And what a release it is. When we started this journey several years ago, the goal of the XenServer team was to create the industry’s most comprehensive and open, bare metal virtualization solution on the planet. By nearly every measure, the XenServer 5 release meets or exceeds this objective. It’s an entirely new approach to virtualization that makes the first-generation solutions look a bit complex, expensive and kludgy by contrast… kind of like comparing one of those 6-lb cell phones from the 1980s with a sleek new 3G iPhone.

Before I get into all the reasons you have to check out XenServer, I want to personally thank our fantastic team at Citrix who put in endless hours getting this release to market, as well as the hundreds of incredible customers who have discovered a better way to do virtualization and are passionate about helping us make it better with every release. Since the acquisition of XenSource by Citrix, we have grown the capabilities of the XenServer organization and have combined several existing Citrix groups into a tremendous new organization with some of the most talented engineers in the world. I am also pleased to report that every person who came to Citrix as part of the XenSource acquisition is still at Citrix and diligently working on fantastic new innovations. Citrix employs all of the original Xen inventors, so we continue to maintain a technical and leadership advantage when it comes to releasing new products. (As you know from watching all the recent top level departures from that other virtualization company in recent weeks, keeping top talent is no easy task). Software companies are based on people and a core few make all the difference. Tribal knowledge and expertise is very difficult to replace.

XenServer 5 is built on the Xen open source hypervisor, the industry’s best, next generation bare metal hypervisor. We are pleased to have a robust community of over 50 major organizations that contribute to the innovation and continued development of this key technology, including all of the biggest names in server and microprocessor design. This incredibly powerful model ensures that the features in today’s shipping version of Xen are already optimized to take advantage of next-generation capabilities in chips and servers that won’t ship until next year, an advantage that will only increase over time. Xen has been available for many years and can be found in everything from supercomputers to cell phones. Xen is also the building block to most of the world’s cloud computing vendors, including Amazon. The technology is robust, innovative, and freely available.

At Citrix, we take a snapshot of the open source Xen “engine” and build a great “automobile” around it called XenServer. With XenServer 5, this “automobile” contains a complete virtualization infrastructure with comprehensive management capabilities. We have designed this latest product to not only meet the competition in key areas, but exceed them in many dimensions. We’ve always said that the community development of Xen, along with the innovations and open ecosystem around XenServer, would eventually allow us to leapfrog a closed and proprietary first generation architecture. I am pleased to say that XenServer 5 accomplishes exactly that along so many dimensions.

When I talk with customers about XenServer and Citrix, they use words like innovative, open, partner-driven, and value. These characteristics have helped us double revenue every quarter, enter into strategic agreements with the largest server vendors in the world, and most recently, starting to win major enterprise deployments against a very entrenched competitor. Recent data shows that we are gaining market share even before the general release of XenServer 5. With our major OEMs, ISVs and channel partners trained and ready to deliver, it’s going to be one heck of a year.

So, what’s so great about XenServer 5? To begin with, it’s amazingly easy to use, has unparalleled performance, is highly available, and has all the management bells and whistles an enterprise could envision. We’ve even taken things one-step further and enabled the product to provision both physical and virtual servers in a snap, saving up to 80% on storage costs over other solutions.

Here are some of the things that I am particularly excited about in this release:

Availability – We’ve added incredible new high availability and disaster recovery capabilities to this release. The new HA function allows for automated placement and restart of VMs in the event of a system failure. In addition, we’ve partnered with Marathon, giving us a seamless upgrade to the industry’s best fault tolerance (“best of show winner at VMworld”), whereby applications can remain completely online and “compute through” any failure. No other server virtualization technology offers this level of availability and fault tolerance.

Performance – XenServer has the best performance of any product on the market, and this release builds on that by providing better Windows performance and enhanced memory management for improved performance of resource intensive workloads like Exchange and our own XenApp.

XenCenter Management – We’ve made many, many improvements to XenCenter, our easy-to-use management system. We’ve added a super cool Web 2.0 style search tool, performance monitoring, alerting and the new XenConvert utility for easy P2V and V2V conversions.

Storage Management Enhancements – This is an area I am particularly excited about. We’ve partnered with storage vendors to leverage native storage array capabilities by XenServer. This integration eliminates CPU-intensive storage operations to be performed by the host server and enables maximum use of array-based storage capabilities. We don’t treat feature-rich storage arrays as just a dumb set of disks and load the host CPU with expensive storage operations as our competition does. In a word, we’ve done storage right.

While XenServer 5 can certainly stand on its own as a great server virtualization product, at Citrix, we’ve taken the game to the next level. XenServer is a fundamental component to the Citrix Delivery Center product family, enabling integrated application delivery from the datacenter to the desktop. The dynamic capability of XenServer provides the foundation for turning the static data center into a flexible and agile “delivery center”. In addition to XenServer, Citrix Delivery Center contains XenApp, XenDesktop, NetScaler and the upcoming Workflow Studio tool for orchestrating it all together and making it easy to integrate our solutions with products you already have in your environment. The products are all designed to complement each other and we will continue to innovate around the integration of these products, always providing the best application delivery solution in the market. When it comes to application delivery, Citrix has it covered, and XenServer is a basic building block in the solution.

Finally, with the release of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, some have suggested that Citrix and Microsoft are now competing head-to-head in the server virtualization space. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that Citrix (and XenSource before the acquisition) have been collaborating with Microsoft for years to ensure that XenServer and Hyper-V are complementary solutions. The first thing you need to understand is that XenServer is a bare metal (Operating System agnostic) virtualization product while Hyper-V is a built-in part of the Windows Server operating system. We believe there are two types of users: those who want to perform virtualization as a bare metal extension of their hardware running multiple types of OS guests, and those who want to consume it as part of the operating system. Together, Citrix and Microsoft meet both of these market needs in a way that is flexible and interoperable – giving customers the best of both worlds

XenServer will always be bare metal, will always have great performance and leading-edge features, and will always be open. Additionally, we will take advantage of Hyper-V deployments in the future by delivering advanced XenServer capabilities on top of the Hyper-V installed base. This is a playbook Citrix and Microsoft have run successfully for years. Our philosophy at Citrix is all about customer choice and market coverage – it’s a customer-first strategy we believe in and are excited about bringing to the rapidly-evolving server virtualization market.

XenServer is here and ready to deliver. Before you lock yourselves in to a proprietary system, I encourage you to try XenServer. If you’re anything like the growing list of CIOs and IT managers who fill my in-basket each week, you’re going to love what you see. But hey, I know I’m a bit biased. Why don’t you download a copy today and try it out for yourself. I’d love to hear what you think!

Peter Levine

Executive SVP & GM, Virtualization & Management  Division

Learn more at  http://www.xenserver5.com/