Citrix offers cut-down XenServer for free

The company plans to give away the XenServer hypervisor, but will hold back certain key management features
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Citrix on Monday upped competition in the virtualisation market with the announcement that it will provide a version of its XenServer hypervisor for free.

The software will be available for download by the end of March from Citrix's website, the company said. Users can get a single server instance of XenServer, said Simon Crosby, chief technical officer at Citrix. The release will include multi-node management, resource sharing between several servers and full live-motion features.

However, Crosby told ZDNet UK that the free edition "will not include some features that we will continue to monetise".

Not included will be Workflow Studio orchestration, which is a tool used for automating common tasks, and StorageLink, which allows managers to directly provision virtual machines. To get these, users will have to buy Citrix's Essentials for XenServer package, which is priced at $1,500 (£1,000) for the Enterprise Edition, and $5,000 for Platinum Edition.

Jason Greschler, director of systems centre management at Citrix's longtime partner Microsoft, said: "We welcome this move, which is in line with our ethos that these tools should be fast, free, compatible and ubiquitous."

Microsoft already offers its own hypervisor, Hyper-V, for free, together with a cut-down Server Core installation of Microsoft's Windows Server 2008.

Also on Monday, Citrix announced a deepening of its collaboration with Microsoft on server virtualisation, in an effort called 'Project Encore'. The first results of this project will be the release of Citrix Essentials for Microsoft Hyper-V on 7 April. The virtualisation management package will include tools such as storage integration and hypervisor interoperability for virtual machines based on both Hyper-V and XenServer.

"We see Citrix Essentials as a powerful extension that enables customers to accelerate their Hyper-V adoption in the enterprise in much the same way Citrix XenApp has extended the Windows Server platform for nearly 20 years in the application delivery arena. Microsoft also will work to ensure that a future release of Microsoft System Center will support Citrix XenServer for customers with mixed Hyper-V and XenServer environments," Mike Neil, general manager of virtualisation strategy at Microsoft, said in a statement.

The Citrix announcements came the day before the start of VMworld Europe, a conference sponsored by and closely associated with VMware, the market leader in virtualisation software. VMware also offers a free hypervisor package, based on its ESXi product.

Virtualisation is growing fast, according to analyst firm Gartner, which has predicted that global revenue from virtualisation software will grow by 43 percent in 2009, hitting $2.7bn (£1.9bn), compared with $1.9bn in 2008.

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