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Citrix XenServer Virtualization Platform Now Free 259

Pedro writes "Citrix announced today that they are giving away their Xen OSS based virtualization platform XenServer with all the goodies included for free. The big highlights are XenMotion, which lets you move VMs from box to box without downtime, and multi server management. The same stuff in VMware land is $5k. They plan to sell new products for XenServer and also the same stuff on Microsoft's virtualization technology called Hyper-V. It will be interesting to see what VMware does. The announcement comes the day before VMware's big user event VMworld."
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Citrix XenServer Virtualization Platform Now Free

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  • heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:02PM (#26961073) Homepage Journal

    I like the marketing for this The enterprise-class features you need at none of the cost. [] I'm thinking this is a pretty big deal.

    • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jaavaaguru ( 261551 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:09PM (#26961177) Homepage

      This is definitely a big deal, and it's pretty good timing too for Citrix. I bet this has got VMWare rushing to re-think some of what's going on tomorrow at VMWorld.

      We currently use VMWare's solution, but will be having a serious look at this option as a way of cutting costs.

      • I'm downloading it now, will be testing it out by tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing how performance looks compared to VMware Server, especially on relatively low-powered virtualization hosts. I haven't been all that unhappy with VMware, but the UI in VMware Server 2 is glitchy to say the least.
        • Re:heh (Score:4, Informative)

          by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:49PM (#26961593) Homepage

          While you're at it, download ESXi [] to be fair. VMware Server is no comparison with the Enterprise products and comparing it against XenServer would be unfair at best.

          Now, in counterpoint, you DO have to pay for the advanced features of ESXi that are free in XenServer, but at least you'll have a fair comparison to work with.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) *

            That's the kicker isn't it? If the two are even close to even then XenServer just crushed it. Where I work we run ESXi - but they can afford it. It's nice to know if I wanted to do something on my own and I couldn't, that I would have options.

            • by morcego ( 260031 )

              Just because they can afford it doesn't mean that money wouldn't be better used somewhere else. Maybe you can even get a raise ?

          • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

            But if your budget is 0, then xenserver is a viable alternative to vmware server..
            That it can also compete with esxi while still being free is a big extra point in its favour.

          • Hopefully he'll have better luck getting ESXi installed on his hardware than I did. My test server was on the list of 'supported' machines for ESXi, and it still wouldn't install.

            Out of curiosity, what does one use to manage ESXi if you're not willing to shell out for VMWare Infrastructure? Does it have a web GUI management setup like VMWare Server?
            • Out of curiosity, what does one use to manage ESXi if you're not willing to shell out for VMWare Infrastructure? Does it have a web GUI management setup like VMWare Server?

              VMWare Infrastructure Client. It's missing a lot of the fun features like live migration, but you can work around it using SSH most of the time.

          • VMware Server 2 is glitchy to say the least

            I haven't found anyone who actually likes it. Web based is not a destination folks, it's only a road. Don't take it if you're driving a Ferrari, the bumps will ruin the trip.

  • I've been waiting several months (through multiple missed release milestones) for Sun to get a xVM Server [] general release out. I'm still running a bunch of VPS nodes under VMware Server in the meantime, and I'll probably be in the ground before Sun's product is released.

    It's really a shame, considering how much I like xVM VirtualBox.
    • xVM is a brand, not a technology. xVM server is Xen with a Solaris dom0. xVM VirtualBox is VirtualBox, which was bought and rebranded by Sun. There is also the UltraSPARC hardware hypervisor, which uses the xVM brand. All three are entirely different and unrelated technologies. The xVM brand just means `VM stuff supported by Sun'.
      • For some people, that Solaris dom0 part is pretty important. I'm keenly aware that xVM is a brand, and would like Sun to get the bare-metal xVM server product released before the end of the decade.
        • by pyite ( 140350 )

          For some people, that Solaris dom0 part is pretty important. I'm keenly aware that xVM is a brand, and would like Sun to get the bare-metal xVM server product released before the end of the decade.

          You can already do the Solaris dom0.

          irish@gondor:~$ uname -a
          SunOS gondor 5.11 snv_101b i86pc i386 i86xpv Solaris
          irish@gondor:~$ sudo xm list
          Name ID Mem VCPUs State Time(s)
          Domain-0 0 4680 4 r----- 152664.6
          ubuntu 28 1024 2 -b---- 14249.7

  • Main XenServer site. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ( 1195047 ) <philip.paradis@p ... net minus author> on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:11PM (#26961201) Homepage Journal
    Here's the link: Get it while it's hot [].
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:14PM (#26961237)

    As I've pointed out before, the reason many organizations use VMWare is because it just works. Their stuff is solid, and it works in mixed environments real well. Unless they've made some major improvements, Xen has the problem of being only good at Linux on Linux. If you run Linux servers, and want Linux guests, it's great. However it is not good at Windows as a guest, and of course can't run on it at all. While I've never used Hyper-V, I'm sure it is the same for Windows.

    However VMWare isn't a problem like that. You can run VMWare on Windows or on Linux (or Mac for that matter). On either platform, it'll run pretty much anything as a guest OS and run it well. Linux, Windows, Solaris, etc all work great and they've got native tools for most platforms.

    That's really valuable to us. We aren't interested in playing around with what OSes we can and can't run on our virtual servers. We aren't interested in fiddling and tweaking to make shit work. We want to install it and go.

    There's also a whole bunch of other tools/features VMWare has that are really slick, but the OS support is a big one. Unless Xen gets good at supporting Windows as a guest, and by good I mean no problems, high speed, native tools, etc, it just doesn't compare. Same deal with Hyper-V. It may be the best thing ever for Windows on Windows, but if it's Linux support isn't equally good, then I don't see it as threatening VMWare.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:26PM (#26961367)

      VT changed the game. Nowadays Xen (and others like Sun's VirtualBox) runs Windows just fine.

      It's sad to notice that both VMWare and Citrix are neglecting building non-Windows management clients by the way :(

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 )


        Ask [] and ye shall receive []

      • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:50PM (#26961599)

        1) Requires new hardware. VT is only available on newer Intel processors. So if you have an older server, and many people do, it isn't suitable for that purpose. That will become a non-issue eventually but at this time there are still lots of servers that aren't.

        2) In my experience with toying with it, it still has problems with Windows like occasional random crashes and such. VMWare seems as solid as if you are running on real hardware, Xen seems to have additional problems.

        Again, it comes down to the "It just works," thing. If you have the hardware that can support it and are willing to tool around and maybe deal with problems, ok then. However if you don't want to do that, then VMWare is what you want.

        • Well, I guess by some definitions the Pentium 4 / Pentium D processors would be considered 'newer' (november 2005 for the P4, 2006 for the Pentium D), but I wouldn't think that would be new for production hardware. Except for Intel's bargain bin stuff, even the Core 2 processors since Conroe have had VT support. Unless someone's interested in hosting a virtual server farm on a batch of used P2/P3 Proliants they picked up from eBay I don't think this isn't such a valid concern.
        • VT is only available on newer Intel processors

          VT is only available on newer Intel processors, but there is a similar set of extensions (also supported by Xen) in newer AMD chips. Newer, in this case, means that if your company is on a three-year rolling upgrade program for hardware then most of the machines you own will support it.

          It also sounds like you have only compared VMWare to the open source Xen, not the commercial XenSource / Citrix version which includes a number of management tools and Windows drivers that make things `just work' for Wind

        • by Eil ( 82413 )

          1) VT Extensions have been available in AMD and Intel chips for around 3 years now. XenServer is an enterprise-grade solution, most people who are genuinely interested in deploying it in a production environment are going to have the resources to run it.

          2) Did you actually run Citrix XenServer in your testing? I expect they've tested it pretty well given that running Windows on it is one of their bigger bullet-points. (Also, I admin a datacenter full of Windows machines... it's not very stable in the long r

      • VirtualBox runs windows pretty well, but it can't run OSX at all. VMWare can.
    • by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:43PM (#26961543) Homepage

      The other thing to think about is actual support... as in picking up a phone and calling someone when something breaks.

      Sure, with a good admin that's rarely a problem... but that 1% of the time you actually need it, you're 100% glad you've got it!

      I've managed VM farms since ESX 1... now I have a rather nice ESX 3.5 farm I manage. We've recently gone into an head-to-head between Xen and VMware running Xenapp servers. You know what? We're still buying VMware. Make of that what you will.

      Personally I find the Xen product interesting, but still fundamentally missing the "mainframe-ish-ness" of VMware, even out of the box. I love the fact that I reboot my VM hosts only when I patch them, and even then I haven't lost a guest since ESX 3.0 (as in, it went down unexpectedly). I also love the fact that it's well-supported with a fantastic range of third-party products that make my job easier. I also love the fact that the one time we actually needed someone on the other end of the phone, I was able to get one of the developer leads of ESX on the phone with only about 15 minutes of troubleshooting with lower support and have him help us sort through the issues (which ended up being a bug, BTW).

      When I was trying to do the Xen test, I got no support from Citrix since they wanted to charge me for the call (VMware didn't), and even when I had a problem I told them that it was a serious issue that would impact this head-to-head they told me I needed to give them a credit card number before I could get anyone to even listen to the problem. So much for support.

      Disclaimer: I'm a firm believer in using the "best tool for the job", whether it's free software or commercial. The simple fact is that in my job, commercial software often wins out despite the cost because companies want someone to look to when things go wrong and are willing to pay for the privilege.

      • by Kent Recal ( 714863 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:50PM (#26961601)

        So, VMWare gives you free support for their paid product but citrix charges you for support on their free product? Boggles the mind.

        We are currently doing a similar head-to-head and so far it seems that for the ESX license costs alone we can hire two full-time admins and buy plenty of support from citrix when needed. YMMV.

        • The problem was probably that he was talking to their support department. If you ask for free support for an evaluation from the *Sales* department you'd probably get more traction. I've never had any problem getting support pre-sales. Of course I work for a 5 trillion dollar company, so YMMV. (p.s. Even though the company I work for is huge, we sometimes have problems getting support post-sales... Again, YMMV)
        • Oh I agree, YMMV... as will anyone's. It depends on what you want to do with your infrastructure. VMware still excels in the management of virtual machines, managing as an enterprise rather than a discrete set of virtual hosts.

          Part of it is also supportability. VMware is supported by third-party vendors as well to a significant degree. As a result, third-party support and tools are incredibly good (I run a few from Veeam) and finding a solution to a particular problem is usually really easy.

          I would advise e

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by danlor ( 309557 )

          Please specify where i can hire a citrix admin for 5k a year salary... forget two.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by harmonise ( 1484057 )

            That's $5k for each ESX host license, plus $5k for Virtual Center to control it all, plus licensing costs for SQL Server or Oracle for Virtual Center's back end database needs. If they have 30 hosts or more then the licensing costs can be substantial.

          • Please specify where i can hire a citrix admin for 5k a year salary... forget two.

            India :P

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by mysidia ( 191772 )

            No realistic deployment of the ESX enterprise edition costs less than $10,000. You have to buy a minimum of one $5000 license, for each server, plus, you have to buy additional licenses for each server that has more than 2 CPUs; you can only apply these in increments of 2, so if your server has 7 CPUs, you will have to buy _5_ $5000 licenses for that server.

            Also, the management server costs are $5000 at least. I'm not counting the licensing costs for SQL Server, or another copy of Windows to run man

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by sniperu ( 585466 )
        VMWare is the only vendor that has never disappointed as far as support goes. If you have one of them gold/platinum (whatever) contracts and you open a high priority issue with them, you WILL get a knowledgeable support person on the other end of the line in less than 10 minutes. Having problems with a VMWare (or other vendor) cluster is equivalent to having a few racks of physical servers on fire. Knowledgeable, efficient support is the only thing saving your ass.
        • I've been really happy with 3ware for RAID hardware... their support is what keeps me, even if they aren't quite the highest performance... support and service means a lot to me.
      • by cexshun ( 770970 )
        The free version of Xenserver does not include HA, which is crucial in our environment. Also, no load balancing servers on Xenserver. We need the ability to move a VM to a new server for load balancing purposes. Considering these 2 factors, We will not be leaving ESX anytime soon.
        • The free version of Xenserver does not include HA, which is crucial in our environment.

          To be fair, does the free version of VMware include HA?

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      Yup. I run vmware-server on my linux box (free for personal use). It is the only free solution around that:

      1. Doesn't require anything more than a 386 on the host (ie works on 2+year old CPUs).
      2. Doesn't require anything special in the guests to make them run (at least minimally).
      3. Doesn't need to be attached to a console of some kind to run (ie runs detached in the background).

      I'm not aware of any other solutions that meet these criteria. I messed around with VirtualBox, which works fine except that

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by eagle486 ( 553102 )
        I run the VirtualBox headless all the time: "VBoxHeadless -s XP1" and I connect to it with rdesktop. It is running on an old P4 2.4, so can't say if it would run on a 386.
        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Thanks for pointing this out. I didn't manage to discover this when I was messing around with it (granted, this was also a while ago). I'd certainly prefer a GPL solution - I'll have to check this out again some day.

      • Use VBoxHeadless from the command line to launch a non-windowed VM, then use tsclient (Linux) or Microsoft's Remote Desktop client (Win, Mac) to connect to the console.
    • It may be the best thing ever for Windows on Windows

      Steve Balmer and Bill Gates check into a hotel...


    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      > You can run VMWare on Windows or on Linux (or Mac for that matter).

      And bigger installations run Vmware on Bare metal.

      And that's where it REALLY shines.

    • Actually, you're dead wrong. Xen runs Windows servers very well (2003 R2 and 2008). In fact, I have managed to get a stable and reliable AD configured on Xen VMs, which is far more than I could get while attempting the same thing on VMware. Xen has been much easier to install than ESXi, even when using VMWare-approved servers, and from my small-shop experience, the performance has been better.

      SQL Server 2005, MOSS 2007, Exchange 2007 - these all run without issue under Xen 5, using Server 2003 R2 or Server
    • As I've pointed out before, the reason many organizations use VMWare is because it just works.

      Just don't try to uninstall it. I have a box that I had been using since 2002 completely melt down after I uninstalled a copy of VMWare. It required a full nuke and pave to rebuild the OS...
    • Unless they've made some major improvements, Xen has the problem of being only good at Linux on Linux. If you run Linux servers, and want Linux guests, it's great.

      But XenServer is a Bare-metal hypervisor, like ESXi, correct? There is no 'Windows on Linux' or 'Linux servers'. There is a hypervisor, and the guest operating systems run on the hypervisor.

      Am I wrong? Are you talking about something else?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

        Kind of. Xen is a hypervisor, but it runs a single guest in a more privileged mode ('domain 0') which is used to run device drivers and the management interface. Newer versions[1] decompose this, allowing you to run the management tools in one guest and device drivers in others, and if the hardware has an IOMMU then the guests running drivers are only slightly privileged and can't compromise the system. At present, Linux, NetBSD, and Solaris can all run as domain 0. I seem to remember someone with a sou

    • I originally thought VMWare would be great. I tried, as did a few other Linux gurus, to get VMWare working properly in our scenario. We all found it to be an abomination. True, we were using the "free" stuff, but I don't trust any company that offers a broken product for free and then tries to pull a bait and switch. I respect your like of VMWare, but please don't misinform people. It does not just work.

      OTOH VirtualBox OSE (Open Source Edition) works flawlessly for me out of the box (i.e. repository),
      • I respect your like of VMWare, but please don't misinform people. It does not just work.

        then you're the exception that proves the rule. VMWare *does* just work, I've used they free version in production on 6 servers and I've had zero problems with it. Read all the other posts in this story and you'll find you must have done something wrong, maybe try it again.

        But if you're happy with VirtualBox, then there's little point migrating.

        • Yes. What you say makes perfect sense. Even though Linux never, ever, ever crashes until VMWare is installed, it just works. I, and the several others I mentioned, are each the sole exception that proves the rule.

          I'm guessing your a Windows guy. That could explain why you didn't experience problems, and also why you think it "just works". Hey look ma! VMWare just works. Now I can have multiple VMs to provide crash fanout! OOPS it crashed! Must be Windows, 'cause VMWare "just works."

          ... and if yo
    • Umm.. You don't run VMWare ESX or XenServer either one *on* Windows or *on* Linux. They're considered "bare-metal" hypervisors: []

      I have multiple Win2k8 Server installs running happily on XenServer5 now. Works very well.

  • Certification games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:38PM (#26961501) Homepage
    A major issue with virtualization in the enterprise is certification by various enterprise software vendors. If your entire platform stack (hardware, Virtualization, OS, etc.) (can you believe we actually have platform stacks now? Geez...) isn't certified, you just give them an excuse to not support you. VMWare has made some solid inroads here, but the last time I saw Xen on the list of certified platforms for something I was integrating was, oh, I'd say never. Not to say such apps don't exist, but they certainly aren't anywhere near what one would call ubiquitous. For many companies, paying the ridiculous price of VMWare is worth it for this reason alone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Reapman ( 740286 )

      Perhaps... but that argument reminds me a lot of the days of networks like Novell and other similar systems like Banyan.

      Eventually other apps will become certified on other hosts, and once that door starts creaking open more and more will jump ship. VMWare should be worried, maybe not for the short term, but definitly for the long term.

    • Recently Microsoft didn't support products running inside of VMWare. You told them that, they'd say replicate the problem outside of VMWare then we will support you.

      For the most part, they support VMWare today. That is very nice to have. XEN would have to gain such support, imo, to be viable.

    • (can you believe we actually have platform stacks now? Geez...)

      Yes. Easily.
      IBM have been doing it for as long as they've been selling "computers."

  • Not quite all.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by BuhDuh ( 1102769 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @04:40PM (#26961517)
    the goodies OP would have us believe are actually included. From this story []

    In another move to counter VMware's lead, Citrix will offer its XenServer software free starting in April. One or two high-end features from that product, including the high-availability features, will be moved to Citrix Essentials for XenServer, but many of the existing capabilities will be available for no charge, said Citrix CTO Simon Crosby. Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V and Citrix Essentials for XenServer each will be priced at US$1,500 to $5,000 per server, depending on the features selected, Crosby said.

  • They want you to use it and depend on it so you buy support and additional product. In my opinion, if you're running an enterprise virtualization platform for critical tasks, you'd be an idiot to do it without a support contract.

    So if you need support anyway, how much of a difference is this vs. buying VMware with support?

    I'm not buying that they "tend to win" in a head-to-head with VMware. Sorry. The market numbers (and the fact that they're now giving it away) doesn't really support that. To compete, I su

  • For those of us who are out of date, what is XenServer USED for?

    I understand VMs, I've tinkered with them a bit but I don't understand XenServers practical application.

    Can someone give a usage scenario?

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @05:53PM (#26962449) Homepage Journal
    We recently did a re-evaluation of our virtualization tech, and VMware won out over Xen. The simple reason: VMware can run Windows on machines that don't have hardware VT. Sure, if we wanted to immediately replace every single server with a new one containing a new cpu, that'd be different, but in this economy you don't really want to throw away perfectly good hardware that still runs VMware at a very nice speed. Xen requires hardware VT, or you aren't running Windows guests, period. VMware doesn't care; it uses hardware VT if you have it, or it does software virtualization otherwise.
    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:54PM (#26963781) Journal

      Is it really a saving? VMWare uses binary rewriting on CPUs that don't have AMD-V or VT-x. This imposes anywhere from a 10% speed penalty upwards, depending on how much time your code spends executing privileged instructions. A server CPU that doesn't support HVM will be from early 2006 at the latest, meaning that its raw performance and especially performance-per-watt numbers are going to be huge compared with modern systems. I wouldn't be surprised if you could consolidate at least four of your existing systems onto a single unit if you upgraded, giving significant savings in terms of power and space usage.

      Whether you use Xen or VMWare, the TCO comparison between buying new hardware and running on pre-HVM hardware is not so clear cut.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by saleenS281 ( 859657 )
        VMWare's software implementation was FASTER than the first gen hardware implementations by Intel and AMD...
  • Nice... (Score:2, Funny)

    What about the poor bastards like me who paid for Xen? I wonder if they are planning a refund program, or just a life lesson "Tough Shit" program!

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.