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XenServer Goes Open Source: Will It Hurt Hyper-V?

Citrix this week has taken the latest step in its open source onslaught by throwing its XenServer hypervisor platform into the mix. The move offers an affordable alternative to virtualization suites from Microsoft's Hyper-V, which is starting to gain appeal with the latest version released last fall, as well as from VMware's hypervisor and cloud management platforms.

Although parts of Citrix XenServer were already open source, the company yesterday released the entire product to the community via The new XenServer 6.2 release, which boasts substantial performance and scalability improvements, is the same software as the open source Xen, which Citrix released to the Linux Foundation back in April. The move is also consistent with the Citrix push to open source much of its IP including last year's release of its CloudStack cloud compute platform to the Apache Foundation.

"We are making the Citrix XenServer the commercially supported version of the open source [Xen] product," explained Krishna Subramanian, vice president of product marketing for Citrix Cloud Platforms group. "There's nothing to change when you go from the open source aversion to the Citrix version. It's just a license key change."

Looking to broaden appeal for Citrix XenServer, the company is slashing the cost of subscribing to the pay version, which gives administrators support from Citrix. The entry fees are now $500 per socket, compared with an earlier initial cost of $2,500. Citrix is also now offering perpetual licenses starting at $1,250 per server. That provides all the features in its Platinum version, its highest level of support. The company is removing the SKUs providing all the features offered in Platinum, Subramanian said.

I asked Subramanian what impact this might have on Citrix's revenue and her response was by lowering the cost of implementing the high-end version of its hypervisor platform, more shops will find it a viable option. Hence, Citrix believes it will make up the loss by increased overall volume.

"All the features you can get in the highest end version in the past are all available in the open source Xen server, are now in Citrix XenServer," she said. "It is one SKU and is the commercially supported version of the free Xen server. That makes the value proposition of [Citrix] XenServer very, very strong, because now at a fraction of the cost of the alternative, less than half, even a third of the cost of alternatives, you'll have an enterprise grade virtualization solution."

Scott Lindars, Citrix senior product marketing manager, noted with over 1 million downloads of the free Xen open source hypervisor platform he believes many of those are prospects to now license Citrix XenServer, where in the past it may have been cost-prohibitive.

"Now we have that huge base that's already using free and will continue, and there's a compelling reason for them to think about moving to the paid version," Lindars said. "We see this as a big upsell opportunity and expect a groundswell of users going from free to paid."

Does Citrix believe this give shops eyeing Microsoft's Hyper-V and Cloud OS platform tied to System Center 2012 and Windows Server 2012 a reason to reconsider? Subramanian noted Citrix considers Microsoft a key partner and the company supports Hyper-V, adding that 90 percent of common workloads are Windows based. Those who want to use the complete Microsoft stack will go with Hyper-V, she said, while others who don't want to be tied to System Center will consider Citrix XenServer.

"This is not something we're positioning against Hyper-V," she said. "Most customers that use Hyper-V go with System Center and buy the full Microsoft management stack. Customers that don't want to do that and want to have an open orchestration and management platform that runs on a hypervisor and they don't want to commit to a Microsoft stack but still see value in XenServer."

As I noted last week, 61 percent of 1,153 respondents to Redmond magazine's 2013 Reader Survey said they use VMware for virtualization, while 44 percent said they use Microsoft. Citrix also came in strong with 29 percent, while 12 percent chose Oracle and 8 percent Red Hat's KVM. Subramanian believes this move makes XenServer immediately more attractive to shops running Windows Server since KVM requires Linux.

IDC analyst Al Gillen told me last week Hyper-V's that share has increased to a 28.4 percent share of the hypervisor market, up from 24.6 percent a year earlier but noted very few organizations are ripping out their existing hypervisor platforms.

"With Windows Server 2012, there aren't many customers who would look at it and say it's not ready for prime time," Gillen said. "A lot of the share gain we're seeing is [for new installations] rather than a replacement effect."

While most experts predict Hyper-V will gain share in the hypervisor market, I'm wondering what impact the Citrix move will have on potential siphoning from growth of Hyper-V. Does the Citrix move change your thinking? Drop me a line at

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/25/2013 at 1:15 PM


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