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3/18/2009
11:13 AM
Randy George
Randy George
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Citrix Giving Away XenServer Enterprise For Free, Why?

Citrix just upped the ante on VMWare and Microsoft with its recent announcement that XenServer Enterprise, along with many of its high-availability features, will be given away for free. We caught up with Citrix CTO Simon Crosby to get his take on the new Citrix server virtualization strategy. Read on to hear what he had to say.

Citrix just upped the ante on VMWare and Microsoft with its recent announcement that XenServer Enterprise, along with many of its high-availability features, will be given away for free. We caught up with Citrix CTO Simon Crosby to get his take on the new Citrix server virtualization strategy. Read on to hear what he had to say.Many IT managers view Citrix and XenServer as the odd man out in the server virtualization space. Xen is certainly behind VMWare in terms of name recognition and enterprise customer base. It also has a disadvantage against Microsoft in large, Windows-only environments where Hyper-V is perceived as a natural fit for customers dipping their feet in the server virtualization waters for the first time.

But let's face it, Hyper-V is still maturing as an enterprise hypervisor, and its OS support is limited to Windows, and even its Windows OS support is limited. For diverse environments, that generally leaves the battle for supremacy as one that pits XenServer vs. ESX. With Citrix now giving away what is a very solid enterprise hypervisor for free, along with some high-availability features that are the general equivalent of VMware's VMotion technology for near zero-downtime of virtualized servers, we got to wondering what the Citrix leadership team was thinking in terms of long-term strategy.

We managed to catch up with Simon Crosby, Citrix CTO, to get his take on what's shaking out at Citrix. We asked Mr. Crosby about the genesis of the decision to give away XenServer for free, as well as what exactly is NOT included in the version of XenServer Enterprise being offered for download.

His response: "Offering XenServer free of charge allows Citrix to realize its vision of providing a fast, free, and ubiquitous hypervisor for all customers. The goal is to help customers achieve the benefits of virtualization more easily in this challenging economic environment. This new release of XenServer sets a new standard in the market for free virtualization.

Everything that was previously available with XenServer is now available to customers in the free version of XenServer, including enterprise-class features such as centralized multinode management, multiserver resource sharing, and full, live motion. Customers who wish to add more advanced virtualization management capabilities such as lab automation, dynamic provisioning, workflow orchestration, high availability and seamless integration with leading storage systems also can purchase Citrix Essentials for XenServer, a new product line specifically optimized for the XenServer environment also announced on Feb 23."

If you cut through the official company line, you start to get a feel for what's going. What I see here is a brilliant strategy that really has nothing to do with the "challenging economic environment." It has everything to do with giving tepid server virtualization adopters, along with those unhappy customers of ESX and Hyper-V, a taste of what's available with XenServer with zero risk. Will this strategy work? Sure sounds a lot like the strategy that VMWare used way back in the day to grow its user base. How'd that work out for them?

If Citrix can even siphon away 1 out of 10 customers from MS or VMware, you open up the door for possible implementations of XenDesktop (the Citrix Virtual Desktop solution) and XenApp (formerly Citrix Presentation Server), and that opens the door to acceleration appliances like NetScaler.

While Citrix is still clearly holding out some pretty key features for purchase, this new strategy is certainly sure to put some additional pressure on VMWare to innovate and continue to differentiate itself, and its pricing model, to potential and existing ESX customers.

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