Now that Citrix is about to release of XenClient, and the product seems to get serious attention, other companies offering client hypervisors have a problem.
This includes, for example, Virtual Computer and Neocleus which both offer a Xen-based bare metal virtual machine monitor (VMM) for consumer laptops since a few months.
While Citrix will not offer all the capabilities of these competitors in the first version of XenClient, it’s still true that its product will be available for free.
Competitors have two choices: try to compete with XenClient or drop their own Xen implementations and build on top of it (which is what Citrix probably wants).
The first choice implies a major effort since the startups above don’t have as much resources as Citrix for R&D and marketing. And more than that, they don’t have a powerful ally like Microsoft, that may step-in at some point in the near future and further help the adoption of XenClient.
On the other side, remaining independent allows these companies to potentially deliver innovation faster than Citrix, gaining enough brand value and market share for a successful, future acquisition.
The second choice instead allows the startup to offload the development costs of the client hypervisor to fully focus on the uniqueness of their offering (remote management for Virtual Computer, out-of-band security for Neocleus) but locks them in the Citrix development lifecycle and features roadmap.
There’s a third company that may be involved in this game: HP, that acquired HyperCore, another Xen-based client hypervisor, from Phoenix Technologies just this month.
HP and Citrix have been good virtualization partners so far, so it’s unclear why the OEM preferred to buy its own platform rather than build on top of XenClient. Probably it’s because HyperCore is designed to boot from the BIOS while XenClient is not.
Virtual Computer is a special candidate for the adoption of XenClient since Citrix is an investor in the company and may influence the management decision about this.
The startup already considered this option as viable as soon as XenClient will mature enough.
Before dropping its own Xen implementation anyway, Virtual Computer has a nice, potential exposure window that can leverage, courtesy of the current XenClient popularity.
And this is probably why the company is finally releasing a free version of its product NxTop.
Starting today the Virtual Computer client hypervisor is available free of charge. The offering also includes the management console, NxTop Center, capped to maximum five managed computers. This is more than enough for personal use and it’s likely the offering will attract a number of IT administrators that may use the five computers limit to deploy a very small proof of concepts.
Like any competitor, NxTop only runs on selected supported hardware. Virtual Computer offers a downloadable tool, called NxTop Ready, to verify your machine against the existing Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). It’s available only for Windows operating systems.
The management product instead is offered as a virtual appliance for Microsoft Hyper-V. This means that customers need to have a working and licensed installation of Windows Server 2008 / R2.
Of course customers can convert the virtual appliance into another format and run it on their hypervisor of choice, but at the moment Virtual Computer only supports Hyper-V.
The current version offered for free is 2.1 Release Candidate 2 (build 7427).