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Citrix has delivered a key feature of the Essentials stack of management tools for Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor for Windows platforms and pledged to bring the high availability tool, called StorageLink Site Recovery, to its own XenServer hypervisor next year.

You heard that right. Citrix is getting its virtual machine failover technology to Microsoft's Hyper-V and integrating it with Systems Center management tools ahead of its own XenServer/Essentials combo. According to Biki Malik, senior director of product marketing at Citrix, StorageLink Site Recovery would be available for XenServer some time during the first half of 2010.

That's a pretty wide window, and probably because we're really talking about the second quarter of next year. You would think that Citrix would be eager to get failover for XenServer to market well ahead of the capability for Hyper-V, but this is how the pretzel-twisted world of co-opetition works.

StorageLink made its debut with XenServer 5.1, and is basically a set of glue between the XenServer or Hyper-V hypervisors that allows them to take advantage of the data snapshotting, replication, and other features in modern disk arrays. Two years ago, XenServer V4 back in the days when XenSource was in the process of being eaten by Citrix, the plan was to use Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation file system and all of its replication and failover features and to actually embed this into the high-end Xen hypervisor.

But in the wake of the Citrix acquisition, this plan was scrapped in favor of adding the StorageLink layer. Today's announcement of the Site Recovery feature for the Essential tools uses the StorageLink code to underpin high availability clustering across physical servers, allowing for virtual machines to be failed over and recovered using live migration. Microsoft's Systems Center tools have been integrated into the StorageLink Site Recovery tool, and by the way, Citrix did the integration work, not Microsoft.

Citrix has cooked up two versions of this Site Recovery feature. The first, which ships as part of the freebie Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V Express Edition, itself announced in July because Microsoft shops were balking at paying the $1,500 Citrix was trying to charge for StorageLink, initially only bundled in the Essentials for Hyper-V Enterprise Edition.

This freebie Site Recovery can be used on a maximum of two physical servers, allowing for VMs to be replicated and failed over from a primary to a secondary box for an unlimited number of VMs. The upgraded Essentials for Hyper-V Express Edition will be available on December 23. The Site Recovery feature is available immediately for Essentials for Hyper-V Enterprise Edition and Platinum Edition.

In addition to the StorageLink and Site Recovery features, the Enterprise Edition of the Essentials tools (which costs $1,500 per server) for Hyper-V have workflow and VM orchestration and provisioning services for both physical and virtual machines; the Platinum Edition adds lab management - what ought to be called VM jukeboxing and staging - and costs $3,000 per server.

By the way, those are lower prices than Citrix has on its online store, where Essentials for Hyper-V Enterprise Edition lists for $1,650 per server and Platinum Edition lists for $3,300. If there was a price cut, Citrix didn't mention it on the interview, but clearly there has been. The other thing to note from the Citrix store is that its XenServer variant of the Essentials stack, which does not offer the Site Recovery feature, costs more money.

The Essentials for XenServer Enterprise Edition does not have provisioning for physical servers (but does include StorageLink, workflow orchestration, and provisioning for virtual machines) costs $2,750 per server. And the Platinum Edition of the Essentials for XenServer, which adds lab and staging management for the VMs, costs $5,500 per machine.

This does not seem to be a very good way to level the playing field between XenServer and Hyper-V, which was, as far as I know, one of the main points to the Microsoft-Citrix partnership on server virtualization. Citrix is clearly pinning its hopes to the Hyper-V star and seems less concerned with having its XenServer stack compete. But then again, this suits Microsoft just fine, and that is what all partnerships with Microsoft (and indeed, any dominant IT player) are all about, after all. ®

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