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Citrix gives away more virtual goodies

And partners with Fujitsu, Arista Networks

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At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference on Monday, server-virtualisation challenger Citrix Systems will up the ante - or more precisely, lower the price-barrier to entry - for virtualisation tools to manage virtual Windows machines.

It will launch a freebie version of its Citrix Essentials virtualisation tool set that works in conjunction with Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor for Windows Server 2008.

The new Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V Express Edition will include a key storage feature of the Essentials stacks for the XenServer 5.5 and Hyper-V hypervisors called StorageLink. These are the storage management and disk array integration features that were previously only available in the Essentials tools, which unlike the basic XenServer hypervisor and management tools, have a licensing fee.

Apparently Windows shops were balking at paying a $1,500 per physical server license fee for the Essentials tools, and now this StorageLink feature is being pulled out and given away.

Microsoft is giving away its Hyper-V tools (which is why Citrix stopped charging for XenServer), and now customers can get the basic stuff they need to virtualise on Windows Server 2008 using Hyper-V. This includes storing virtual machines on iSCSI and Fibre Channel SANs while making use of the replication, snapshotting, and other capabilities of those arrays to manage the data underlying those VMs.

The XenServer 5.5 hypervisor and the Essentials tools were announced in February and started shipping in June.

Neither Microsoft nor Citrix divulged the financial details behind the freebie Essentials for Hyper-V Express Edition, but it seems likely that Microsoft is paying Citrix some kind of licensing fee for it.

So far, the StorageLink features have not been extracted into a freebie Essentials for XenServer Express Edition. And if that doesn't happen with a modest fee, this will be a pretty good indication that Microsoft is paying Citrix in some way to lower the on-ramp to using Essentials tools to manage Hyper-V virtualisation. If XenServer doesn't get an Essentials Express Edition toolset, this will also be a pretty good indication that Microsoft is shelling out some dough to make it happen for Hyper-V.

Weirder things have happened - like Microsoft committing $340m to buy up SUSE Linux licenses for Windows shops, thereby keeping Novell's chin above the water line. Imagine where Sun Microsystems would be today if Jonathan Schwartz had convinced Microsoft to shell out $1bn to run Solaris on Hyper-V and actually pre-buy support contracts for Solaris 10 in an effort to make sure Microsoft had some competition so that the antitrust police would leave Microsoft alone.

OK, so that might not have changed much at all, come to think of it.

The Essentials for Hyper-V Express Edition is really aimed at virtualisation newbies, companies that are in the early adoption phase who don't want to shell out any money as they evaluate Hyper-V. The tool can only be used on two physical servers running Hyper-V, linked to one storage array.

To manage a larger collection of machines, companies would have to upgrade to the full Essentials for Hyper-V Enterprise Edition, which costs $1,500 per server, or the Platinum Edition, which adds lab and stage management features to control the creation, deployment, and retiring of VMs, at a cost of $3,500 per physical server.

You can download the freebie Hyper-V management tool from Citrix here.

In a separate announcement, Citrix also said that Fujitsu Technology Solutions, the EMEA arm of the Fujitsu IT collective, has inked an OEM agreement to resell the XenDesktop virtual desktop infrastructure solution created by Citrix on its Primergy x64 servers. It will use the XenServer hypervisor to slice up the servers to host virtual PC instances.

XenDesktop also allows customers to use Microsoft's Hyper-V or VMware's ESX Server hypervisors to manage the virtual PC instances.

Fujitsu also said that it has certified its RX rack and BX blade servers using x64 processors to run XenServer 5.5. Fujitsu says it will be able to start shipping XenServer and XenDesktop on the Primergy machines in EMEA beginning in August.

Citrix has also partnered with upstart networking wannabe Arista Networks - the one where Andy Bechtolsheim, who has twice been a chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems, now spends most of his time. Arista is one of a handful of companies competing in the 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch arena, and Citrix is going to test and integrate its NetScaler VPX virtual caching appliance, announced back in May, with Arista's 7000 series of switches. ®

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