XenServer takes half a step forward, none towards hybrid cloud

Version 6.5 won't frighten Microsoft or VMware, but the app delivery caper is moving

Citrix has released XenServer 6.5 and, as foreshadowed with the July 2014 preview named “Creedence”, has focussed on its own application delivery strengths and the needs of cloud operators rather than the wider enterprise computing market.

Citrix isn't spinning it that way: it reckons the new 64-bit kernel, addition of Intel's trusted execution technology and the ability to use more GPUs add up to a package fit for lots of workloads anywhere. But the company is emphasising the new release's fitness for hosting XenDesktop and in service provider roles, rather than the enterprise.

Which is not to say restored functionality workload balancing and distributed virtual switch controllers won't excite many: as clouds get larger both are handy things to have.

Absent are significant new hybrid cloud features, the technology enterprise hypervisor rivals Microsoft and VMware are chasing hard. So, reportedly, are lots of businesses: XenServer 6.5's concentration on matters that benefit Citrix's application delivery and service provider business means it is now walking its own path.

On a busy day, Citrix also released version 10 of XenMobile, integrating the WorxNotes note-taking app with Exchange and its own ShareFile code. The combination is said to now allow image capture on a mobile device and distribution of those files - or WorxNotes notes – so that mobile devices can then slot that data into Exchange-wrangled workflows. Integration with the NetScaler application delivery controller is a nice-to-have, as mobile delivery of apps stresses networks.

Another new release is “WorkspacePods”, reference architectures that combine Citrix software with - for now – HP hardware to deliver Citrix in plug-it-in-and-turn-it-on mode.

The company's also outlined some future releases for XenApp and Xen Desktop, namely an “Optimization Pack for Lync” to bring Microsoft's unified comms product to Linux and Mac endpoints. There's also a new agent coming that will run Linux apps on Windows boxen and a new desktop player for Windows.

Last July, analyst outfit suggested “Citrix is no longer investing strictly to keep up with market leaders VMware and Microsoft for traditional server virtualization.”

Today's announcements look to support that assertion, especially when one considers that The Reg understands a major refresh of the Xen Project's hypervisor is imminent. The new Xen Server comes too early to take advantage of that release.

Citrix can, however, point to a mature stack of application delivery tools, a more-than-decent Hypervisor to run them on, something that looks an awful lot like converged infrastructure for those who like their storage, networking and compute in that mode. As of yesterday it also has a decent software-defined storage story that, impressively, it says is already integrated into the new XenDesktop.

XenServer may be narrowing its appeal. Citrix is clearly expanding its opportunities on other fronts. ®

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