Citrix Puts the Xen Brand Everywhere, Previews XenServer 4.1
Published: February 12, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
It has been four months since Citrix Systems finalized its $500 million acquisition of open source hypervisor creator XenSource, and the company is beginning the process of weaving the Xen and Citrix product lines together to create synergies. Citrix is also working to get its channel to peddle the XenServer tools while at the same time putting the finishing touches on XenServer 4.1, which went into public beta this week.
With XenServer 4.1, Citrix is working to integrate its Xen hypervisor and the tools that wrap around it with the sophisticated snapshotting and replication software that is already part of the popular disk arrays that are in use by businesses today. This is a slightly different approach than that taken by the juggernaut in the server virtualization space, VMware, which has created its own virtual file system, snapshotting, and replication tools as part of the Virtual Infrastructure 3 stack that wraps around its ESX Server hypervisor.
Simon Crosby, chief technology officer at the Virtualization and Management division of Citrix, has agreed with many of us for years that the proper place for the virtualization hypervisor is down in the system. (which is why XenSource announced a flash-based hypervisor for embedding in server hardware last year). And with the XenServer 4.1 update to the Xen products, Crosby is going one further and saying that the proper tools to manage such sophisticated high availability and replication functions already exist in data centers inside of disk arrays. "We like a model where the storage-related functions stay in the storage array," explains Crosby. "This is less software for us to write, and customers already trust their storage hardware and related software." It is a sure bet that disk array makers and the enterprise customers who are already using hardware-based snapshotting and replication tools are going to be very keen on this approach too. Particularly since it doesn't cost them any extra money.
XenServer 4.1 is in public beta now, and Citrix is hoping to ship it in March. The initial release will hook into the storage features of Network Appliances's network-attached arrays and its OnTap array software.
The XenServer 4.1 update will include more than 50 new features, including support for Windows Server 2008, which Crosby says was a bit tricky to implement since Microsoft has removed the hardware abstraction later used in Windows NT Server, Windows 2000 Server, and Windows Server 2003. "Getting optimized performance for Windows Server 2008 was quite tricky, but we have done it," says Crosby. The XenServer 4.1 update will also include support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapters, 64-bit Linux guest operating systems, and Ethernet network interface bonding.
XenServer currently comes in Express, Standard, and Enterprise editions, but with XenServer 4.1, Citrix is adding a Platinum edition that rolls a copy of XenServer Enterprise together with the Citrix Provisioning Server to allow dynamic provisioning of physical and virtual servers, including hypervisors other than the Xen hypervisor that Citrix now controls. XenServer Platinum Edition will cost $5,000 for a two-socket server, and that license will allow it to provision physical and virtual machines on up to three physical servers. (In other words, you can provision on the server on which Platinum Edition runs as well as two more extra boxes. Once you need to do more than three servers, you have to buy another license to Platinum Edition.) XenServer Enterprise Edition costs $3,000 for a two-socket box, Standard Edition costs $900, and the Express Edition is free. Each successive edition includes more features, thereby justifying the higher price. This is how VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 stack is sold as well, and for slightly higher prices as well.
Citrix also said this week that XenServer has been optimized to support virtual instances of the former Citrix Presentation Server, the popular software that is used by enterprises the world over to allow employees to have remote access to server-based applications. Crosby says that there are over 800,000 servers worldwide running Presentation Server, which is a very large installed base. "While VMware says that it owns the virtualization of Presentation Server, we aim to take that back," says Crosby.
You begin to see why Citrix was willing to shell out so much cash now. The acquisition has already helped push XenServer up to 2,500 customers and after only three months, the software is now certified to be sold across 1,600 channel partners.
Citrix also announced this week a new product called Delivery Center, which wraps together the XenServer and XenDesktop hypervisors for servers and desktops, respectively, and the existing NetScaler load balancing and caching software and XenApp (formerly Presentation Server) into a single package.
Virtualization Software Player Announcement Roundup
Citrix Closes XenSource Deal, Does Deal with Dell and Xen Desktops
XenSource Offers Embedded Hypervisor for Servers
Citrix Buys Virtualization Challenger XenSource for $500 Million
The X Factor: Virtualization Belongs in the System, Not in the Software
VMware, XenSource Push Out Beta Virtualization Products
The X Factor: Virtual Server Sprawl
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