Dell and HP pledge support for Citrix XenServer

As long-standing Citrix and VMware partners, Dell and HP will now resell XenServer on their respective x86 server lines.

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If it's Xen from Citrix Systems Inc. that you want, you'll soon be able to buy it directly from major server OEMs, including Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

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Coinciding with the beginning of iForum, Citrix's annual conference in Las Vegas, HP and Dell both announced that they would resell XenServer, Citrix's new name for XenSource's XenEnterprise. Earlier this week, Citrix announced that it had completed the acquisition of XenSource Inc., the primary developer of the open source Xen virtualization platform.

We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to get virtualization software from the hardware vendors.
Doug Strain,
product manager for virtualizationHewlett-Packard Co.

Thin-client manufacturer Wyse Technology Inc. also announced yesterday that in addition to VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, its thin clients will also support Citrix XenDesktop, which uses Citrix's own Independent Computing Architecture remote display protocol; VMware VDI relies on an alternate protocol, Remote Desktop Protocol.

Wyse and Citrix are also co-developing a new class of thin clients designed for XenDesktop deployments, which will include features such as instant on/off, integrated user assistance, a richer display, and low power consumption (of between 5 watts and 14 watts), said Jeff McNaught, Wyse founder and chief marketing officer.


Server options
While XenEnterprise has been available from both Dell and HPs' software divisions, these reseller announcements signal the first time that the companies will sell XenServer bundled on tested and qualified systems.

HP will resell XenServer Standard and Enterprise, plus support, on select members of its x86 rack-mount HP ProLiant and BladeSystem server lines. Those HP servers that the company will qualify will emerge over the next 30 days, said Doug Strain, HP's product manager for virtualization, starting with "a prioritized list of our more popular models," such as the rack-mount DL380. "Our two-processor blades are pretty high up on the priority list as well," he said.

Going a step further, Dell will sell its PowerEdge servers with XenServer OEM edition pre-installed starting in the first quarter of 2008. The new Dell Veso servers will also ship with a pre-installed hypervisor, but only VMware ESX 3i. Veso is expected to ship in the final months of 2007.

Why would a customer purchase Citrix XenServer rather than other third-party virtualization platforms? Executives at both Dell and HP were careful not to endorse XenServer over other offerings, namely VMware.

"We're not trying to take anything away from VMware," HP's Strain. "But we believe that the virtualization market is growing very rapidly, and we want to make it as easy as possible for customers to get virtualization software from the hardware vendors."

Rick Becker, vice president of software solutions in the Dell product group, emphasized customer choice. "We're committed to simplifying IT and providing the customer with depth of choice," Becker said, noting that in addition to offering Citrix XenServer and VMware, Dell also intends to offer Microsoft virtualization software when it becomes available.

HP's Strain downplayed a cost advantage to XenServer over VMware. "XenSource charges differently than VMware, but we believe it's a small part of the overall equation," he said. "It may be a factor for some companies, but it's only one of many factors."

A bigger issue, Strain said, is how well the virtualization platform works in a customer's environment. "Sometimes it's the application that dictates the choice," he said, citing, for example, everRun FT, a fault-tolerant clustering application being developed for the Xen platform, but not for VMware, from Littleton, Mass.-based Marathon Technologies Corp..


Xen momentum
By acquiring XenSource, there's little doubt that adoption of the open source virtualization platform has accelerated. Last week, still under its own auspices, XenSource announced that it had surpassed the 1,000 mark and that it had served up more than 25,000 downloads of its free XenServer Express.

By joining Citrix, the momentum should only continue, said Simon Crosby, XenSource founder and CTO. "Now we have access to the entire Citrix reseller channel: 5,000 compared to our 350. That looks very exciting to us in terms of what sorts of numbers we can put on the board," he said. "We're going in to battle against VMware in a much more scalable way than we could before."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director.

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