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Citrix XenServer 5.0 Upgrades For High Availability, Cloud Computing

The latest version contains 130 new features for high availability, performance, and ease of use, including disaster-recovery features for a failed virtual machine.

Citrix this week updated its XenServer software to the 5.0 version of the hypervisor, with additional supporting management tools. It's also launching its own foray into virtual machine operation in cloud computing.

The new version shows concerted effort to chase market leader VMware with frequent upgrades. Version 4.0 came out last year, with the most recent upgrade, XenServer 4.5, released in March 2008.

XenServer 5.0 contains 130 new features for high availability, performance, and ease of use, said Simon Crosby, CTO of Citrix's XenSource unit. Citrix is adding high-availability and disaster-recovery features to XenServer, where a failed VM, its operating system, and application can be recovered and started again.

High availability in XenServer extends to the management tools now embedded in the hypervisor, Crosby said in an interview. XenCenter Management System is included at no extra charge, and it can assign tags or metadata to VM workloads, depending on their level of priority. The tagging prevents VM sprawl, where running virtual machines do little work because the administrator has lost sight of them. The management system can search for and sort the virtual machines running on a server, based on quality-of-service requirements or other criteria, Crosby said.

For highest levels of recoverability, Citrix is partnering with Marathon Technologies, whose EverRun product not only recovers and restarts the virtual machine and its software stack but the application data as well. EverRun monitors the exchanges between a running virtual machine and its hypervisor, detecting when work is interrupted and moving the VM to a healthy server, Crosby said.

To take advantage of the EverRun plug-in for XenServer, a Citrix customer must be an Enterprise- or Platinum-level user of XenServer.

XenServer sells for $900 per server, with no change in pricing for up to four-way physical servers, a price point Citrix describes as "a fraction of the cost of other leading products." Adding EverRun protection to XenServer Enterprise or Platinum editions is an additional $2,000.

Citrix is also expanding its Delivery Center VM infrastructure management software with cloud computing additions. The Citrix Cloud Center includes XenServer Cloud Edition, and management software to provision and tear down virtual machines for running them in Internet-based cloud centers as opposed to on-premises in the enterprise.

Included in Citrix Cloud Center is NetScaler, which optimizes application performance in the cloud, WANscaler to bridge between enterprise and the cloud, and Workflow Studio to manage workflows between the enterprise and cloud resources, Crosby said. With such tools, it will be possible to stage "cloudbursts," where spikes in workload shift some traffic to the cloud to maintain service levels and user response times, he said.

Virtualization is certain to become ubiquitous in the data center and on enterprise desktop deployments, but the road to comprehensive, smoothly managed environments could be bumpy. The InformationWeek Analytics virtualization report assesses the current state of virtualization management from the perspective of business technology professionals, offering in-depth analysis and user perspective. Download this InformationWeek Analytics report to plan or evaluate virtualization at your organization (registration required).

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