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Microsoft, Citrix no longer sponsoring VMworld after dustup with VMware

Rivals claim VMware unfairly limits competition at industry conference

By , Network World
August 25, 2009 05:04 PM ET

Network World - Microsoft and Citrix are not sponsoring next week's VMworld virtualization conference and are maintaining only a limited presence at the show due to conflicts with rival VMware.

You won't see Microsoft's newest virtualization tool at VMworld

VMworld, though hosted by VMware rather than a neutral party, has become perhaps the most important virtualization conference in the IT industry. Nearly 200 companies, both partners and competitors to VMware, will be sponsoring the show or exhibiting products at the upcoming conference in San Francisco. 

But Microsoft and Citrix, who once embraced VMworld, are claiming that VMware is unfairly limiting competition at the show, a charge VMware denies.

Microsoft and Citrix have both served as “gold sponsors” at past VMworld conferences, including the September 2008 show in Las Vegas and the February 2009 show in France.

But for next week’s conference, Microsoft and Citrix are no longer sponsors and are listed merely as exhibitors. According to Citrix, VMware denied its application to become a sponsor at this year's show because the companies do not have an official partner agreement. Additionally, Microsoft claims new restrictions on vendors will prevent it from demonstrating its System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 at VMworld, and Citrix claims VMware is forcing it to reschedule a Citrix Technology Professionals summit meeting so it doesn’t overlap with VMworld.

VMware denies that its sponsor and exhibitor policies are anything out of the ordinary for an industry conference, and has said it does not aim to limit the rights of competing vendors to exhibit technology at VMworld.

Still, a spokesperson for Citrix claimed in an e-mail to Network World that “VMworld guidelines prohibited Citrix from being a sponsor.”

“VMworld is a proprietary event run by one vendor,” Citrix vice president of marketing Kim Woodward said in a statement. “At the end of the day, they have every right to change the rules in any way they wish. Citrix respects that and will fully comply with the terms of our show contract with them. When it comes down to it, if customers want a more open event, they will have to give that feedback directly to VMware or vote with their feet by attending other shows that don’t restrict competitors.”

It’s no surprise that Microsoft and Citrix are taking the same stance, given that the companies have a tight virtualization partnership as they attempt to unseat VMware in the x86 virtualization market. Competition has been heating up in the past year, and the strategy of Microsoft and Citrix has been to tie their management products together so that customers can use one management platform for both hypervisors.

The issue over VMworld restrictions first arose in May, when it was reported that VMware modified its sponsor and exhibitor agreement to say that products exhibited at VMworld must be “complementary to VMware products and technologies.” At the time, VMware told Network World that despite the new language “competing vendors [will be] allowed to exhibit, including exhibiting competing products.”

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