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Citrix stretches XenServer 6.0 to cover bigger iron

Chubbier VMs for heftier apps

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StorageLink

Citrix is all fired up about Open vSwitch because it supports the evolving OpenFlow software-defined and programmable network devices.

More importantly for customers just beginning on virtualization is the fact that XenServer is no longer tied to features that requires a Windows server in the loop.

Citrix has integrated its StorageLink feature, which allows the hypervisor and its VM to make use of the data replication, de-duplication, snapshot, and cloning features built into storage arrays.

Until now, because this feature was done in partnership with Microsoft, StorageLink Gateway had to run with Windows on a XenServer partition. Similarly, StorageLink Gateway Site Recovery, which also had to run in a VM with Windows, will now work on just about any iSCSI array or disk array with a host bus adapter on the server linked to the hypervisor, since it is also being pulled back into the XenServer 6.0 hypervisor.

The previous StorageLink Gateway is supported on XenServer 5.X until September 2013, and Citrix warns that the integrated StorageLink features in the hypervisor will be focused on arrays that are popular with XenServer customers, shouting out at EMC Clariion, Dell EqualLogic, and NetApp arrays by name.

Thanks to its partnership with Microsoft, Citrix has for some time had plug-ins for its XenCenter management console that allow it to manage Hyper-V hypervisors as well as VMs running on it.

Now, Citrix is working with Microsoft to go the other way, and the future Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, which is in beta now, can be used to provision XenServer 6.0 hypervisors and the VMs that run on them.

This XenServer plug-in will not work with XenServer 5.1, 5.5, or 5.6. Microsoft and Citrix also allow for the integration of XenServer 6.0 with Systems Center Operations Manager for hypervisor and VM monitoring and troubleshooting.

On the guest operating system front, XenServer 6.0 supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0, Canonical Ubuntu 10.04, and Debian Squeeze. RHEL 5.6, Oracle Enterprise Linux 5.6 and 6.0, CentOS 5.6, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP4 had some tweaks to fix issues. XenServer 6.0 has experimental support for Ubuntu 10.10, CentOS 6.0, and Solaris 10.

Pricing on XenServer remains the same. There is an open source XenServer that is free. Advanced Edition includes the XenCenter management console, XenConvert P2V tools, XenMotion live migration, the distributed virtual switch, high availability, and memory optimization and costs $1,000 per server.

The Enterprise Edition adds the integrated StorageLink dynamic workload balancing, live memory snapshots, role-based administration; it costs $2,500 per server. The full-on Platinum Edition has a lab manager VM jukebox tossed in, plus provisioning services for physical services and StorageLink Site Recovery disaster recovery; it costs $5,000 per server.

The XenServer roadmap ahead

The Self-Service Manager feature, which was available during the XenServer 6.0 beta through the late summer, didn't make the cut to production as Citrix contemplates how to weave its Cloud.com acquisition from July. Cloud.com's CloudStack and Cloud Portal are the future of the Xen stack.

In a blog post by Bill Carovano, senior director of product management at Citrix, the company also announced a tentative schedule for future XenServer releases and added that it would be dropping the Service Pack and \Feature Pack naming conventions for dot releases and sub-releases.

The current XenServer 6.0 is what Citrix calls a major release, and XenServer 6.0.1 is earmarked for an upcoming version of the NetScaler SDX, which is the multi-tenant virtual network acceleration appliance aimed at service providers and cloud operators. XenServer 6.0.2 is slated for the first quarter of 2012 as a maintenance and hotfix rollup, while XenServer 6.1, due in the middle of 2012, will be a new feature release.

XenServer 6.1.1 will ship with a future version of XenDesktop, with specific features for XenDesktop virtual desktop infrastructure and XenApp application virtualization. And finally, XenServer 6.5 will be the next major release, which will be built on the next iteration of the open source Xen hypervisor. ®

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