Citrix Brings XenServer Back To Open-Source Community

Citrix Systems Tuesday said it has moved its XenServer virtualization technology to the open-source community and is now focused on providing management and support.

Citrix also simplified XenServer by offering it via single unified version instead of the three previously available, and changed its service and support pricing to a socket-based licensing model.

XenServer 6.2 becomes the first full-featured, full open-source version of the virtualization technology, and development will be community-led going forward, said Scott Lindars, senior product marketing manager of cloud solutions at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Citrix.

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The move by Citrix to pass XenServer feature development to the Linux community via a new portal,, comes as virtualization technology matures and becomes more in tune with the cloud, Lindars said.

"The opportunities for virtualization are not getting smaller," he said. "But the biggest opportunity today for virtualization is in the cloud. And where that adoption is happening is in open solutions like Hadoop. We feel putting XenServer in the same category as these applications is the best way to drive forward on cloud solutions."

XenServer started out as an open-source offering managed by XenSource, which Citrix acquired for $500 million in 2007.

Citrix in April said that open community development for the Xen virtualization platform will become a Linux Foundation Collaboration Project. A new portal gives customers and partners access to the XenServer code and a new home for innovation going forward, Lindars said.

This is a huge win for XenServer users as it ensures that versions going forward are truly open source, said Ian Rae, founder and CEO of CloudOps, a Montreal-based systems integrator for public and private clouds.

"Admittedly, I'm biased," Rae said. "When Citrix acquired XenSource, it didn't do a really good job of managing the Xen open-source project. The way they managed it rubbed the open-source community the wrong way. XenServer really became Citrix's version of the open-source Xen, with Citrix adding its own technology to it."

That way of managing an open-source project while adding proprietary technology was fine five years ago, and quite common, Rae said.

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"However, Citrix, like other vendors, has realized the value of the open community," CloudOps' Rae said. "This is a bold move for Citrix. They're now open-sourcing a number of their proprietary components. But they realize customers will get those features from the open-source community anyway."

Moving XenServer, which is available as a free download, to the open-source community enables Citrix to focus on support and services, according to Lindars.

It is a model similar to that of Red Hat, which offers paid-for support and services for Linux while leaving development of Linux to the open-source community, he said.

This also follows a similar model Citrix uses with its CloudStack model. Citrix acquired, a developer of the open-source CloudStack technology in 2011. Citrix last year moved CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation, which was an open break from the OpenStack cloud platform it previously supported.

"Open source is part of the DNA of Xen," Lindars said. "So we feel this is a natural move. It makes it easier for third parties to add value and to help make this the best platform for virtualization."

Citrix also unveiled a new pricing scheme for its service and support offerings. Going forward, Citrix will charge for its services on a per-socket basis instead of a per-server basis. "This matches how our cloud platform is offered, as well as what others like VMware are doing," Lindars said.

Companies looking for commercial support will pay $500 per socket for an annual license or $1,250 per socket for a perpetual license.

The simplified single-version XenServer offering along with the new pricing model answer a number of customer concerns, Rae said.

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"Customers have been telling Citrix they really need support," CloudOps' Rae said. "They need fast patches as problems develop and need someone there to pick up the phone 24x7. For features, let the community deliver. Commercial firms like Citrix can focus on support."

Rae called the single XenServer offering fantastic. "If a customer downloads the free version for test and development, then when the application goes into production they know it works right," he said. "This simplifies the world for contributors, customers and partners."

Moving XenServer to open source also could open new opportunities to the channel, Rae said.

"It will be free, which is a low barrier to entry," he said. "So anyone can use it. But Citrix is now focusing on the value-add of maintenance and support. Citrix has learned the right way to do open source by experience and by working with the open-source community."

Lindars pointed out additional opportunities. "There could be an upswell of new users downloading the free version who will then look to the channel for help with tech support and software maintenance," he said.