Citrix Gives Enterprises Free Path to Attainment of Xen

Would an enterprise be more likely to deploy a virtual solution if it were free? That is the question Citrix has asked with the unveiling of a new version of its XenServer virtualization platform that the company will offer free of charge at the end of March.

The software, available to any user for unlimited production deployment, will include new features such as centralized multi-node management, multi-server resource sharing and full live motion, according to Citrix.

“These series of announcements have been the plan from the start for Citrix, and before at XenSource we talked about how the virtualization platform would need to be free and that it would be cross-platform and that it would be workflow management on top of the platform that would matter to users. That’s what solves customers’ problems,” John Humphreys, senior director for virtualization and management marketing at Citrix, told LinuxInsider.

“This was long the vision of the founders and the company even before the acquisition. We see this as a real opportunity for Citrix to expand its footprint and accelerate the already strong adoption we have with XenServer products and really shift the basis of competition over to that advanced virtualization management stack that we think matters most to customers,” he continued.

Full Functioning

The software — deployable in 10 minutes, according to Humphreys — will offer full multi-node management for an unlimited number of servers and virtual machines and include physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual conversion tools, centralized configuration management and distributed management architecture.

The Live Motion and Multi-Server Resource Sharing feature incorporates XenMotion technology to all virtual machines to be moved from one server to another without service interruption and zero downtime. It also includes Citrix’s Hypervisor Engine as well as fast bare metal performance that supports an unlimited number of servers and virtual machines with near native performance on most application workloads and little overhead in both Microsoft Windows and Linux environments, Citrix said.

The free software also includes integrated storage management that supports any existing storage system and includes built-in features such as host-based logical volume management and dynamic multi-pathing capabilities.

“This is not some starter edition meant to get you playing around with the technology and upgrading. We fully expect there will be customers out there who will take the free version of XenServer and use that version to solve all their virtualization and consolidation use cases inside their organization,” Humphreys pointed out.

Stopping the Juggernaut

The no-charge offering is aimed squarely at market leader VMware, according to James Staten, a Forrester Research analyst.

“[This] was a shot across the bow of VMware’s juggernaut,” he said.

While hypervisors have been available for free, the new XenServer software which include live migration and multi-node management, providing features not available in the free version of VMware ESX. Also, live migration will not be available in Microsoft Hyper-V until Windows Server 2008 RS is released, Staten noted.

“This last move is part of a larger overall strategy to move the Xen community forward and redefine compatibility and interoperability. At present, Xen community members can distribute compatible Xen derivatives that leverage a common hypervisor engine, the guts of what makes a hypervisor capable of hosting virtual machines. But most of the higher level functions, like storage and security integration and management and automation infrastructure, are not part of this standard engine,” he said.

“Thus, incompatibilities reign among the Xen distributions. Try migrating an Amazon Machine Image over to Sun xVM and then to Oracle VM to see what I mean. Or try discovering and managing VMs running atop Citrix XenServer with your Virtual Iron tools,” Staten continued.

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