It’s time for a party! This week marks the 10th anniversary of the first generally available release of XenServer, or XenEnterprise, as it was called back then.
The Xen hypervisor, which is the core of XenServer, became an open-source project in 2003, so has already had its 10th birthday party. In 2005, the creators of Xen started a company, XenSource, Inc., to provide commercial services and products around Xen. After a series of betas and preview releases, the first generally available product, XenEnterprise 3.0, was released in late August 2006. Why “3.0”? It was based on the Xen hypervisor 3.0.0 release – itself a landmark release in Xen’s history.
XenEnterprise 3.0 (codename “Burbank”) was very different from the XenServer we know today. First, it didn’t support Windows VMs – the technology required to do this efficiently, including Intel VT and AMD-V hardware virtualization technology, was only just becoming available at the time. Second, it was a single-server product with each server being managed individually rather than as part of a cluster as now. And, third, the user interface was a Java-based application, rather than the .NET one we have today.
The Linux-only limitation didn’t last long, with XenServer 3.1 “Zurich” coming along just a few months later in December 2006. Zurich brought support for Windows VMs by using Intel VT and AMD-V hardware, enabled by code contributed to the Xen hypervisor by Intel and AMD themselves.
Although I’ve been involved in every single XenEnterprise/XenServer release, Zurich has a special place in my heart – I was Zurich’s Release Manager and thus Zurich was my entire life for much of the second half of 2006. Although now named XenServer, the XenEnterprise term remained in use for a while to describe the most capable edition (think “Platinum”) and the names were used somewhat interchangeably for some time. The 3.x line concluded with XenServer 3.2 “Geneva” in March 2007.
XenServer 4.0 “Rio” was released just a few days after Citrix announced the acquisition of XenSource. Rio was a huge change from the 3.x line of products including a completely new clustered management architecture (the XAPI toolstack), a complete management API, and a brand new .NET user interface, XenCenter, designed to appeal to the Windows administrator customer base.
The 4.x, 5.x and 6.x releases following Rio added more and more features and capabilities, adapting to new use-cases brought about by the Citrix acquisition including high-density VDI, the needs of NetScaler (including being the embedded platform for NetScaler SDX) and industry-leading GPU virtualization for XenDesktop and XenApp. This trend continues today with a pipeline of new features cementing XenServer’s position as the most popular platform for Citrix workloads as well as enabling its large install base for general purpose virtualization. Our latest release, XenServer 7, is our best yet, with a number of new innovations in graphics and security, significant enhancements to performance, and internal updates to pave the way for even more cool stuff in the future.