Citrix Systems has rolled out XenServer 5 -- a next-generation server platform that promises to reduce the complexity of virtualization deployments. To keep things simple, XenServer 5 integrates new configuration wizards and intuitive interfaces, together with point-and-click conversion of physical servers into virtual machines.
Even better, the platform's dynamic workload-provisioning capabilities will allow hundreds of workloads to be instantly booted and delivered from a single image with one click -- even when the target servers have no locally attached disk or hypervisor. According to internal company tests, the technology can immediately reduce the storage footprint required to run common enterprise tasks by as much as 80 percent.
"XenServer 5 is going to completely change the way a lot of people think about server virtualization," said Lou Shipley, general manager of the XenServer product group at Citrix Systems.
The XenServer 5 platform -- which is based on the same open-source Xen hypervisor that powers most of the world's largest computing "clouds" -- has been validated through Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validated Program for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems from AMD and Intel.
"We're working with Citrix to standardize on a common virtualization format, develop virtual machine interoperability and portability between XenServer 5 and Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, enable cooperative technical support, and use Microsoft System Center as a common management framework," said Zane Adam, senior director of integrated virtualization at Microsoft.
Together with support for replication and remote-mirroring architectures, Citrix said it has added more than 100 new virtualization-management features to XenServer 5. Moreover, the new platform's distributed-management architecture helps to prevent a single point of failure from bringing down all the servers across an entire data center, the company said.
What's more, XenServer 5 features built-in replication for virtual machine metadata information, which should make it easier for data-center administrators to recover virtual machines and applications in the wake of a disaster or site failure. The platform's management console also offers support for NAS, DAS and SAN data storage systems; 8GB host bus adaptors from QLogic and Emulex; and Dell's EqualLogic storage adapter.
"By integrating the Dell EqualLogic plug-in into the management console of XenServer 5, we're making it easier for IT administrators to create snapshots, clones and high-performance single-client images by directly controlling the storage array through XenServer," said Rick Becker, vice president of software and solutions at the Dell Product Group.
A Timed Unveiling
It was no accident that Citrix timed its unveiling of XenServer 5 to coincide with this week's VMworld conference in Las Vegas, which is being hosted by rival VMware.
"Though it still has a 6- to-9-month technological lead, VMware has a target on its back," noted Laura DiDio, a research fellow at the Yankee Group. "It is feeling the pressure to remain the market leader as emerging opponents continue to offer more powerful, high-end virtualization solutions that are 35 to 75 percent less expensive."
As competition evolves and forces changes in pricing, the server-virtualization market is expected to reach maturity in the next five years, according to Gartner Research Director John Enck. However, enterprises faced with server sprawl and data center space and power problems "can't afford to wait that long," he noted last month. "Organizations deploying at least 50 virtual machines per year will be able to build a business case with rapid ROI now."
Citrix is betting that many companies will be heeding this advice. Available immediately, XenServer 5 pricing starts at $900 per server, regardless of the number of CPUs or sockets onboard, the company said.