Citrix XenServer is now free (XenCenter, XenMotion, Resource Pools and storage management included)

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Last week several bloggers and mainstream journalists reported a major news: Citrix is about to release XenServer for free.
Of course the lack of details generated a number of speculations and confusion that today the company clears up with an official announcement.

First of all Citrix is releasing for free the Enterprise Edition of XenServer.
This is not a scaled down, limited version of the hypervisor. From the end of March on, there will be only one edition of XenServer which will be free.

Secondarily, Citrix is giving away for free with XenServer a remarkable number of enterprise features, including the enterprise console to manage multiple hosts (XenCenter), the VM live migration (XenMotion) technology, the resource sharing (Resource Pools) technology and the enterprise storage management technology.

The comparison against VMware ESXi is immediate (and of course unfair):


The move is a huge hit against VMware.

So far Citrix had difficulties in spreading XenServer not because the product is not competitive: reviewed several NDA competitive analysis that state quite the opposite and Amazon did a superb job with Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to demonstrate that Xen can be enterprise ready and cloud-computing ready.  
The main reason why Citrix is struggling to enter the customers site is because VMware had almost ten years to build a loyal customer base that simply is not interested in considering other solutions because ESX is a great product (the ones that may have some concerns about this point are locked down with multi-year Enterprise License Agreements).

But when Citrix releases such rich enterprise package for free, what company can afford to skip a XenServer evaluation in the current economy climate?
And this is exactly the Citrix goal: give the potential customers the good excuse to try XenServer against ESX.

Additionally it’s worth to remember that Citrix, thanks to its XenApp (formerly MetaFrame and then Presentation Server) is almost everywhere in the enterprise segment.
Now the company can go to each of its customers and give the free hypervisor as a Christmas gift.
And this is why Citrix is also announcing today that XenServer is now included as a core feature of XenApp.

To give further credit to this move may come once again Amazon, which at this point may want to upgrade the Xen hosts on its EC2 facility to XenServer.

The big question is: how Citrix is going to generate revenue now?
The company bets on two things: enterprise support and premium management capabilities.

Not much to say about the first point of the strategy: pretty much like Sun is planning to do with its endlessly delayed xVM Server, Citrix believes that giving away the enterprise edition of its hypervisor will greatly accelerate its adoption, which implies a support agreement for any serious deployment.

For the second point, Citrix developed a new management package called Essentials which includes several most wanted features: the high availability, a virtual lab automation engine (which is the OEM’ed version of VMLogix LabManager), the Ardence VMs provisioning engine (now called Dynamic Provisioning Services), the orchestration APIs (to be used with Workflow Studio), and a new set of technologies that integrates XenCenter with the existing SAN management products (called StorageLink).CitrixEssentials

This last technology is pretty interesting as it introduces four different capabilities that deserve a deeper inspection:

  • StorageLink Gateway enables automated discovery and one-click access to native storage services.
  • StorageLink Resource Manager makes common actions in native storage arrays visible from within the virtualization management environment, including provisioning, snapshots, and cloning.
  • StorageLink Image Manager provides a centralized library of virtual machine images that can be rapidly deployed to any number of target XenServer hosts.
  • StorageLink Connect provides a set of clearly-defined open APIs that make it easy to link XenServer environments to 3rd-party storage solutions and enterprise management frameworks.


Citrix will price Essentials between $1,500 and $5,000 per server and will offer the Essentials package also to the Microsoft customers that are adopting Hyper-V, as part of a renewed partnership agreement with Microsoft (dubbed Project Encore).

The two editions will be available starting April 7, 2009