When Citrix took over XenSource in 2007 they had high hopes of competing with virtualisation efforts from VMware, Microsoft, Oracle, and Red Hat. Over the last few years they haven't done too badly, but they still haven't reached the success they were hoping for. Perhaps the newest release of XenServer will get them closer to their goals.
Citrix announced XenServer 6.1 on October 2, 2012 making a point to mention the two features they are most proud of: a migration tool for VMware servers and their new “shared nothing storage” environment. Their latest release also boasts Apache Cloudstack integration that ostensibly makes development, security, and maintenance much easier.
The VMware a migration tool aside, the idea of “shared nothing storage” is rather intriguing. Citrix claims they've developed a system which allows IT technicians to freely move virtual machines without the need for shared storage. That makes it easier for engineers to design and build new cloud systems, maintain already existing virtual machines, and make the best possible use of physical storage space on a physical server.
If the Citrix design proves to be all the company hopes, it could be especially helpful for those in the collocation business. Having complete control over virtual machines without shared space restrictions makes data storage so much easier on so many levels. It could be the next major development in cloud computing for sure.
In a broader sense the larger goal of XenServer seems to be enabling data centre owners and host companies to build environments that can include clouds, servers, and clients all within a single workspace. It's hard to see how this would benefit large numbers of businesses in the long run, but for those who need it XenServer offers incredible agility.
The Competition Will Be Tough
I applaud the Citrix effort to keep themselves in the game against VMware and Microsoft. Unfortunately, I wonder whether XenServer 6.1 is really up to the task. As others have said, the new version of this hypervisor will probably be a welcome product to current Citrix users. Yet it's hard to imagine faithful VMware customers migrating to XenServer, the migration tool notwithstanding. It simply doesn't offer enough to make it worth the trouble.
As for the commercial datacentre, they may have use for XenServer 6.1 alongside several other virtualization products. Clients looking for the agility and serviceability of the Citrix environment might find it appealing to start there from scratch; that could help the company make some real waves.
From a marketing perspective Citrix might do well to heavily promote XenServer 6.1 in Europe. The fact that XenServer’s humble beginnings go back to Cambridge University, combined with Europe's natural distaste for Microsoft, makes European datacentres great targets for the new software. Of course, Citrix probably already knows that and will be working on in due course. In the meantime, it will be interesting to sit back and read to the reviews as they start coming in.