Xen: The start-up in Citrix clothing

Summary:In the second of our two-part interview, Citrix's vice president for special products, Ian Pratt, describes how the XenSource buyout has affected the virtualisation company, and where Citrix is going with Xen-branded products

It's been a year since Citrix bought XenSource, the company created by the founders of the Xen open-source hypervisor, and integrated the business into its lineup of products delivering applications to desktops.

As part of the process, Citrix made the XenServer virtualisation software central to its strategy, and appointed XenSource staff to senior executive positions.

ZDNet UK sat down with one of those executives, Ian Pratt, Citrix's vice president for special products, to find out how the integration is going and where Citrix is going with Xen-branded products.

In the second half of our two-part interview, Pratt talks about the impact of the Citrix takeover, the competitiveness and future of Xen, and more generally about the prospects for virtualisation in a recession.

Tell me what's been happening in the past year. You've gone from being an independent company to becoming part of Citrix. But from the outside, it sometimes looks more as if Xen has taken over Citrix. Half the company's products have been renamed — Metaframe became XenApp and Desktop Server became Xen Desktop — Simon Crosby is now chief technology officer, and you're vice president for advanced products...
Well, we've benefited from a larger channel. There are 5,000 people selling Citrix. But we don't immediately get 20 times the volume — there's a lot of training to be done. XenSource has been doubling sales every quarter, quite happily. Now, as a start-up we thought we expected to multiply by 100 every quarter, but doubling our sales is just fine.

We are seeing real benefits from integrating with the Citrix technology. We can make sure that [Citrix's] Xen Desktop works well with XenServer, for example. XenSource is now a new division in Citrix, for virtualisation management. The chief executive [Peter Levine] is now a senior vice president — and both Simon and I report to him.

In fact, we haven't changed that much. There is more process in a bigger company, but from an engineering point of view, we are the same set of folks, who wake up every morning, wanting to stick it to VMware. We still have a start-up feeling.

Have you been asked to become more commercial? Have you had to go over to 'the dark side'?
In Citrix, we have not been asked to do anything against our genes. The open-source community has no problem with what we are doing.

Xen.org is being run the same way as it was before — but one thing Citrix has done is to fund a full-time project manager for Xen.org. If Xen got a bad reputation it would not in any way help Citrix.

It's not the only open-source hypervisor, though. Red Hat has been talking of the advantages of KVM, having bought Qumranet, its creator. Among other things, they say it will have long-term benefits from being integrated upstream with the Linux kernel.
KVM is an add-on to the Linux kernel. It's hosted, not a true Type 1 hypervisor. It can never be a true Type 1 hypervisor [a Type 1 hypervisor runs on the bare metal of the server, while a Type 2 hypervisor is hosted on an operating system. Both VMware ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V are Type 1 hypervisors].

With KVM you have the whole of Linux in the trusted layer. That includes...

Topics: Tech Industry

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