Citrix Attains a Higher Level of Xen

Citrix rolled out the fifth edition of its XenServer virtualization software Monday. The platform features more than 130 new features focused on ease of use, performance and security.

Among the improvements to this latest iteration of XenServer are storage virtualization and integration with Windows Server 2008 from Microsoft, as well as persistent performance monitoring, reporting and alerting within XenCenter Management System.

“We position it as the easy, open, powerful way to build data centers. It’s easy and fast — you can set up a hypervisor in about 10 minutes,” David Roussain, Citrix’s vice president of product marketing for virtualization and management, told TechNewsWorld.

Citrix also took the wrapper off its new Citrix Cloud Center (C3). Aimed at service providers, the application brings the same benefits to Internet-based cloud providers that its Citrix Delivery Center line of software has brought into the enterprise, according to the company.

Have You Been Served?

The goal for XenServer 5, Rossain said, was to make sure the virtualization platform had all the key enterprise-class features that will help business users move to a true high-volume production environment.

“To do that, you have to have business continuity and reliability. So we’ve added in automated high availability, disaster recovery and expanded storage array support. These were things customers were really asking for out of the next edition,” said.

High availability means keeping work loads running and having the ability to quickly get the server back up and running should problems arise. XenServer 5 can detect a host service failures and whether a workload has crashed. For instance, if a Web server goes down, the platform can detect that failure and restart the virtual machine based on its priority so that the most important workloads restart first.

The built-in disaster recovery feature enables XenServer 5 to back up metadata for virtual machines and mirror workloads to a third-party site, enable a fast restart.

“This really locks the gate on high availability for what people need in the enterprise to start deploying in volume production environment,” Roussain said.

Also included in the XenServer 5 box is XenCenter Management System, which Citrix has also enhanced. It features a new virtual machine tagging and searching capability that gives IT professionals the ability to assign metadata and virtual tags to workloads — either pre-defined or customized, depending on the needs of the organization.

This enables in-house IT shops to scale back on virtual machine sprawl, a common affliction in large enterprises. Tagging also allows IT pros to create policies and provide service level reporting across the entire enterprise.

Making Clouds

Citrix Cloud Center is a recognition by the software maker that the so-called cloud market is undergoing a major land grab for IT infrastructure.

“App platforms are being developed, but the infrastructure to run all these things on is still wide-open blue ocean. We’re going to provide the infrastructure for clouds and for companies wanting to provide cloud services to be able to use those cloud services affectively,” Roussain explained.

A business that shifts part of its data center to a cloud-based service often achieves greater flexibility. In the cloud, it can run workloads in a managed and secure environment to provide services such as virtual compute and storage; virtual private data centers and virtual desktops.

“You can have a cloud running in your own data center, or you can have it outsourced in a cloud provider data center. But one thing to keep in context — as you develop and run workloads in your own data center, you should be able to drag and drop those workloads from your own data center and put them into a cloud data center with a mouse. It should be that easy,” Rossain pointed out.

“To do that, you’re going to need the infrastructure in between that will make that happen, and that’s where we’re going to play,” he added.

The Citrix offering is intended to help service providers build cloud offerings to offer to enterprise IT as a service, said Frank Gillett, a Forrester Research analyst.

For example, “this is a product that is intended to get Amazon to pay money to Citrix for help with using the Xen Open Source Virtualization Hypervisor they currently use without paying for it,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Service providers such as Amazon have been using the open source version of Xen free of charge, Gillett explained. This offering is an attempt to create a product that meets the needs of service providers that will sign up and generate revenue. It is a very different product than that offered to the enterprise.

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