Microsoft declares war on Cisco

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Microsoft declares war on Cisco

Conflict to centre on the 'critical battleground' of the branch office.

Microsoft's recent alliance with Citrix Systems to develop wide area network (Wan) optimisation technology represents a declaration of war on Cisco in the "critical battleground" of the branch office, Gartner has reported.

According to the analyst firm, the Redmond giant's tie-up with thin client firm Citrix is the culmination of a "long-simmering rivalry" with Cisco, and has the potential to transform the Wan optimisation market.

The comments come after Microsoft and Citrix announced an expansion of their established partnership that will result in a jointly developed and marketed Citrix-branded branch office box.

Gartner said that this product is scheduled to ship in the second quarter of next year and will be based on Citrix's WANScaler product line gained through its recent acquisition of Orbital Data, and on Microsoft's Windows Server and Internet Security and Acceleration Server.

"Microsoft clearly considers Cisco a significant threat to its dominance in the enterprise software market, and views the branch office as a critical battleground for application and network architectures," stated a Gartner advisory.

"Cisco and Microsoft have avoided direct competition until recently, but the merging of networking, security, storage and applications made this confrontation inevitable.

"Microsoft is launching new networking capabilities within Vista and the 'Longhorn' version of Windows Server, and is pursuing partners in the voice arena, for example Nortel."

The analyst firm also believes that there will now be much more conflict between Cisco and Microsoft, a battle it originally predicted in 1997.

"Microsoft is building a team of networking vendors to compete with Cisco. Citrix brings credibility in branch office application delivery through its Presentation Server and NetScaler products," the Gartner report stated.

"By adding Orbital Data, Citrix now has an end-to-end application delivery family that is broader than Cisco's.

"With a rapidly expanding portfolio, good strategic partnering and software-centric channels, Citrix is a serious competitor and potential roadblock to Cisco's aspirations to control application delivery.

"The future WANScaler appliance promises to provide Wan optimisation, content distribution, security and branch office services.

"When combined with Microsoft's marketing might and strategic customer relationships, this product is likely to quickly appear on prospective customers' shortlists once it is released."

Gartner believes that Microsoft's tie-up with Citrix will change the selling dynamic for Wan optimisation controllers, branch office boxes and, to a lesser degree, application delivery controllers.

"Because Cisco will not be the default choice, we believe its influence is likely to weaken. In addition, sales cycles will are likely to lengthen, and smaller vendors will find selling tougher," Gartner stated.

However, the analyst firm went on to predict that the Microsoft/Citrix partnership will face "some challenges" as the published product delivery date is "very aggressive".

Given these concerns it advises firms to continue their existing business-critical Wan optimisation implementations because its estimates that the Microsoft/Citrix product is 18 months away.
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