates Citrix’s different approach in this space from VMware’s. Where VMware’s EVO:RAIL uses a standard appliance model, Citrix’s HP implementation combines two different hardware platforms to make a single WorkspacePod. This may be suitable for large deployments, but it’s over the top for a business needing a few hundred desktops. It’s likely that WorkspacePod will include lower-end offerings with reduced specifications, scaling down to more off-the-shelf, appliance-style platforms. Expect additional WorkspacePod offerings from other vendors like Dell, Fujitsu, Supermicro, and Lenovo. Templeteon says that a WorkspacePod technical preview will be available in Q1 2015.
Looking beyond desktop virtualization’s squeaky wheel, a better answer as to why Citrix needs Sanbolic is to round out its virtualization suite. Citrix already had application, desktop, network, and process virtualization before the Sanbolic acquisition and was only missing virtual storage to complete the core platform services. The deprecation of StorageLink in XenServer 6.2 means Citrix needed something to put a checkmark in the virtual storage box. I’m sure it won’t be too long before Citrix gets the checkbook out again, this time to buy the rights to the XenStorage trademark. What I don’t expect to see is Citrix continuing to promote Melio’s broader abilities to work with KVM, Hyper-V, and vSphere (as a vSphere Storage Appliance). These abilities won’t go away, just as XenApp and XenDesktop are both supported on vSphere and Hyper-V. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised when Citrix adopts a XenServer-first approach and starts promoting Melio as “Better on XenServer.”