What if Citrix XenServer was free?

What if Citrix XenServer was free?  Technically Citrix XenServer is already free, so is Hyper-V and so is vSphere, but these are all limited feature editions (marketing) and no large enterprise is deploying free editions of any of these for production workloads.  What I’m asking is what if Citrix XenServer Platinum edition was free?  Or what if Enterprise edition was free and lab management, site recovery, and provisioning services, and CloudStack were the only pay for features?

VMware vSphere is the undisputed (by me) leader in the hypervisor market for server/os virtualization because of:

  • Technical resource availability
  • Tier 1 application support
  • 3rd party solution integration and API’s (storage, network, etc)
  • Completeness of solution

Notice that I’m not comparing point features when looking at the different hypervisors on the market.  In my mind the features, while different in implementation and ease of use they are all essentially the same or will be soon, they’re not today but get closer with every release.  When I look at the hypervisor solutions on the market I’m more concerned with:

  • whether I can find skilled people to implement and support the technology
  • whether ISV’s will support the underlying hypervisor for their applications
  • whether backup software can use API’s and not lock LUNs or require crazy Larry storage designs with a LUN for every virtual hard disk
  • whether integrated anti-virus software solutions are available
  • how security software is made hypervisor aware
  • what monitoring solutions are available and can they report on the hypervisor health as well as understand the virtual workload on top of it

…All of which all leads to completeness of solution and add-on components like lab management, hybrid cloud, and site failover/DR.  These are all areas where VMware squarely beats its competition and long-term Microsoft will have a lot of influence with their ISV network to build on and into Hyper-V…but where does that leave Citrix and XenServer?  I believe there are many individuals and companies today that embrace the open source community and will continue to extend Xen for the service provider environment, but will that be enough for the Enterprise?

When the Enterprise customers I talk to today are pinched for money and are looking at other hypervisors the solution which keeps being mentioned is Hyper-V…”because it’s free” or “included”.  There is rarely mention of Xen or XenServer in this conversation.  Which brings me to the reason I wrote this post, what if XenServer Enterprise (which admittedly offers WAY more than free edition of Hyper-V and VMware) was FREE.  How would that change customer behavior?  Would it at least cause people to take a second look at XenServer?  What if they threw in a copy of CloudStack for cheap and built some management packs for SCOM?  Would that appease the Microsoft centric crowd?

Citrix is counting on XenServer and Xen to prevail (and it is) as the hypervisor for public cloud, they’ve even gone so far as to blog about it http://blogs.citrix.com/2011/08/19/citrix-not-focused-on-server-virtualization-thats-absolutely-correct/ but I fear they might be overlooking the shorter-term play which is happening now which is hybrid cloud.  In the conversations I’ve had with customers and services providers it sounds like most are interested in the service provider running on the same hypervisor that they use internally, and 90% of the time that’s VMware vSphere.  So if Citrix wants a part of hybrid cloud I feel like they need to be in the Enterprise datacenter…and if they want to be there they’ve got a better shot at it if their price is $0.  Next week is VMworld, great time to take a shot across VMware’s bow.

XenServer Features
Free virtual infrastructure
XenServer hypervisor x x x x
IntelliCache x x x x
Resilient distributed management architecture x x x x
VM disk snapshot and revert x x x x
XenCenter management x x x x
Conversion tools x x x x
XenMotion live Migration x x x x
Advanced management and automation
Distributed virtual switching x x x
Heterogeneous pools x x x
High availability x x x
Memory optimization x x x
Performance alerting
and reporting
x x x
Dynamic workload
x x
Host power management x x
Live memory
snapshot and revert
x x
Provisioning services (virtual) x x
Role-based administration x x
StorageLink x x
Web self-service with delegated admin x x
Automated VM protection
and recovery
Lab manager with
self-service portal
Provisioning services (physical) x
Site recovery x
Cost per server Free $1,000 $2,500 $5,000

One thought on “What if Citrix XenServer was free?

  1. I tested both hyperv and Xen when vmware anounced the V5 licensing.
    I spent one day with hyperV, the fact that I still had to apply “standard” windows server patches turned me off.
    I still have Xen on my test server, and think it could be a fit for our remote sites.

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