Beth Pariseau at recently posted an article on the surge in XenServer market share and, after talking to a few customers and highlighting their pros and cons of using XenServer, posited some reasons behind the rapid expansion seen since Citrix implemented the freemium XenServer model. 

First and foremost – great article!  Beyond the numbers themselves, its good to see market watchers noting the trend that customers and partners have been leveraging for the last 18 months. 

Having digested her article for a few days, there is one point in the article I wanted to emphasize, one to which I wanted to add some additional color and one that I hope to clarify a bit.   

First – to confirm – as Beth points out, tiered-hypervisor environments are in fact becoming quite common.  Citrix is regularly engaged with enterprise organizations that are looking to bring a second virtualization platform into the datacenter.   In fact, second sourcing as a practice is pretty common in the industry as it offers the customer some clear benefits.  For one, it maintains competition for the account, which, of course, provides the customer with some negotiating leverage. Second, most organizations are very pragmatic.  They simply want to find and use the best tool for the job.  What we have seen is that for Linux based workloads, that tool is XenServer. 

Second – the added color.  The article makes the point that for a lot of users the free XenServer is “good enough.”  What I have noticed is that organizations that are only using the free version tend to have those systems deployed mainly in the development lab.  Once those VMs are moved into production, there is a strong propensity to purchase one of the premium editions so the company can deploy those VMs with value-added features such as HA, dynamic memory, workload balancing, StorageLink or others.  I won’t even attempt to argue that that “rule” applies 100% of the time, but I will say I see it with enough frequency to call it a best practice. 

Now for the nit. Beth intimates that XenApp and XenDesktop workloads are what is driving the surge in XenServer usage. While I won’t disagree that, for performance reasons, virtualizing XenApp and XenDesktop on XenServer is a complete no brainer, I do want to point out that only tells part of the story.  In a recent survey of XenServer base, we asked customers what workloads they were virtualizing with XenServer (chart below).  And while XenApp and XenDesktop show up with some frequency, Database, Infrastructure (Web and IT) as well as Collaboration are as, if not more frequently cited. To me, this is broad-based adoption of XenServer and suggests our ability to grow share goes well beyond the number of installed XenApp and XenDesktop seats.  

Finally, I would also point out that while the article talks about the Desktop and the Datacenter, it does not touch on Cloud – which is the key third leg of the XenServer stool. CSPs around the globe (yes, including Rackspace) have begun the march to the open yet commercially supported virtualization platform that is XenServer. 

In a nutshell, the growing strength of XenServer as a contending virtualization platform for desktop, datacenter and cloud workloads is what makes these such interesting times in the virtualization space.