Citrix Expands Virtualization Management Capabilities

Citrix also enhanced its XenServer server virtualization technology and expanded its ability to help customers move to compute clouds with technology to run Microsoft applications and virtual desktops as a service.

The vendor used its Citrix Synergy 2009 end user conference, held this week in Las Vegas, to introduce the new additions to its product line to both its end users and solution provider partners.

The new 5.5 release of Citrix Essentials for XenServer and Hyper-V now includes three new major technologies aimed at better managing virtual server environments, said Wes Wasson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Citrix.

The first is expanded storage integration via upgrades to Citrix's StorageLink technology that certifies XenServer and Hyper-V work seamlessly with storage products from more than 20 major vendors, Wasson said.

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As a result, Citrix Essentials allows users to access the native capabilities of their storage arrays instead of trying to layer on its own storage management capabilities, Wasson said.

"When you virtualize servers, it usually turns storage into dumb devices," he said. "StorageLink makes the connection work. Then the management console sees all the features of the storage vendors, so all the features of the storage hardware and software can be accessed by the virtual machines."

Also new with Citrix Essentials is Automated Stage Management, which Wasson said simplifies and streamlines the process of building, testing, sharing and delivering on-demand applications.

With Automated Stage Management, companies can create customizable workflows for IT preproduction and production deployments with the ability to create multimachine configurations and migrate between stages with a single mouse click. Customers can also do development and testing on one virtualization platform and then move those applications into staging and production on another platform.

The third is Dynamic Workload Balancing of virtual servers across the customer's physical resource pool using Citrix's XenMotion technology for migrating virtual servers from one physical host to another. This helps reduce performance bottlenecks without the need for manual intervention, Wasson said.

Citrix also introduced a new version 5.5 of its free XenServer server virtualization technology with the addition of several enhancements, Wasson said.

These include consolidated backup to allow third-party backup vendors to interface directly with XenServer. This will provide full and incremental, in-guest, file and image backups of virtual machines and enable full snapshots to be done directly from the XenCenter central management console, Wasson said.

Other enhancements include new tools to make it easier to convert virtual machines from the VMware format to XenServer and Hyper-V as well as between other formats; enhanced virtual machine search tools; Active Directory Integration for managing XenServer hosts and logging and auditing user activity; and the ability to support virtual servers on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11, Debian 5.0 and Red Hat/CentOS/Oracle 5.3.

Citrix this week also updated its Citrix Cloud Center, or C3, cloud computing platform.

Cloud computing is a way to dynamically combine and scale server, storage, networking and other resources outside of a company's own traditional data center for such purposes as remote data storage or running Software-as-a-Service. A company can build an internal cloud, which allows those resources to be available for its own purposes, or can use external clouds, which are available over the Internet.

The updates now include the ability to run Windows-based applications and virtual desktops as part of a cloud-based service, Wasson said. Before this, C3 could only run Citrix applications.

Also new is a network-enabled multitenancy feature that makes it easier for service providers to bill multiple customers, as well as a new virtual switching fabric, he said.

In addition, as part of its cloud initiative, Citrix this week unveiled a partnership with Amazon Web Services under which customers can develop applications and test them using Amazon S3 and other services before deploying those applications, Wasson said.

"Citrix and Amazon are partnering to help customers get their feet wet," Wasson said. "We make it super simple to model, prototype and test applications."

Citrix in the near future plans to introduce technology aimed more at deploying those applications in a production environment, he said.

Citrix Essentials 5.5 for XenServer and Hyper-V is available, with pricing starting at $2,500 per server, regardless of the number of processors. Citrix XenServer 5.5 is also available for free downloading.