Will open source virtualization software help Citrix vs. Microsoft, VMware?

As XenServer becomes open source virtualization software, our Advisory Board members weigh in on how it will affect Citrix vs. Microsoft and VMware in the virtualization market.

Citrix Systems is making XenServer open source virtualization software.

The move to open source XenServer is designed to increase market share and help Citrix vs. Microsoft and VMware, the server virtualization market leaders. But critics wonder whether open source virtualization software could do Citrix more harm than good.

Members of the Server Virtualization Advisory Board discuss whether the move to open source virtualization software will help or hurt Citrix vs. Microsoft and VMware as they answer this question:

Will Citrix Systems get a boost in the server virtualization market by making XenServer free, open source virtualization software, or will the proprietary hypervisors by VMware and Microsoft continue to rule?

CJ Metz, Orange County United Way

The attention Citrix has been receiving and the fact that this is a free product will of course give them a boost. I, however, am a strong believer in the idea that you get what you pay for. I have fallen into the trap too many times of relying on a "free" solution only to find hidden costs and limitations abound.

For those individuals looking for a way to ease into server virtualization, this is a great way to do so. Although this free solution will not work for all organizations, it appears to be a better out-of-the-box solution than ESXi, when compared side to side. I would say that if this product meets all your organizational requirements, then get it.

While this will be a great solution for some individuals, I believe that VMware and Microsoft still have a lot to offer. VMware as a company always seems to be ahead of the virtual curve, offering the best and newest technologies to mass market first, and this should be a major consideration. Also, don't forget that VMware and Microsoft have similar "free" offerings, should you decide to go down this road.

Orange County United Way is a VMware shop.

Eric Siebert, Boston Market

Going open source and giving XenServer away for free is not necessarily going to make their product any better than it is now. If anything, it may make future development of XenServer more complicated and difficult. When I heard this, my first thought was that Citrix is giving up on XenServer and conceding to VMware and Microsoft. This move by Citrix is in response to them recognizing that their market share will steadily decline as VMware maintains its dominance and Microsoft slowly continues to steal market share away from both VMware and Citrix.

It sounds like Citrix is trying one last roll of the dice in a desperation move to try and boost their market share. The big problem for Citrix, though, is their product is not evolving as fast as ESX and Hyper-V are. VMware and Microsoft continue to develop new features and improvements at a very rapid pace that Citrix is unable to match, and going open source will not help Citrix with this. While XenServer is a decent product, just as Novell NetWare was, it will probably suffer the same fate as NetWare and slowly fade away and become a footnote in the history of virtualization.

Eric Siebert is a VMware vExpert for 2009, and he maintains vSphere-land.com, a VMware information site.

Shannon Snowden, New Age Technologies

Citrix fell into the trap of allowing VMware to dictate what features are important on XenServer and rushed to add them in because of perceived competitive disadvantage.

However, from what I have seen when working on projects and delivering virtualization presentations all over the country, the reality is different. For example, the majority of the audiences run ESX, but only a fraction actually implement High Availability (HA). Many organizations decide not to pay for HA because the virtual machines were originally physical Windows machines that had expected downtimes.

Citrix seems to be carving out a unique path for XenServer and getting away from falling into more traps. The idea of Essentials for Hyper-V creating seamless virtual machine hosting between the two platforms positions XenServer to grow along with Hyper-V for specific use cases. Open sourcing proprietary code to Xen.org helps accelerate the Xen Cloud Platform and positions XenServer as a viable cloud platform.

New Age Technologies is a Citrix, Microsoft and VMware partner.

Dave Sobel, Evolve Technologies

Reading the tea leaves for moves like this is one of the most difficult things we can do. Moves to open source cause a lot of positive buzz but don't necessarily result in higher penetration. Source code alone does not make a product better. Open source projects that have been very successful are driven by a community of users that push the product forward.

If Citrix can successfully build a community around their product, they are going to achieve deeper success. Microsoft and VMware have a significant advantage. VMware has an established customer base and a reputation to trade on, and Microsoft has a motivated, extensive partner base and the willingness to take this space. Releasing the software for no cost -- which is already done by both Microsoft and VMware -- and making the source code available is not enough to change the market.

However, if Citrix can build that community around its release, they could create very powerful alliances with existing open source projects (for example, Linux) and have a significant, distinguished competitive advantage.

Evolve Techologies is a Microsoft Certified Partner.

Have a question for the Server Virtualization Advisory Board? Email Colin Steele, Site Editor.

This was first published in November 2009

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