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What future for XenServer?

January 11, 2010

At the beginning of a new year there are many predictions about market trends and supposition about what products could have success or not on the next months.
What about Citrix Xenserver? During the last year Citrix has adopted some commercial strategies that have led many observers (some of them very distinguished) to believe that Citrix in 2010 would no longer develope its hypervisor, but it would appear that things are not nearly so, let’s see why …
Some days ago (I know, it was the last year yet…), Simon Crosby, Citrix CTO of Virtualization and Management division, wrote a post Xen is Dead, Long Live Xen (Remix) that had a great echo and was quoted by many famous blog about Citrix, from Brian Madden to virtualization.info websites.
Simon replied to all the people who predict the imminent demise of XenServer;  Brian Madden, some months ago said: “Citrix will drop the open source Xen hypervisor for Hyper-V. The rest of the open source world drops Xen for KVM.” But it was only june 2008. Simon is especially critical against Alex Barret, News Director at Techtarget.com, who said: “I also predict that Citrix will stop spinning its wheels with XenServer, its Xen-based server hypervisor, and release it entirely to open source. Citrix has already made moves in that direction, for example, announcing in October that it would open-source several core XenServer components but has thus far refrained from giving up on XenServer entirely.
But the writing is on the wall for XenServer. In the two-plus years since Citrix acquired XenSource, it has consistently failed to make a dent in the server virtualization market, despite being largely free. Depending on whom you believe, Citrix XenServer’s market share stands somewhere in the single digits. And now, the general availability of Hyper-V R2 marginalizes XenServer even more. Citrix’s own development efforts show that XenServer is low on the totem pole of its virtualization offerings. In sales of its XenApp desktop virtualization suite, the company happily supports not only Hyper-V but also VMware ESX Server as the back-end hypervisor. And in its latest release of Citrix Essentials 5.5, it added a key feature – StorageLink Site Recovery – to the Hyper-V version months before the XenServer version is expected. Citrix has publicly committed to rolling out another major version of XenServer in 2010, complete with memory overcommit. Perhaps that, more than a lower price, will jumpstart adoption. But, in my view, the window of opportunity for XenServer has already closed, and Citrix will cut its losses sooner rather than later.

Simon Crosby replied that “Citrix XenServer added over 35,000 new customers in 2009 in the virtual infrastructure category alone, and we saw over 200,000 downloads of the product within three quarters. XenServer is also a fully supported feature for every one of the ~200,000 customers of Citrix XenApp, and we have seen tremendously strong uptake in the core Citrix business virtualizing XenApp. XenServer is also merely a feature of XenDesktop, and is currently the supported platform for Netscaler VPX. In the delivery of Virtual Desktops XenServer is critical to XenDesktop because it outperforms every other hypervisor for desktop workloads (yes, including ESX – and even when VMware’s sub-optimal memory optimizations are turned on). XenServer is also the only alternative to VMware that meets 100% of the Burton Group’s requirements for enterprise production virtualization.
XenServer is incredibly strategic for Citrix. Our development goal for next year is to be able to optimally deliver over 100,000 virtual desktops. To successfully do so requires us to be able to deal with over 10GB/s of sustained block I/O for desktop OSes, deliver over 100Mb/s of 3D desktop traffic, and offer the fabulous “HD” user experience for which Citrix delivery solutions are renowned. In doing this, we will also be the pre-eminent virtual infrastructure platform for private and public clouds.

Don’t forget that 2010 is expected the year with a large adoption of VDI and cloud computing (be care with predictions, as we can see above…), so the new version of Xenserver could be a very strategic step to increase the performance of many Citrix products, expecially for XenDesktop.
So, long live Xen!!

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