As every virtualization professional on the planet knows, Citrix develops a commercial version of the Xen open source hypervisor called XenServer. On top of that, the company also offers management and VDI solutions for Microsoft competing hypervisor: Hyper-V.
While Citrix reiterated for years now that it’s fully committed to continue XenServer development, and its newest releases definitively confirm this trend, a number of people believes that at a point in the future the company will drop its own platform to support only Hyper-V.
Maybe Citrix contemplated the idea in the past, but at this point it’s less likely than ever: Amazon EC2, currently powered by the Red Hat implementation of Xen, is leading the public cloud computing adoption effort, while the new OpenStack orchestration framework launched by Rackspace, which supports Xen out of the box, has good changes to become a key platform in the race for private cloud computing.
Two years ago Red Hat announced its intention to replace Xen with KVM and the plan is being executed as expected: the company released a new KVM-based virtual infrastructure (Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization or RHEV) and the upcoming Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6.0 will be the first distribution to not include Xen.
So Amazon has two choices for EC2: it either develops its own Xen distribution, or it embraces the one of another vendor.
In the second scenario there is not much choice: Citrix, which leads the development of Xen since the early beginning, Oracle, or Novell, even if the company may be switching to KVM too.
The adoption of XenServer represents a huge opportunity to cash in for Citrix. It may sell the Platinum edition of the hypervisor, which has been recognized as an enterprise grade virtualization platform, licensing hundreds of thousands of virtual machines to Amazon.
Additionally it’s worth to highlight that Amazon is recognized as a leading example in the hosting industry, so that hundreds of smaller hosting providers may mimic the company in the adoption of XenServer. And this translates into an exponential revenue increase for Citrix.
On the private cloud computing side, Citrix secured a key partnership with Rackspace for Openstack, and the two already announced that the product will support XenServer and the Xen Cloud Platform (XCP) going forward.
It doesn’t really matter if OpenStack will support Xen, XenServer or XCP: in every case Citrix will have additional opportunites to win enterprise data centers.
In such scenario, it wouldn’t make much sense for Citrix to abandon Xen and just work to build value on top of Hyper-V.
Despite that, the analysis firm Ovum reports something rather interesting about what Citrix believes about the future.
The summary of a report released in November 2009 in fact says (emphasis added):
…Xen’s prospects in the enterprise are limited by the squeeze it faces from VMware’s dominant ESX/ESXi hypervisor and Microsoft’s increasingly competitive Hyper-V hypervisor. Citrix has predicted that eventually its virtual server business will mostly be based on Hyper-V rather than Xen. Oracle is Xen’s best chance for a long-term enterprise future, but even Oracle faces a battle to build up its small virtualisation business. Novell also has only a small presence in server virtualisation, and, in any case, may split its attention between Xen and the KVM hypervisor…
Unfortunately, there’s no way to review the report, unless you want to pay £924 of course, and verify if Ovum included a source for verification in its analysis.