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Citrix's frustrating XenServer strategy

SAN FRANCISCO — Citrix Synergy was chock full of news on desktop virtualization and cloud computing this week. But if you were looking for server virtualization news, you had to do a little digging.

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton only mentioned XenServer a couple of times during his Wednesday-morning keynote, and he actually brought up Microsoft Hyper-V first, calling it “a great platform for XenDesktop.” And only one of the dozen or so press releases that Citrix issued at the show focused on XenServer — but that was about a new remote-management product, not XenServer 5.6 Feature Pack 2 or the XenServer 6.0 beta, which both came out last week.

I asked John Humphreys, Citrix’s senior director of product marketing, about this seeming lack of XenServer love. He told me not to read into the number of XenServer mentions in the keynote, pointing out that there was also very little talk about XenApp, and nobody questions Citrix’s commitment to that product.

Fair enough, but still, Citrix’s marketing strategy around XenServer is frustrating, especially when you hear about some of its new features. The biggest enhancement is the self-service manager, which will help organizations turn their data centers into private clouds. It will support XenServer, VMware and Hyper-V, and there will also be some experimental support for connecting to public clouds.

Self-service manager seems like a pretty useful feature for XenServer users and mixed-hypervisor shops. You’d think Citrix would want people to know about it. VMware started talking about vCloud Director more than a year before its release. Sure, that’s probably overkill, but at least you knew that VMware was excited about the product.

I don’t get that same sense about Citrix and XenServer. It doesn’t help that most XenServer mentions come with some sort of caveat, like, “We’d love it if they used XenServer, but…” Citrix’s commitment to choice and openness is commendable, but it shouldn’t stop the company from advocating for its own product.

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