XenServer Enterprise for free?

Anne Jan and I were asked last week ,while doing work at our companies  Headquarters, how we thought about Citrix giving away XenServer Enterprise for free and positions it as “XenServer a complete free Enterprise Virtual Infrastructure solution”. So I asked them what is considered “free” and what are the needs of the customer with a complete data center/enterprise virtual infrastructure?

The question arose because they wanted to know if they made the right choice for a very big company to choose VMware Infrastructure 3.5 Enterprise above  Citrix XenServer.

So looking at what customers answer me when I ask what their requirements are, are for me the best route to go, because customers are the only one who know their organization’s virtualization requirements.

Most given answers I get when I ask for the requirements are:

Need for the automatic restart and intelligent placement of virtual machines in case of failure of guest systems or physical servers.

So system administrators are allowed to get some sleep at night. Not that most I know use that time slot to get any, but that is their choice. (High Availability)

Need for automatic movement of virtual machines from one physical server to another with zero downtime and zero impact to end users. (VMotion, XenMotion)

Need for optimized enterprise environments where resources are used so virtual machines run on the best host at any given time. (Dynamic Resource Scheduling, Dynamic workload balancing )

XenServer selects the optimal host for a new VM at startup, based on available resources. In addition, the built-in alerting and performance monitoring informs administrators when load management actions may need to be performed.

VMware offers intelligent placement on boot, as well as automated or semi-automated load management of VM’s using its Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) feature. I am not a Citrix Expert but I couldn’t find a feature in XenServer or essentials pack what comes close to the DRS feature of VMware.I found an announcement that Citrix will come out with Dynamic workload balancing around Q2’09, but it did not state it will be in the free version of XenServer Enterprise.

Need for live moving virtual machines disks to other storage or storage areas while running with zero downtime and zero impact to end users. (Storage VMotion)

Need for a centralized management tool to keep an overview and manage the datacenter. (vCenter Server, XenCenter)

So best to ask is what are the needs you need to fulfill for the customer and what are his/her expectations. If we only choose because “It’s “ free, why isn’t the whole world using Linux instead of Microsoft Windows as a operating system on servers?

Question I asked myself was: “How is Citrix going to generate revenue now?” It seems to me that Citrix bets on two horses namely be: enterprise support and premium management capabilities. If you ask me that is the same VMware does right now.

Citrix will come out with a new product called Citrix Essentials, features like High Availability and Dynamic workload placement will be in this paid product. Prices will range between $1500 and $5000 per server dependent on the version you choose, enterprise or platinum.

In my opinion I think it is good that we have some major players stirring the virtualization market, that is why the pace of new developments in this area is this fast and innovation must be done to stay ahead of competition. After all a good marketing stunt from Citrix to stir up the place and keep everyone awake.

Bottom line: there is no such thing as a free lunch. ;-)

Also Duncan Epping had the pleasure to answer the subject “XenServer Enterprise for free, now what?” subject, see his blog about it here.

Edit by TAZZ: With the free XenServer 4.5 Citrix offers an enterprise solution with options like HA but with the release of XenServer 5.0, which is scheduled at end of March 2009, they remove enterprise functionality like HA. This will be moved to the Essentials pack which is a paid option ($1500-5000 per server).