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Citrix focuses on choice with XenServer 6.0, Project Olympus

Colin Steele, Senior Site Editor

SAN FRANCISCO -- When it comes to server virtualization market share and features, Citrix Systems and Microsoft have been playing catch-up with VMware for years. But cross-platform management is one area where the two vendors are taking the lead.

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Coming interoperability between Microsoft System Center and Citrix XenServer 6.0, as well as Citrix’s new Project Olympus, reflect the growth of mixed-hypervisor infrastructures, Citrix Synergy attendees said.

“[Organizations are] certainly open to considering another hypervisor,” said Adam Bari, managing director of IPM, a virtualization solutions provider in New York. “The interoperability has to be done.”

XenServer 6.0 and System Center
Citrix disclosed the new System Center integration with XenServer 6.0 earlier this week, during its Summit partner conference. System Center Virtual Machine Manager, which already supports VMware vSphere, will support Citrix for the first time when XenServer 6.0 comes out later this year, as will System Center Operations Manager. And the new self-service manager in XenServer 6.0 will let private cloud administrators manage vSphere pools.

VMware vCenter, by contrast, does not officially support XenServer or Microsoft Hyper-V management, although there is an experimental plug-in, XVP Manager, that manages Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs). VMware dominates the server virtualization market, so its focus on managing its own products may not hurt the company now. But it could in the future, Bari said.

“I can’t imagine it would be good for [VMware], if in fact you’re seeing more server workloads going to competing hypervisors,” he said. “I would think they would open it up a little.”

XenServer 6.0’s self-service manager
XenServer 6.0, codenamed Project Boston, is now available in beta. Citrix said it will add the self-service manager feature to the beta next week. With the self-service manager, administrators can create pools of VMs and workload templates, assign them maximum resource limits and make them available on demand to users and groups thanks to Active Directory integration. Users can deploy the assigned VMs, create new ones using the templates and even build others from scratch.

The self-service manager represents the next phase of virtualization, Bari said. In the early days, it was about making sure the infrastructure worked, but now it’s about how the infrastructure can help employees -- not just IT -- do their jobs better, he said.

“Now that [the infrastructure is] there, what do I do with it?” he added. “Can I do more now?”

Cloud choice with Project Olympus
On Wednesday, Citrix also announced Project Olympus, a new cloud infrastructure product “that will make it easy for you to build a real cloud in your data center,” CEO Mark Templeton said.

“A lot of people today think that by doing server virtualization, you’re building a private cloud,” he said. “But you’re not.”

Project Olympus, due in the second half of the year, is based on XenServer and OpenStack, the open source cloud computing system. It will also support vSphere and Hyper-V. Citrix believes that customers want choice, but the company also realizes that its products must work with competing platforms if they’re to be successful.

“It’s both a religious belief as well as a pragmatic approach,” said John Humphreys, senior director of product marketing with Citrix. “We need to compete for new workloads, both on desktops and clouds.”

Microsoft: What’s in it for Citrix?
Although the close relationship between Citrix and Microsoft is a plus when it comes to cross-platform management, some Synergy attendees said the partnership hinders Citrix’s promotion of XenServer. Templeton actually mentioned Hyper-V in his keynote before he mentioned XenServer, and he called Hyper-V “a great platform for XenDesktop.”

“I still don’t get Citrix’s strategy,” Bari said. “It’s a love-fest with Microsoft.”

Another solutions provider said some of his XenServer customers, who chose Citrix over VMware before Hyper-V came out, are now moving to Hyper-V.

“If XenServer wasn’t deployed, that business would have been VMware’s,” this partner said. “Citrix did a great job helping out Microsoft.”


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