Citrix open-sources XenServer to win over cloud customers

Citrix is giving away the whole XenServer kit and caboodle in an attempt to win over cloud providers and the businesses they serve.

IT departments reevaluating their server virtualization spending have another free option to choose from.

Citrix Systems Inc. today released its XenServer 6.2 hypervisor to the open source community. All of the features previously in the XenServer Platinum Edition will be available at no charge.

Citrix had made parts of XenServer code open source in the past, as part of various cloud computing initiatives, but this marks the first time the entire product has been made available to the community.

"That's pretty substantial," said Francis Poeta, president and CEO of P and M Computers, Inc. a Citrix partner in Cliffside Park, N.J. "It's a great move. They've got to do something."

Competitor VMware Inc.'s pricing has come under fire, but Microsoft's Hyper-V -- not XenServer -- has been the biggest beneficiary. More than 22% of respondents to TechTarget's 2013 Data Center and Reader's Choice survey identified Microsoft as their primary server virtualization hypervisor -- up from 13% last year. XenServer's numbers actually dropped slightly, from 4.1%in 2013 to 3.3% in 2012, while VMware's tumbled from 73% to 60%.

Meanwhile, cloud computing has created an inflection point where organizations are reconsidering how many workloads they need to run in-house and how much money they need to spend to do so. Citrix said its new strategy targets the businesses making these decisions and the public cloud providers serving them.

"There comes a point where they'll look at their environment and say, 'Why are we spending this much money when we're moving everything out to the cloud?'" Poeta said.

The move may also give organizations that run Citrix's desktop and application virtualization software on VMware's virtualization platform a reason to reconsider.

"We are seeing clients definitely reevaluate based upon the licensing costs and based upon how Citrix has baked their entire suite into the XenDesktop solution," said Jon Spallone, lead integration architect at Convergence Technology Consulting, a Citrix partner in Glen Burnie, Md.

XenServer 6.2 features compete against VMware

XenServer 6.2 supports up to 500 virtual machines (VMs) and 4,000 virtual CPUs per host, compared to 512 VMs and 2,048 virtual CPUs per host on VMware ESXi 5.1.This combination of free software and relative feature parity may finally lead some VMware defectors XenServer's way, Spallone said.

"Before, it was, 'Well, I'm not too sure about that.' But today, I can get the same basic thing with XenServer," he said.

XenServer 6.2 also adds support for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

XenServer 6.2 pricing and licensing

Although the XenServer hypervisor is now free, customers will still have to pay if they want support and maintenance. The new XenServer 6.2 licenses offer 24/7 tech support, Subscription Advantage for upgrade rights and the use of XenCenter for automatic updates.

These licenses cost $500 per socket (annually) or $1,250 per socket (perpetual). Citrix previously licensed XenServer per server; customers can convert each of their existing licenses into a two-socket XenServer 6.2 license beginning next month.

The open-sourcing of XenServer marks a return to the hypervisor's roots. Citrix acquired XenSource, which developed and supported the open source Xen hypervisor, in 2007. Citrix continued to support Xen but also built and sold its own enterprise implementation, XenServer. Much of the XenServer code has already been made available through various open source projects.

In April of this year, Citrix handed the Xen support reins to the Linux Foundation. That move and today's news demonstrate Citrix's "ongoing commitment around open source," said Scott Lindars, a senior product marketing manager.

That commitment will help Citrix in the cloud market and sets it apart from VMware, Spallone said.

"They just don't have that history of openness with the community that Citrix does," he said.

Citrix also launched XenServer.org, a community portal where users can access the hypervisor source code, post on forums and communicate with Citrix's product management team and partners.

 

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