I’ve spent the last day or so at Cannes meeting channel partners and customers who have been responding to the announcement that Citrix has declared XenServer virtual infrastructure to be absolutely free, and our additional annoucements of our  powerful value-added virtualization management capabilities in Citrix Essentials for XenServer and partnership with Microsoft to offer Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V.

The response has been fantastic, and almost overwhelming.  Across the board, customers, analysts and partners I have met have responded positively to the Citrix announcements.   Every CIO I have met in the last couple of quarters has had their budget cut, and is faced with the difficult task of moving IT forward in challenging economic times.  XenServer offers, free of charge, a complete virtual infrastructure package that delivers what every enterprise and every cloud needs to accelerate their goal towards a virtualized, automated, service-centric IT function that is agile and responsive to business needs.  

The powerful response to our announcement both in person and via blogs and email shows how important our move has been.  Customers who have been purchasing virtual infrastructure for resource pooling, live migration, optimal VM placement and who need built-in HA for management, powerful storage management, resource pooling, built-in DR and backup enablement, and with powerful AD-integrated, role based centralized managment for multiple resource pools  will find in XenServer a complete free Enterprise Virtual Infrastructure solution.  Citrix partners I’ve spoken to are excited because they think this accelerates their opportunities for value-added feature sales of Citrix Essentials for XenServer, as well as offering them a compelling value-added sale to the rapidly growing Microsoft Hyper-V footprint.  Here are just a couple of the over 150 positive news responses I’ve seen:

“[XenServer’s] performance is great, the software is quite easy to install, use and manage, and it provides nice features in terms of management and Storage management.” – LeMagIT

“When Citrix releases such a rich enterprise package for free, what company can afford to skip a XenServer evaluation in the current economy?” – virtualization.info

“Here’s the real VMware dig—it eliminates virtualization’s high entry price in a tough economy” –HP SysCon

“The highlight of the Citrix announcement – is going to put a lot of competitive pressure on VMware, commented Andi Mann, vice president of research at Enterprise Management Associates.” – eChannelLine

Today a couple of commentators and interviewers asked me whether our move was one of desperation – essentially questioning whether Citrix is commited to XenServer and the virtualization market.  Of course we are. XenServer revenue grew over 800% last year!  What we are doing is accelerating our opportunity and at the same time offering customers and partners a unique opportunity to change the game in how virtualization is delivered and used by customers.  We are just shy of 6000 enterprise customers with XenServer, and whenever we compete head to head, we win.  This move is designed to get our product into use by more customers, ensuring that our commercial opportunity (in terms of Support and Citrix Essentials for XenServer sales) is further accelerated by direct pull from the customer base.  Xen is the engine powering the largest virtualization deployment in the world, Amazon Web Services.  The future is bright for Xen and XenServer. Over 100,000 different organizations use XenServer today, and XenServer is used in some of the largest production deployments of virtualization. (The largest of which I am aware is just shy of 10,000 servers).   

XenServer is the software foundation of the Citrix Delivery Center portfolio and the fact that we have chosen to accelerate the adoption dynamic for our core platform is nothing more than a clear signal of our commitment to Xen and XenServer. “Free Virtual Infrastructure” is much more than a “Free HypervisorIt’s important to realize that Citrix is giving away a free virtual infrastructure platform and offering for-fee advanced virtualization management capabilities for those customers that choose to add on these capabilities. The advanced capabilities are those that customers will want for different production deployments of virtualization, for which we fully expect purchases of Citrix Essentials for XenServer, together with production Support.  We fully aim to dramatically accelerate the growth of our business in virtualization, by addressing advanced needs for automation, including High Availability, Dynamic Workload Management (DRS), StorageLink dynamic storage automation, complete workflow based orchestration, dynamic provisioning of VMs, and complete virtual machine lifecycle management including virtual Lab and virtual Stage management.  At the same time, users should compare the  free XenServer with VMware’s free ESXi base hypervisor gimmick that has no production level features whatsoever.  We fully expect the free version of XenServer will satisfy the virtualization needs of the vast majority of organizations and remain committed to enhancing the value of the product over time.

Microsoft And Citrix Partnership

The response to our partnership with Microsoft in virtualization, with our offering of Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V and Microsoft’s commitment to support  XenServer with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, has been equally powerful.  The Microsoft field is charged up and ready to run with Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V, and does so confident in its long standing partnership with Citrix.   Citrix has built a strong and sustainable business during its 20 year partnership with Microsoft, and our move enables us to offer customers a rich set of virtualization managment capabilities for both XenServer and Hyper-V.   I must confess being dumbfounded by VMware CEO Paul Maritz’s statement yesterday to the effect that users are no longer developing applications for Windows or Linux, but instead for VMware.- further proof that VMware continues to believe in the imminent “death of Windows.”.  Citrix enjoys a strong alliance with Microsoft for application, desktop, and server virtualization. We believe that many customers will adopt Hyper-V, and given our rich set of advanced management tools applicable to both XenServer and Hyper-V, it makes perfect sense to extend our partnership with Microsoft and capitalize on the Hyper-V market opportunity while we continue to move forward with Xen and XenServer.  Citrix Essentials for XenServer and Hyper-V respectively are designed to offer equivalent price/feature capabilities to both platforms, effectively doubling our market opportunity.

The Xen Hypervisor goes from Strength to Strength 

 While I’m sure my friends at VMware would like to see Xen go away, they are probably completely oblivious to the fact that the xen.org Xen Summit is under way at Oracle this week, with over 120 of our developers present, representing more than 30 key contributing organizations to the open source hypervisor.  This is amazing given the down economy and pressure on travel budgets.  Xen continues to go from strength to strength, and what’s more amazing still is that one single code base offers the world’s most scalable open reference hypervisor from clouds, to enterprise datacenters and to rich client desktop devices and PDAs.  Can ESX match that?  No, ESX is still a 32 bit x86 only hypervisor with narrow focus and highly limited capabilities.  Customers tell me one of the reasons they are throwing out ESX is that it takes 6 months for VMware to offer supported drivers for new hardware that they purchase.  What a waste.  What a great example of a proprietary code base .failing to keep up with the pace of innovation.  ESX has become a burdensome, bloated OS in its own right.  Its requirement for patching and regular maintenance has ballooned over the years; over 150 patches have been issued for VI 3.5 in just over a year since its release.  VMware also experienced a very high profile reliability issue with the recent Update 2 bug, which brought many of their customer environments to a halt.  By comparison, XenServer 4.0 has been on the market for over 18 months and has required issuance of just 4 patches.  Despite VMware’s claims about cost-savings, they ignore the new, ongoing maintenance costs that are introduced with their solution.

The VMware FUD Accelerates

VMware has issued a FUD-focussed response to our announcement.  I received it moments after they blasted it out to attendees at VMworld and to their channel, clearly rattled to the core by our announcements.  VMware’s responseis 100% inaccurate, and wholly unworthy of a tit-for-tat response.  To my mind any vendor that adopts an approach of blatantly misrepresenting the facts, and actively misleading its partners, customers and the ecosystem in response to announcements by its competitors clearly signals its fear and desperation - and ought to leave its customers questioning the wisdom of their investment in a closed, proprietary, one-vendor-fits-all, expensive and out dated virtualization platform.